“Mormon Rap” Duo
Though he’d been in the business for 15 years, toured with Donny and Marie Osmond, and even performed at the inauguration of President Ronald Reagan, all-around musician Walt Gregory struggled to make a living from his music in the mid-’80s. Even so, he and his colleagues in the Walter & Hays Band—Tony Summerhays, Dan Stephensen, and Cory Brown—never lacked for gigs. They were continually booked throughout Utah, gradually acquiring fans with their unique and comical approach to music and eccentric stage presence and costuming.
But when “Mormon Rap” hit the airwaves in 1988, new doors quickly opened for the Utah-based novelty band. The nationally syndicated Dr. Demento radio show started spinning the tune and, before long, record companies were showing interest. Soon, the band was invited to perform at the Children’s Miracle Network Telethon in Disneyland and a number of other fancy shindigs. The song, which gently razzes Mormon culture, became an instant cult classic in Utah, and eventually sold more than 95,000 cassettes worldwide.
Cassette cover of "Mormon Rap," from RateYourMusic.com.
In the following years, the band performed in exotic locations like the Bahamas, Hawaii, and Florida, as well as a number of major U.S. cities. But the band never amassed the same excitement for their other songs, including numbers about cold fusion and the rivalry between BYU and the University of Utah. In 1993, the group disbanded when Gregory decided he wanted to forge a new path on his own.
To this day, Gregory earns his living in a one-man show he performs at corporate events and private parties in Utah and as a jingle-writer.
“I’m in it for life,” says Gregory, who still occasionally performs with Summerhays.
“We’re pretty well best friends,” Gregory says, adding that they try to find ways to shake it up when they perform together.
Gregory also continues to shake it up on his own, with a new album soon to be available on iTunes featuring a dance version of “Mormon Rap” and a follow-up called “Mormon From Jamaica.”
For his part, Summerhays has also continued as a full-time professional entertainer. In June, he celebrated 40 years in the industry with a dance in Murray, Utah. He also enjoys the occasional fishing trip with his son Andrew, who has also been involved in music (and specifically the drums) while studying at Salt Lake Community College.
After the breakup of Walter & Hays, Brown became a supervisor for the Utah Transit Authority, and Stephensen toured with various performers throughout the United States and Europe and went on to become a featured performer at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002. In recent years, he has played with Utah-based Easy Street, and the George Dyer show in Branson, Missouri, and continues to freelance in percussion.
Watch a video of "Mormon Rap."