Flame's Members Say Disabilities Won't Stop Band From Making Music

Flame's members say disabilities won't stop their music.

ByABC News via logo
November 26, 2009, 1:56 PM

Nov. 27, 2009— -- Many start-up bands dream of achieving worldwide fame one day.

That the band Flame achieved the dream is remarkable in and of itself. But the band is extraordinary in another respect: Each musician has a physical or mental disability.

Indeed, Flame is the only touring band in the world to be wholly composed of disabled members.

The upstate New York band's members live with conditions that include Down syndrome, cognitive delays, autism, cerebral palsy and blindness.

Band member David LaGrange is blind and mentally disabled. He grew up in an institution and had a passion for rock 'n' roll.

"The Iron Butterfly, Led Zeppelin, sometimes I listen to AC/DC," LaGrange, Flame's drummer, said.

LaGrange studied music and earned a master's degree, but he was told to give up his dreams of becoming a rock star.

He persevered, and for him, the band's success is a dream come true.

Flame was formed six years ago in Gloversville, N.Y., after an area talent contest for the mentally disabled turned up several accomplished musicians.

"Flame is a group of musicians that produce unbelievably great music who just happen to have a disability," Paul Nigra, the band's manager, said.

What started out as an experiment has quickly blossomed. The band had T-shirts, CDs and a tour bus, and has played to cheering crowds.

They've already been on world tour, including to Athens to play at the Parthenon. They performed at Eunice Kennedy Shriver's funeral this summer, drawing compliments from talk show host and media mogul Oprah Winfrey.

Mary King said Flame has been a lifesaver for her daughter, lead singer Michelle King.

King's daughter is autistic and used to be incapable of taking care of herself. Her mother says involvement in the group has changed her daughter's life, although mother and daughter still live together.

"Oh gosh, they have done, I just don't know how to explain, so much that they have done for her, brought her out so much," King said.