The bands that are featured in “The Heeey Baby Days of Beach Music” are ones that rocked with soul. Generally these were not four or five piece bands that were the norm of the 60s but rather they were aggregations totaling seven or more musicians with horns. These bands were sought out as backing bands when the great R&B artists performed because much of the great soul music was enhanced by the sound of horns. Athens’ great horn band of the era was the Jesters who backed such artists as Marvin Gaye, Jackie Wilson and others.
So when UGA put on its monster R&B Homecoming show in Sanford Stadium in October of 1963, The Divots of Roanoke, Virginia provided the sound. The vocals were provided by the who’s who of R&B music of that era. Much of the music played at that concert was what we now refer to as “Beach Music.” You might say that the first concert in Sanford Stadium was a Beach Music concert and get no argument from this vantage point. This would only be fitting for ground once trod upon by such greats as Trippi, Sinkwich, Walker, Tarkington and others.
The who’s who of R&B performed for that homecoming concert and it would be regrettable if the existence of the event were lost to obscurity. Do names like Jerry Butler, Major Lance, Mary Wells, Irma Thomas, King Curtis, Gene Chandler, Don Covay & The Goodtimers, and Darlene Love. Don Gardner/ Dee Dee Ford ring any bells out there?
During the research period for “the Heeey Baby Days of Beach Music’ we kept hearing the name of a band from Virginia called the Divots. Even the premier bands of the Carolinas sang the praise of the Divots so we spent the time and presented much about the Divots in the book. “The Roanoker” magazine graciously granted us permission to reprint an article about the band titled ”Roanoke’s Greatest Band Ever” by John Pugh. What a great read.
“July 19643. The Rolling Stones’ first tour of America. The music world is astonished as the Stones sell out 60,000 seat Shea Stadium. “An entire stadium sold out for one show!” the press blares. “Never in the history of live performances has anything like this ever happened.”
Never in New York, perhaps. Never such a humongous crowd. But flashback almost a year earlier. October 1963. Homecoming, University of Georgia, Athens Gee-Ay. A nine-act rhythm-and-blues bill sells out 40,000 seat Sanford Stadium. It features Major Lance, Jerry Butler, Don Covay & The Goodtimers, Irma Thomas, Darlene Love. Mary Wells, King Curtis, Gene Chandler, and Don Gardner/Dee Dee Ford . And backing the whole show is a bunch of white boys from Roanoke, Vee-Ay who could play rhythm-and-blues music with such feeling and drive that at one time or another they backed every major R&B act that toured the South in the 60s. A group that attained almost legendary status among its followers. A group called the Divots.
The Divots influenced many bands and among them, The In_Men Ltd. who first played at UGA in 1966 for Chi Omega and were then kidnapped by the Kappa Alpha Order for their front lawn parties. Unfortunately, the Divots never recorded but the In-Men Ltd. did record. In fact a 20-minute medley from 1968 appears on the recent release The In-Men Ltd. Legacy Sessions along with 14 additional recordings made in 2006 including the No. 1 Beach Music song of 2007, "Rhythm" The CD available at www.abebooks In-Men Ltd. Legacy Sessions published by Rare Reads
The upcoming concert featuring Jason Aldean will be a winner, deservedly so, but the honor of being the first concert at Sanford Stadium belongs to a group R&B greats.
If you were one of the 40,000 that attended the concert, and you remember, send your comments. Many say that if you remember the 60s, you weren't there. That adage is not always true ?
Also, it was the era you could take photos without trepidation or getting signed releases so if got a few poloroids, stuck in a drawer, e-mail them, we’ll post.