Saturday August 9
War Memorial Auditorium
Fort Lauderdale, Florida
On Saturday night, I took a trip back in space and time to South Florida in the '60s, as several of the Miami area's top bands of the era reunited for Geezerpalooza 2008, a benefit for the Majic Children's Fund. The event was hosted by Miami radio legend Rick Shaw, legendary voice of WQAM and The Rick Shaw Show, and was headlined by the Birdwatchers, Steve Alaimo, the Montells, Dr. T & the Undertakers, the Dead End Kids, and Geekus.
The event was held at the historic Fort Lauderdale War Memorial Auditorium, scene of many a teenage dance back in the '60s, including the legendary "Florida Bandstand" shows. Organized by George Butticaz and Jim Borgmann, the concert was done first class all the way. I had the pleasure of introducing the Montells, along with my Florida Rocks Again! co-producer, Jeff Lemlich, whose book Savage Lost and website featuring "The Limestone Lounge" were the seeds from which this event grew.
Speaking of the music, Geekus opened the show with a set of '60s covers, highlighted by a rave-up of the 13th Floor Elevators' "You're Gonna Miss Me," and a version of Sonny & Cher's "The Beat Goes On" set to Led Zeppelin's arrangement of "How Many More Times." Genius, boys. The Dead End Kids, who once ruled the roost as the house band at the Par-Tee Lounge, offered up a tight set of songs ranging from the Dell-Vikings to Steely Dan. The band was augmented by guitarslinger Harry Hann, formerly of Wayne Cochran & the CC Riders, who contributed a tasty rendition of "Black is Black."
Dr. T & the Undertakers arrived in trademark fashion, in a hearse, of course, and wore their trademark top hats and capes. At 69 years old, Dr. T a/k/aTony Asci, can still kick out the jams, whether on their classic 45 "Blue Blue Feeling," or on the Muddy Waters blues nugget "Hoochie Coochie Man." The band was anchored by Bob Usherson on bass, Billy DeMoya on drums, Bob Barbara on rhythm and Bobbby Jabo on lead guitar. My only complaint is that they didn't play "I Put a Spell on You," or their other 45s, "Times Have Changed" (which would have been thematically appropriate) or the bashing instrumental "Undertakers Theme."
The Montells, the only holdover from the first Geezerpalooza in 2005, tore the house down with a set of signature rock 'n' roll and rhythm & blues ravers. Lead singer Carter Ragsdale was in fine voice, leading the band through "Daddy Rolling Stone," "Gloria," and "Don't Bring Me Down," among others. Of all the performers, the Montells were the most authentic-sounding, true to their garage aesthetic. In addition to original members John Weatherford, George Hall, and Ragsdale, the group was rounded out by John Dalton (Evil) and Dewey Bond (Dead End Kids).
The show closed with an incredible set by the Birdwatchers, featuring original members Sammy Hall, Bobby Puccetti, and Jerry Schils, who managed to play most of their classic 45s from '66-'68, and even "Can I Do It," the number they performed in William Grefe's movie Wild Rebels. Their co-star in that movie and co-producer of their greatest recordings, Steve Alaimo, joined the band for three of his biggest hits, "Every Day I Have to Cry," "Happy," and "Melissa." Of the latter, co-written with Gregg Allman, he said that ever since AT&T featured it in a TV commercial, it has become his most lucrative composition. The closing number was a group sing-along with all the musicians on "That's What Friends Are For" - I would have preferred "Forever Young," or even better, "Louie Louie," but it was still pretty sweet.
All in all, Geezerpalooza 2008 was a home run, and helped to raise money for a very worthy cause. There was a whole lotta love in the room, and I'm glad I could be there. I'll always treasure it, both the show itself, and the after-hours hang-outs with the likes of Carter Ragsdale, Bill Hall, and Billy DeMoya. Heard some great music, some great stories, laughed a lot, and had a ball.
I wouldn't have missed it for the world.