Cover bands. Just the name sparks all kinds of debate about artistic integrity and economics and keeping your chops up and more. So it would be easy to criticize cover bands… until you look closely at ALL the factors involved.
We’ll leave most of that discussion for another day. This is about the Johnny G. Lyon Band, whose presence on the Tampa Bay area has extended for more than 30 years. They absolutely play original material, depending on the venue, including the much beloved “Call Me Lover Boy.” From the band’s website:
Johnny G Lyon & JGLB is a concert band. Johnny G Lyon & JGLB is a PARTY band. Johnny G Lyon & JGLB is appropriate for any event, at any venue.
JGLB, as they are affectionately known, have played every possible venue in the area and played with some of the biggest names in the industry. In addition, guitar slinger Lyon has recorded with many great blues and rock icons.
Someone noted: “No one walks away from a JGLB show dissatisfied.”
We caught up with the band Saturday night at Buckets in northwest Tampa, where they knocked out an amazing setlist of covers, listed below (with original artists). The diversity alone is mind-boggling, but the performance and presentation were first-rate. Somehow, this was only my second time seeing JGLB (shame on me). Won’t be the last, for certain.
They opened with the great Mar-keys’ instrumental “Last Night” which eventually wound its way into “Let the Good Times Roll.” From there, the band mined ‘60s and ‘70s soul and rock, uncovering some of the rare gems and precious metals of those genres. It is unlikely you have ever seen a band do Jr. Walker’s “What Does It Take” and follow it immediately with “Whole Lotta Love.” The brief “Don’t Be Cruel” tag was to celebrate the birthdays of The King and Jimmy Page.
“New Orleans” sounded fresh and clean; I didn’t have the courage to do the PeeWee dance during “Tequila.” Tommy Duncan handled many of the vocals, especially effective on “Miss You.” The presence of tenor and baritone saxophones really filled out the sound and added greatly to songs such as “Miss You” and “What Does It Take.”
The dance floor was slammed the entire evening (we ran out of gas just before midnight and split; the band certainly did NOT). And it blew up for such favorite remembrances as “Soul Finger” and “Hard to Handle.”
Right before we split, “Little Queenie” was followed by “Sex Machine,” “Shining Star” and “Superbad,” a total funk throwdown.
The music was propelled all evening by drummer Danny diPietra and bassist Benny “Ben Jammin” Sudano, who has been with the band off and on since 1992. Dean Germain offered great musical colors with his Hammond B3 organ and electric piano (especially effective on “Little Queenie”). The saxophone pairing of Thor Stevens (tenor) and Billy “Big Horn” Riemer (baritone) sent this music over the top.
I know now why Donna and my friend Sylla talk about Johnny G. all the time. You can bet we’ll be seeing them again… soon.
Speaking of that:
Friday, January 22 Quail Hollow, Wesley Chapel
Friday, January 29 The Manhattan, Tampa
Saturday, January 30 Uncle Fats Tavern 2, Tampa
Friday, February 5 Skipper’s Smokehouse, Tampa
Saturday, February 13 Kapok Tree, Clearwater
Friday, February Buckets Tavern & Tap, Tampa
Get lots more information on the JGLB official website.
[JGLB: Last Night (Mar-keys) > Let the Good Times Roll (Louis Jordan), New Orleans (Gary U.S. Bonds), Miss You (Stones), Soul Man (Sam & Dave), Green River (CCR), Sea Cruise (Huey “Piano” Smith), Tequila (The Champs), What Does It Take (Jr. Walker), Whole Lotta Love (Zep) > Don’t Be Cruel (Elvis), Brown-Eyed Girl (Van Morrison), Soul Finger (The Bar-kays), Vehicle (Ides of March), Roadhouse Blues (The Doors), Kathy’s Clown (Everly Brothers), One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer (George Thorogood), Hard to Handle (Otis Redding), Little Queenie (Chuck Berry), Sex Machine (James Brown), Shining Star (Earth, Wind & Fire), Superbad (James Brown)]