On Sunday night, Feb. 9, 1964, the Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, giving millions of American kids a much-needed morale boost in that bleak period following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. For years, it ranked as the most-watched event in U.S. television history … even more significantly, it was The Night That Launched a Million Bands.
Sales of electric guitars skyrocketed in the days and weeks following the Fab Four’s debut, and pretty soon every town in the country had a gaggle of teen-aged garage groups, growing out their hair and rocking with unbridled joy. That’s just one of the effects the Beatles had.
Of course, rock ‘n’ roll existed before the Beatles, much as jazz had existed before Miles and Coltrane. But this watershed event profoundly changed the way the music was perceived, and the way it was played. After Feb. 9, 1964, nothing would ever be the same.
A new organization called Savannah Rocks! intends to celebrate the Fab 50th with a Feb. 7 concert at the American Legion Post on Bull Street.
But the group has other plans, too. Bigger plans. They want to honor and chronicle rock ‘n’ roll in Savannah.
“We have no illusion that we can tell THE history of rock ‘n’ roll in Savannah,” says Chatham–Savannah Citizens Advocacy director Tom Kohler, one of the group’s founders. “So we’ve consciously chosen not to try to do that.
“What we’re asking is for people who touch in on it in some way to collectively build what we’re calling A history of rock ‘n’ roll in Savannah. Because it would be assumptive and audacious for anyone to say they can tell THE history.”
Kohler’s team includes local musicians past and present - Jim Reed, Stevie Bryan, Don Cogdell, Roy Swindelle, Colleen Heine and others.
With regard to the past, Savannah Rocks! wants you to dig back through your scrapbooks, shoeboxes, computers, dresser drawers and boxes of junk for pictures, ticket stubs, posters, any sort of imagery – “anything,” Kohler explains, “that had to do with being part of, and loving rock ‘n’ roll in Savannah over these past decades.”
Were you in a band? Know somebody who was? Whaddaya got?
Until Dec. 20, Creative Approach will scan and digitize whatever you have for Savannah Rocks! (it will then be safely returned to you).
On Jan. 3, a 30-foot bulletin board will open to the public at the Sentient Bean, featuring every received contribution. “It’ll only be a history if people contribute their personal memories and touch,” says Kohler. “We’re not going to ‘curate’ it in any big way. We’ll have an arrow pointing one way on the bulletin board that says ‘Back Then,’ and another arrow that points in the other direction and says ‘Now.’”
The gang will be on-site at the Bean Dec. 29, from 2 to 6 p.m., with a scanner. After Jan. 3, Kohler chuckles, you can just bring whatever you’ve got to the Bean and tack it right up. He sees this as a cross-generational thing. “Part of it is to give these people who share a common love of music a place to come together, and get to know one another,” he says. “We think that will enliven the guys of my generation, and women of my generation, and there’s an opportunity for some of the young folks. Because a lot of guys who used to play rock ‘n’ roll here in the ‘60s and ‘70s are now attorneys and architects, and own businesses.”
And it’s to be on-going. Proceeds from the Feb. 7 concert – which will also combine musicians from then to now - will go towards a series of oral histories that Savannah Rocks! hopes will culminate in a book about the rock ‘n’ roll through-line in our fair city.
Investigate further at savannahrocks.org, and on the organization’s Facebook page.
Hey hey, my my. Rock ‘n’ roll can never die. “Everyone involved has day jobs of all kinds and no one is getting paid,” laughs Kohler, “so it took a while to get rolling.
“But we kept hearing '50 years ago today Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play’ and 'will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm 64' ringing in our ears, so we kept plugging along.”