Johnny Wild brings legends back to life in sold-out shows at Savannah Center 

One reason Dwane and Sherry Ellerbach moved to The Villages is that Johnny Wild “ain’t nothing but a hound dog.”

Andy Matchett as Roy Orbison.

Put it this way: they couldn’t find Johnny Wild and the Delights doing Elvis back home in Iowa, so the Ellerbachs picked up stakes and moved to The Villages in April.

They were in the front row Wednesday for the “Original Legends” concert by Wild – Andy Matchett – and the Delights. The multi-talented group played two sell-out shows in Savannah Center featuring the music of Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison and Presley.

“We came here two years ago on a vacation and saw Johnny Wild,” said Sherry Ellerbach. “We love this band and have been coming back to see them ever since. Johnny Wild isn’t the only reason we moved to The Villages, but he was a big reason we came here.”

Matchett and his band were percolating in hot, roots-rock form throughout the concert. As usual, he nailed Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison.

Although Matchett didn’t quite match Elvis’ physical appearance, he swiveled with style, and more importantly, brought authenticity to Presley’s musical heritage.

“Elvis is a challenge,” Matchett said before the show.

How do you sing like the King?

“You soften the consonants; wiggle your hips and shake your shoulders,” Matchett said.

From left, Randy Coole, Andy Matchett and Simon Palombi.

He did just that in a rollicking and emotional Elvis’ set to close the concert. Matchett had plenty of help from the rest of the band: Simon Palombi, keyboards/guitar; Randy Coole, drums; and Abraham Couch on bass. Amanda Warren and Whitney Abell-Couch provided back-up vocals and also sang some solo songs.

Matchett brought out the Memphis Sun Studio sound on Elvis’ “That’s Alright Mama” and “Good Rockin’ Tonight.” There was more of a pop flavor to “Return to Sender.”

Matchett turned up the heat and caught the shakes on “Heartbreak Hotel.” He roared through “One Night With You” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”

Villagers Sherry and Dwane Ellerbach say one of the reasons they moved to The Villages was to be able to see Johnny Wild and the Delights perform.

But the most powerful and moving Elvis’ number was a surprise – an obscure ballad called “They Remind Me Too Much of You.” Elvis sang the song in the 1963 movie “It Happened at the World’s Fair.”

Matchett delivered the soft, melancholy number while playing an acoustic guitar. He turned it into an aching musical soliloquy.

“That’s why this band is so entertaining,” Sherry Ellerbach said. “They have great style and energy; but it’s the music that matters most. They bring in the right pitch, volume and sound.”

Andy Matchett plays Buddy Holly.

Matchett opened the show with a solid Buddy Holly set, with such classics as “Peggy Sue,” “Not Fade Away,” “It’s So Easy” and “Everyday.”

Wearing thick black glasses, and a white sport coat, Matchett looked he stepped out of 1957. Holly and The Crickets helped popularize rock and roll and Matchett paid homage to them by closing his set with a torrid “Oh Boy!”.

Amanda Warren, left, and Whitney Abell-Couch.

Roy Orbison offers a different sound.

Orbison could rock with the best of them, as Matchett did on “Ooby Dooby” and “I Got a Woman.” But Orbison could hit the high notes like an opera singer.

Andy Matchett as Johnny Wild pays tribute to Elvis.

Matchett was up to the task on “Only the Lonely” and – especially – “Crying.” Then he closed in raucous style with “Oh, Pretty Woman.”

Johnny Wild and the Delights are far from a one-man band. Palombi offered some wicked guitar licks and also played keyboards. He sang “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On” and “Wooly Bully.”

Coole surprised with a hard-driving vocal on Eddie Cochran’s “Twenty Flight Rock.” Abell-Couch and Warren combined for sweet ‘50s’ harmony on “Mr. Sandman” and “Lollipop.”

Warren rocked on Wanda Jackson’s “Let’s Have A Party,” while Abell-Couch brought a female lead to Spencer Davis’ “Gimme Some Lovin’”.

Johnny Wild fans, from left, Dwane and Sherry Ellerbach, Bob Jankowski, Mary Cote, and bottom, Vic Cote.
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