Put them all together – with a little Elvis and maybe Kurt Cobain — and you might have Johnny Wild, aka Andy Matchett.
Matchett is the Gen Xer who leads Johnny Wild and the Delights. The Orlando-based rock band plays ‘50s and ‘60s music, and has turned into one of the hottest bands in The Villages.
Johnny Wild’s crew lived up to the lead singer’s name Saturday with a boisterous, power-packed performance for the Paisans Club in SeaBreeze Regional Recreation Center. They have been performing in The Villages for the past year and play Savannah Center on May 17.
Wild and his three female singers along with the band, offered a rollicking, cross-generational musical stew. The set included: Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day;” Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues;” Elvis’ “Don’t Be Cruel;” the Beatles’ “All My Loving;” the Beach Boys’ “Surfin’ USA” and the Supremes’ “You Can’t Hurry Love.”
It was a deft display of musical versatility and rock and roll passion.
“It’s really cool to be here in The Villages,” Matchett said before the show. “This is an amazing place and the people love music. There’s so much energy.”
The band includes Abraham Couch, bass; Randy Coole drums; Simon Palombi, guitar/keyboards. The singers are: Amanda Warren, Megan Matchett and Whitney Abell-Couch.
Since coming here a year ago, the band has been playing all three Town Squares every month, and other local gigs. The biggest date is May 17 when the group plays two shows at Savannah Center at 5 and 8 p.m.
It’s called “Roy, Buddy and Hank,” and features tributes to Roy Orbison, Buddy Holly and Hank Williams. Matchett, a professional actor and playwright, has played Holly and Williams on stage. He was cast as Holly in the national tour of The Buddy Holly Story.
“I love those guys and that music,” Matchett said. He is only 36 but has the oldies in his blood. As a teenager during the ‘90s, he gravitated to bands like Kurt Cobain’s Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Smashing Pumpkins.
But he always enjoyed his parents’ records of Neil Young, James Taylor, the Beatles, Beach Boys, and Motown.
Then, during the ‘80s, Matchett got hooked on the ‘50s’ music revival. Bands like the Stray Cats and the Blasters made the old music come alive to a new generation. He really became involved after playing Holly and Williams on stage and doing research on their lives.
“There was such passion in their music,” Matchett said. “They made passionate, troubled music. You could feel the same things in bands like Pearl Jam and Nirvana.”
In a very real way, Matchett sees connections for performers like Hank Williams and Kurt Cobain. Both were brilliant, innovative but suffered from personal demons and addiction.
“It all comes out in their music,” he said. “It’s so different. Both Cobain and Hank take chances and do the unexpected. I love it right in the middle of a song, when Hank starts yodeling. Or when Cobain sings ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit,’ and then makes that lick that sound like Boston’s ‘More Than A Feeling.’ These guys always surprise you and they were brilliant.”
Buddy Holly is another idol.
“He’s the original singer/songwriter,” Matchett said. “Buddy is the flipside of Elvis. Elvis was the sexy singer who changed everything. Buddy wrote the songs and sang the songs. He set the standard for bands to come.”
Roy Orbison, “had the best voice,” Matchett said. “He’s a truly exciting singer and I love his songs. I feel a great kinship to Roy.”
Fans in The Villages also relate to Johnny Wild and the Delights. They used be called Johnny Dee and the Starlights, but changed the name to avoid confusion with other acts.
It doesn’t matter to local followers who jam the Town Squares and clubs whenever Wild and the Delights turn up.
“They’re a classic band and you’ve got to hear them up close to appreciate how good they sound,” said Jerry Vicenti, who, with his wife, Annette, leads the Paisans Club. “We’ve been trying to get them for a year. They are popular; our members kept asking for them.”
“They play the oldies with a lot of youthful passion,” said Villager Wendy Harris, who attended the show with her husband, Bob. “When they play, you can’t just sit there. You have to get up and dance.”
“They’ve got great chemistry on stage,” added Bob Harris. “They play a great mix of songs and they have a lot of energy.”
Villagers Elaine and Pat Weith are 82, but both were out on the dance floor moving to the music.
“I love all kinds of music and this band makes the oldies sound great,” Elaine Weith said.
That’s music to Andy Matchett’s ears.
“We just want to play rock and roll,” said the man called Johnny Wild “and keep the passion in the music.”
Just like Hank, Buddy and Roy.