The Drifters came to Savannah Center on Friday and their music touched a special place in Nancy Reynolds’ heart. Her husband, Stu Reynolds, died about a year ago.
Stu was known for his music with the Villages’ Red Garter Jazz Band. Nancy said he would often sing a famed, romantic Drifters’ song to her, called “Save the Last Dance for Me.”
“Stu loved singing that song to me,” she said. “It was special.”
So, on Friday, when the Drifters sang “Save the Last Dance for Me,” Nancy Reynolds treasured the moment. “I’ve never seen a live show like this before,” she said. “It was great – that song means so much to me. I was thinking of Stu.”
The Drifters – featuring Jerome Jackson, Andre Reina, A.J. Davis and Larry Noble – understand. The origins of the group stretch back to the 1950s. Such hits as “Stand By Me,” “On Broadway,” “Under the Boardwalk” and “Up on the Roof” are musical touchstones for a generation that came of age with them.
“We’ve been sharing the love of this music for so many years,” Andre Reina said. “This is music that touches the heart and the soul.”
The group opened up with a silky smooth version of “On Broadway.” Jerome Jackson sang lead and put plenty of soulful emotion into the number. It was the same for the next song, an uplifting “This Magic Moment.”
“This is great music,” Jackson said. “You can understand the words and you feel all willy-nilly inside.”
It was a willy-nilly show for 90 minutes thanks to the talent and skill of these Drifters. They do honor to the memories of some of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame former Drifters like Ben E. King, Clyde McPhatter and Bill Pinkney.
There was more shimmering music when they sang “Up On the Roof,” a song written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin. Next was the Doc Pomus classic, “Save the Last Dance For Me.”
But the real highlight came when Jackson nearly turned Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” into a religious experience. “Ben E. King wrote this song (with Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller) for all of us,” Jackson said. The song lasted nearly five minutes and ended with the Drifters singing pitch-perfect harmony without musical backing.
There also were songs from other artists, including Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher,” The Platters’ “Only You,” a Motown medley and Chubby Checker’s “The Twist.”
A host of Villagers went onstage to twist with the Drifters, including Debra Heath and Jerry Vicenti. “I can still twist pretty good,” Vicenti joked.
After that, it was back to the Drifters’ songbook with such tunes as “Saturday Night at the Movies” and “I Count the Tears.”
Andre Reina delivered a tender and moving gospel sound to “Please Stay.” It was the kind of song that exemplified what this concert was all about.
“We’re old fashioned rock and rollers and we love this music – it’s our music,” said Villager Pat Koller, who attended the show with her husband, Jack.
“Of course,it brings back memories,” Jack Koller said. “That’s what the Drifters are all about.”