Music 'The Way it Used to Be'
Feb 03, 2014 | 2151 views |  0 comments | 46 46 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For Wednesday’s special visit down memory lane in music, from left, you’ll hear the talents of pianist Kermit Orr, Buddy Simpkins on the drums, Bo Berry playing the trumpet and Cleve Eaton on the bass.
For Wednesday’s special visit down memory lane in music, from left, you’ll hear the talents of pianist Kermit Orr, Buddy Simpkins on the drums, Bo Berry playing the trumpet and Cleve Eaton on the bass.
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Continue your journey with “The Way It Used To Be” with B.B. Comer Library’s SouthFirst Lecture Series through music from a quartet of performers who know.

Retired Sylacauga High School band director Buddy Simpkins has gathered a “who’s who” of talented musicians to join him in playing for the enjoyment of Comer Library’s Brown Bag Lecture audience.

“We are calling this program “The Best Jam Session Ever—Music for the Soul,” said Dr. Shirley Spears, director for Comer Library. “Buddy has once again given his time and talent to help the Comer Library bring a delightful program for our wonderful audience.”

Drawing on songs from musical history, this group will play their favorite repertoire of tunes, including jazz, rhythm and blues, pop and swing or whatever strikes their fancy. “This program will most definitely offer a journey back to the way it used to be,” Spears said.

Simpkins’ musical collaborators include trumpeter Bo Berry, pianist Kermit Orr and bassist Cleve Eaton.

“The program is free to our adult audience and we so appreciate the generosity of these guys as they come together to make some beautiful music for us,” Spears said.

Simpkins said the combinations of musical experience and the sheer love for music from his friends will offer an outstanding experience.

“These are nice guys to be around and playing with them is so much fun,” Simpkins said. “They are gifted musicians and they enjoy performing and bring a wealth of experience and a professional attitude to the performance. The talented female vocalist, Elnora Spencer, will join us for this program.”

Berry is a family man who has been married for over 45 years and has four children and nine grandchildren.

The talented trumpeter played with “Jam Sessions on the Avenue” from 1947 to 1963.

Berry’s track record includes playing with such greats as Wynton Marsalis and with his father, Ellis Marsalis; Count Basie; the Four Tops; Lionel Richie and the Commodores; the Tuskegee Jazz Band; Barbara Mandrell; Super Jazz; and now plays with the Temptations.

In 1993, Berry was elected to the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame.

Orr was born in Charlotte, N. C. and began taking piano lessons early in life, played the trumpet in his high school band, and played with the ROTC band at Morgan State College in Baltimore, Md.

Orr was drafted into the Army and played with the Fort Benning Band for heads of state that include U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower.

Orr has performed with such greats as Miles Davis, served as house pianist at the St. John Hotel in Miami and has accompanied Dinah Washington. Orr spent 28 years in the military as a MASH operating room technician. Later, he served with the U. S. Postal Service as a letter carrier for 37 years.

Orr has been married for 40 years, has two children and seven grandchildren.

Eaton, a jazz double bassist from Fairfield, Ala., has played with all of the greats. Eaton was dubbed “the Count’s Bassist” during his 17-year stint with the Count Basie Orchestra and his present jazz group is known as the Alabama All Stars.

The musical giant has been inducted into The Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame and the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.

Simpkins directed the Sylacauga High School Band from 1967 until 1994. He also directed the choirs at the First United Methodist Church for 38 years, and taking the youth choir on many trips throughout the United States and Europe.

Over the years, he has continued to stay in touch with and to play with many other musicians.

The “The Way It Used To Be” programs are sponsored by the SouthFirst Bank. The Hightower Refreshment Room opens at 11a.m.

Adult participants are invited to bring a sandwich and enjoy drinks and desserts that will be provided by the library. Working people are invited to come by on their lunch break to enjoy the programs which will begin promptly at noon in the Harry I. Brown Auditorium. Due to limited seating, groups must have approved reservations. To make these arrangements, please contact Shirley Spears at 256-249-0961 or sspears@sylacauga.net to inquire.