Above: The Cover to Cover ATL band performs at Napoleon’s in Decatur. Photo by Phil Mosier.
Jim Lowe is back onstage. He’s happily playing bass guitar with a group of guys in their 50s and 60s who love playing rock and roll music. They call themselves Cover To Cover ATL.
Lowe’s business career didn’t leave room for music, but retirement changed that. Now he can play all he wants to, without money worries.
“There is little chance to make enough money from the music business to support ourselves,” the 68-year-old Lowe said. “Keeping it more like a hobby adds spice to our lives. … There is still no feeling quite like being on a stage in front of people doing what you really enjoy doing.”
Besides, “learning new skills and material is mentally stimulating — and the camaraderie is great,” Lowe said in an email.
The other five bandmates agree. “This is best part of my life after 60,” 64-year-old drummer and vocalist Jimmy Bohn said with a smile. “OK, right after my family. … I would love to play much more than I do.”
As group’s name implies, Cover to Cover ATL doesn’t perform original music. They stick to covers, playing songs that were made popular by other bands.
“Most of our songs are from the 60s and 70s — with a sprinkling of 50s and 80s — and represent the favorites we listened to as kids and teens,” several members said. Their selections include rock, pop, Motown and some rhythm & blues and soul, and they added that they try to stretch themselves and do varied sounds within those genres.
As to where they perform, the band says they’ll play any place that will have them — music venues, restaurants, bars or private events. So far, Napoleon’s, Avondale Town Cinema, Buckeye’s Getaway, Tin Roof Cantina and a private fundraiser (Purim on Ponce) have taken them up on the offer.
Lead guitarist Bruce Sexton, 57, grew up in Memphis, where the television show Midnight Special influenced his love of music. Like Lowe, Sexton played in high school. In fact, he started a band his freshman year.
Eventually Sexton put his guitar down to pursue an engineering career. About eight years ago, “I found these guys,” he said.
He hasn’t looked back. “Though my hands feel stiffer now, and the equipment seems heavier,” he said. “I’m not going to let that stop me from doing the thing I love!”
Eric Tarnow, who is Cover To Cover’s lead singer and percussionist at 67, says he played clarinet in his junior high band and drums during his early teens. After that, “nothing until my 60s, unless you count singing in my car and banging on the steering wheel or singing in my home and banging on furniture,” he said.
At 60, a good friend invited Tarnow to someone’s house for a jam session. The next couple of years, he played the conga, bongos and tambourine, and sang a bit.
After a few years, it fell apart. “It left me feeling empty,” he said.
But, “by amazing coincidence, right around that same time (call it fate, karma, kismet or just plain dumb luck), Bohn approached me in Tin Roof Cantina’s parking lot,” Tarnow said. (The Tin Roof Cantina was the place where several band members hang out. They call it their personal Cheers, after the bar at the heart of the long-running TV show.)
Bohn said he was “thinking of starting a music thing” and wanted Tarnow to join in. “I believe my reply was something like, ‘Hell, yeah!’ At the time, we had no idea what we were doing or where we were going,” Tarnow said.
Tarnow said he remembers that night distinctly. “It truly changed my life,” he said. “And it marked the beginning of this amazing journey.”
Early jamming sessions are what “ultimately led to a smaller subset of playing for fun, and, finally, we formed Cover To Cover,” said Tarnow. It also meant “recruiting a keyboard player who did not even own a keyboard,” he added with a grin.
At 64, John Lisco is the keyboard (and harmonica) player. He’s always loved music, he says.
Lisco started learning piano at age 5. After a break, he returned to music at 16 and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in musicology and later a master’s in music therapy. “I promised myself that when I retired, I would start playing the piano more,” Lisco said.
Although it’s all rock n’ roll with the band, Lisco plays classical music at home.
Guitarist Bryan Falgout, 53, started playing at age 10. He set his instrument aside for years but picked it up again in the 1990s. “I knew Tarnow previously.” He said. “That’s when he sprung the news some guys were practicing for a gig. He asked me to join.”
“After an initial meeting, I had my first practice with everyone,” Falgout said. “It sounded pretty darn good — then I learned the gig was in two weeks!”
Two years later, he’s still rocking with the band.