Playing to the Crowd

B_Sharp_2

The B Sharp Band takes audiences on a nostalgic trip to yesteryear.

by RANDY GRIDER

THE B SHARP BAND’S FOUR members are already setting up their equipment at 6 p.m., a full three hours before they officially kick off tonight’s show. It’s mid-January and the cool night helps make the task of unloading instruments, amps, speakers and such from their vehicles bearable. Not easy, but tolerable.

Weekend musicians have to be household- goods movers, electricians, technicians, interior designers (got to hang the band’s banner and arrange things just right so they can be seen and heard) and much more. The actual performance often is the easy part.[s2If !is_user_logged_in()]..

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[s2If is_user_logged_in()]Shelton Monroe, unofficial leader (piano, harmonica and vocals) and younger brother of bass player Tim Monroe – a founder of the original B Sharp Band – makes quick work of hauling in the remaining equipment, which includes a keyboard that was stashed in his Pontiac Vibe. He offers me a genuine “glad to see you” and a quick chat before busying himself with setup.

Terry Headrick, the group’s drummer, and Terry Graves, guitar and vocals, extend similar down-home welcomes and order sandwiches from the lady behind the bar of Fort Payne’s Main Street Deli. The Deli boasts a vinyl banner that reads “The Place To Be For Live Music.”

After a quick bite, it’s time for sound checks. For the next hour, band members run through a sampling of their musical repertoire. It’s a mini concert – an ear- Playing to the crowd pleasing freebie for early arrivals. While these jam-session-like pre-shows are a necessity to guarantee everything is ready, they also provide great insight into a band’s personality. The B Sharp Band is efficient and thorough, but loose – a sure sign the band members are not only comfortable with each other, but with themselves.

With two members with the same first name and two with the same surname, Shelton Monroe quips that if you want to get someone’s attention in the band, just yell “Terry Monroe.” By the time the elder Monroe leads in with the bass (vocals) of Exile’s “I Want to Kiss You All Over,” one can feel an energy that screams “we want to have fun.”

SHELTON MONROE, TERRY HEADRICK, TERRY GRAVES AND TIM MONROE make up the resurrected B Sharp Band. The band reformed a little over a year ago to the delight of faithful fans who remembered the early ‘80s version of the group.

SHELTON MONROE, TERRY HEADRICK, TERRY GRAVES AND TIM MONROE make up the resurrected B Sharp Band. The band reformed a little over a year ago to the delight of faithful fans who remembered the early ‘80s version of the group.

That’s the secret of the B Sharp Band. The members of the band are long past having visions of grandeur when it comes to performing. While very talented with long musical pedigrees, they are content with where they are now as musicians –a group who gets together a couple of times a month to simply entertain.

“We just want to have fun and want the people who come to see us to have fun,” says Shelton Monroe, 47. “If we had to do this to try to make a living, it would be a job and probably not near as much fun.”

The band’s normal set includes a blend of Motown, country, rock and beach music spanning the last five decades – everything from “My Girl” and “Honky Tonk Women” to “Margaritaville.” There’s also the standard Southern mainstay, “Sweet Home Alabama.”

B Sharp, while basically a cover band, does have its own style and mixes “staying true” to the original work with a hint of individuality – a hard line to walk, but the members pull it off with remarkable ease.

“We are just of a bunch of over-aged cutups,” quips Tim Monroe. “We enjoy good jokes and having a good time. We think the people we play in front of really enjoy what we do.”

A BAND BY ANY OTHER NAME … The B Sharp Band’s roots span three decades, with a period of hibernation as various members of today’s revitalized group were busy with the obligations of regular jobs and family.

Tim, Shelton and another brother, Clint Monroe, were the core of the band’s genesis. Their father, Homer Monroe, was a local musician who had once owned a recording studio in Sylvania, Ala., where the brothers attended school. Tim, 51, says they were “always plinking” with instruments at their house, where friends would often drop by for impromptu jam sessions.

In 1983, the brothers and another friend started playing locally as a band. Tim Monroe says the band chose its name for its irony. “I noticed there was no [standard] B sharp [note in the musical scale], so that was the name we went with.”

The band played semi-regularly at local clubs, benefits and other events (once opening for a fledgling Vince Gill) until about 1988. That’s when the demands of everyday life took over and the group informally disbanded.

They continued to play with other musicians and bands over the years (though Shelton eventually took a decade-and-half break). Current members including Terry Graves and Terry Headrick played in various combinations with other bands. Tim Monroe and Terry Graves, who had a four-year stint with the popular Southern Flite band, played together in a band called EZ Street. In other words, everyone was somehow associated with someone who makes up today’s reincarnation of B Sharp.

Terry Graves, whose influences include bluegrass (he started playing as a youngster with his father Ellis Graves) country and Southern rock, says he got his fill traveling across the Southeast playing the larger venues and club scenes and returned to his soul roots. He played gospel with Fort Payne’s Sharps Quarter for awhile before he felt “the classic rock, southern rock and Motown music calling me back.”

The Graves and the Monroes started jamming together in Shelton’s garage about a year ago. When they decided to start playing for the public, they called on Terry Headrick to join them. Their first gig, though, wasn’t as the B Sharp Band. They played under the name Fly by Night. But those who saw them play and were excited to recognize original members of the B Sharp Band started calling them that despite the new name.

“The fans renamed us,” Shelton Monroe explains with a grin.

Terry Headrick, 52, who cut his musical teeth by “banging the fire” out of his mom’s pots and pans as a child before honing his skills in Southern gospel (and who, with self-deprecating wit, announces he is a drummer not a musician because he only has to know how to keep time), loves the lack of ego that makes B Sharp special.

“They are a great bunch of guys,” Headrick says. “They make everyone feel like they are a part of the band.”

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