Ramblin' Rhodes: Audience returns love to Ed Turner and Number 9

Kristian Bush of the music duo Sugarland will perform Friday, Aug. 16, in a benefit show for Golden Harvest Food Bank.

There is a line in the last song sung by Ed Turner and Number 9 that goes, “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”


The words come from the song The End composed by Paul McCartney for the album Abbey Road. It is said to be the last song recorded collectively by all four Beatles.

Well, there is no doubt in performing their Get Back To The Beatles concerts Aug. 9 and 10 at Imperial Theatre that the Number 9 band did create a lot of love in several ways and, in return, was showered with love from the audience in standing ovations and full-house attendance.

In fact, the two concerts marked the 13th and 14th times that Turner and his musical aggregates have sold out the Imperial; again more times than any other individual or group in the Imperial’s 95-years history.

The two concerts raised more than $54,000 for Child Enrichment Inc. serving abandoned, physically abused, neglected and sexually abused children in our community.

In all, the Number 9 band over the past years has raised more than $500,000 for child abuse prevention agencies and the CSRA Humane Society. I’d say that’s a lot of love they have made for good causes and a lot of great music they have made for Beatles’ fans.

Turner, a master of keyboards and a great vocalist, always turns in a stellar performance. That’s a given.

Bass guitarist Duane Wilson and lead guitarist Ronnie Hill are so good without any real showcase solo parts that they almost are taken for granted.

Zack Swenson is very possibly one of the best drummers and comedians to come out of Augusta. And how much better does it get than his father, Steve Swenson, playing amazing bongo on the Bye, Bye Birdie song Till There Was You?

But for my money the absolute standouts of this latest Number 9 production were lead guitarist Jeff Johnston, lead vocalist Roger Davis and new member Ryan Abel.

I really didn’t know who Abel was until a few weeks ago when he performed his original songs for the North Augusta Arts & Heritage Center’s party to open its new entertainment and broadcast history exhibit.

But I’ll never forget him after this past weekend’s Number 9 shows. I was on my feet applauding after his brilliant vocals on Live and Let Die and Helter Skelter.

And his vocals on those two songs especially were enormously complimented by the Number 9 Horns directed by Rob Foster and the Number 9 Strings directed by Laura Tomlin. If you closed your eyes, it would be hard to tell the difference between Number 9 and the original orchestral arrangements on those two recordings. And the vocal dueling trade-offs between Abel and Davis just added another layer to the show’s enjoyment.

Former Number 9 guitarist Johnston is a star by himself and a greater star within Number 9 band. He hadn’t played with the band in a couple of years, but when guitarist Steve Mitchell suffered a stroke on July 3 (he’s now on the road to recovery), it threw Turner’s planning into a tailspin, and Johnston agreed to fill the bill.

Whether he was providing backup vocals and lead vocals, stepping out front for some incredible guitar solos, making like he was riding a roller coaster or playing the ukulele, Johnston simply was a delight to watch and hear.

What also was a delight were the creative videos put together by Number 9’s “secret weapon” videographer Roberta Birdy Connolly.

What wasn’t a delight were the many audience members checking their phone messages and texting with those bright little screens distracting those in nearby seats. Social media rudeness doesn’t seem to be getting any less these days.

No wonder Augusta National makes patrons leave their phones at the gate. Maybe the Imperial board should at least consider requiring cell phone users to go the lobby or be ejected for non compliance.


GOLDEN HARVEST FEEDBACK SESSION: The Golden Harvest Food Bank will present FeedBack Session at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 16, at Enterprise Mill featuring performances by Kristian Bush of the country music duo Sugarland, JTX (J.T. Harding) and Patrick Davis.

Admission includes hors d’oeuvres. There will be a cash bar. Tickets are $40 in advance (goldenharvest.org) or $50 the day of the show and $75 per couple. Proceeds benefit the food bank.


LOOKING FOR RONNIE BUSKIRK: A reader e-mailed asking if I knew what happened to Ronnie Buskirk from Harlem, Ga., who was on Columbia Records in the late 1960s.

The 1966 graduate of Harlem High School recorded I Just Can’t Help Believin’, Where’s The Playground Susie?, I Knew You When and It’s Getting Better, but it was B.J. Thomas, Glen Campbell, Billy Joe Royal and Mama Cass Elliot who had the hit versions of them.

He also played with the band American X-Press in Augusta in the early 1970s.

Best I can tell, Buskirk is living in Savannah where his brother, David, plays in the band Permanent Tourists. All numbers I tried didn’t work, and I couldn’t reach their sister, Barbara Bartlett, who apparently lives in Augusta.

It’s always amazing to me how many musicians and vocalists from this area have been signed to major recording labels.


CHRISTMAS TIME’S A COMIN’: Shades of Bill Monroe, they’re already promoting Christmas concerts.

The latest is that of great guitarist Mark O’Connor who will perform with “friends” in An Appalachian Christmas concert at 7 p.m. Monday, Dec. 9, at the Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center in Evans, Ga.

Visit augustamusements.com to reserve tickets ($52 and $47) or call (706) 726-0366. Use the promo code “Christmas” to get $5 off each ticket.