A legendary Capital City band returns to the stage this Friday night. Tom Flanigan reports the reunion is sure to bring back memories for those who remember the so-called “golden age” of the Tallahassee Strip.
It’s a rock and roll truism that the vast majority of bands are formed from the shards and fragments of earlier bands. In the case of Tallahassee’s 911 group, lead guitarist Steve Taff said there wasn’t much reorganization required. That’s because 911 was essentially the lineup of the former Slapstick band plus a new front man by the name of Drew Tillman.
"Perry (Nelson) and I got our old bass player from Slapstick, so the three of us had already been playing together for years," he recalled. "And then Drew ended up with us as his rhythm section, unbeknownst to him that we'd been playing together." "And it was amazing!" Tillman interjected. "They were so tight!"
It was actually Tillman who initiated the band with a phone call to Taff in 1987. Between then and 1999, 911 ruled the Tallahassee Strip and other popular nightspots with a swagger and fan base that hasn’t really been duplicated since. Tillman said the musical relationships forged during that time continue to bear creative fruit.
"Over the years, we've evolved to where Steve and I are about to go back into the studio and finish up an album that I've been working on since the Milennium started," (sounds of Taff giggling in the background) "And then we're going to do his album and so we've got a lot of music coming out and I'm looking forward to writing with him, too."
Even today, 911 still has its die-hard fans. Tillman rememberd an illustrative incident last year.
"I took the kids to New York to see the sights and on the flight back - I thought I was in trouble and I'd done something wrong - the stewardess came over, kneeled down and said, 'You're Drew Tillman. You were in that band 911, weren't you?' I said yes. And she said, 'I would see you guys all the time!' Then she leaves and the kids go, 'Oh, Dad; you're so famous.'"
So this Friday, for the 5th straight year, Taff and Tillman say 911 will gather together once more to rekindle the old magic.
"It's a reunion for everybody there, because there's all the crowd that was there from the different places, Bullwinkles and the Flamingo Cafe. THAT was my favorite!" exclaimed Taff. "They'll fly in," Tillman continued the thread, "They'll come from all over and see all their friends and see us."
On stage will be the original lineup, plus some incredible talented support personnel. "It's Drew and then Perry Nelson, Richard Tengstedt, (and) Lorie Mayer-Smith," said Taff, ticking off the group members. "Then we've got Bruce Jones who's a phenomenal sound man; he was Carlos Santana's for many years. And he'll have Jim Apgar who helps us out with Tom and the Cats. So everything's going to be top-notch!"
The 911 reunion site has also become traditional.
"We are back at the (Sauls-Bridges Post 13 American) Legion hall, starting at 7 p.m. August 2," said Tillman. "I guess I need to write that down," quipped Taff.
It’s a great chance to revisit the glory years of the Tallahassee Strip, or at least to get an idea of what that strange and wondrous period was like if you missed it the first time around.