Beau Knott unfastened the clasps on the guitar case, lifting the lid. Gingerly, he removed his vintage guitar, holding it in his hands.
With practiced ease, he began strumming chords, as his bandmate Jim Weber assembled his drums. Rounding out the trio, Justin Hammack stood nearby, delicately adjusting his upright bass.
After a few mic checks, the boys known to dedicated fans as Beau and the Burners were ready to rock. The audience started to assemble — with caution and distance as the coronavirus pandemic demands.
But even so, it was a swinging scene at Bardelous in downtown Brunswick and a welcome reprieve from weeks and weeks of isolation. The group doled out rockabilly favorites like “Honey Don’t” by Carl Perkins (and later, the Beatles) and a couple of classics courtesy of the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley.
Everything — from their period-appropriate instruments to their outfits, which included hats and suspenders — was definitely a departure from bands often found giggin’ around the Isles. And, that’s exactly the point.
“We like to dress up,” Jim says with a chuckle as he sips his coffee. “And we all like the music. It’s one of a kind ... it’s the real rock and roll.”
In 2020, there aren’t many bands that wear rockabilly so well. The genre, heralded as being the forebearer of rock and roll, combines country and Western swing with rhythm and blues. First surfacing in the South in the 1950s, the sound was popularized by acts like Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly and it inspired a multitude of musicians for generations to come.
Knott grew up loving the music and even incorporated the sound into earlier bands.
“I was in a family band called the Knottheads,” Knott, the lead singer and songwriter, says. “My brothers all played and we played classic rock and roll. But later, I decided to play what I wanted. And this is my favorite type of music. I’m just glad other people like it too.”
Knott is the founder of the band and placed a Craigslist ad for backup about 10 years ago. That’s how he teamed up with Weber.
“I saw the post for a drummer and answered it. We’ve been playing together ever since,” Weber says.
Hammack joined about two years ago after becoming a big fan of Knott and Weber’s music. In fact, he learned to play the bass specifically to become a part of the group.
“I didn’t play any instrument, but I loved their music. I was a big fan. One day I decided I was going to learn bass and these guys taught me,” Hammack says.
“Everyone thinks that I’ve been playing for a long time but I haven’t. It’s never too late to learn.”
Regardless of their individual experiences, the band really jives as a whole. Knott’s spot-on vocals and honest twang are propelled by his bandmates’ beats.
The Florida residents have started crossing the state line fairly regularly to perform in Glynn County. They’ve become regulars at bars and restaurants like Tipsy McSway’s and have also performed at events like Rhythm on the River.
“We’ve played an event at Sea Island too. It’s been great coming up here ... it’s become like a home away from home,” Hammack says.
And, he adds, every show they book is all about sharing authentic rockabilly.
“We all play vintage instruments. So not only are we playing 50s and 60s music but we’re playing it on the old school instruments. Jim plays a 50s style Slingerling drum set which is before Ludwig. It’s got animal skins on it,” Hammack says.
“Beau plays on a vintage guitar with 1960s amps that he bought used in the 70s. I have a 1958 Kay (bass). It makes what we do even more important.”
When the fellas aren’t playing bars and restaurants, they can often be found at themed events — car shows and the like.
“Those are the events where people like to dress up in 50s clothes,” Weber says. “We do a lot of those.”
They also have found a way to engage generations of music lovers, all of who gravitate toward their unique and timeless sound.
“Everyone that loves this music carries on this tradition — from grandparents to very young kids. They’re all out there dancing together which is great to see,” Knott says with a smile.