The fire crackled in the pit as flames lapped against the telltale metal ‘Georgia G.’ Revelers, many of whom were wearing similar UGA paraphernalia, gathered around the glow trying to catch a bit of the heat.
But even with the chill in the air, the mood was a warm one there, on the back porch of Zachry’s Steak and Seafood in Brunswick. The sizable crowd of patrons laughed, clinked glasses, and excitedly chatted together.
But their attention shifted as guitar notes rang out from the band assembled before them. From that moment on, the scene seemed to be more of a colossal sing-along, led by the musical foursome Idle Hands.
That’s usually how it goes down when the band performs — and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“That’s the greatest thing about an Idle Hands show, the number of people singing along,” says Willie Smith, who serves as lead guitarist and harmony vocalist for the group.
The country band’s lively and interactive shows have birthed an impressive following in the Golden Isles. It’s something that offers a confirmation of sorts for the members, letting them know they’re doing something right.
“I guess we’ll keep doing it until we come to a gig and we just have one or two people … then we’ll know it’s time to hang it up,” Johnny White, lead singer and acoustic guitarist, says with a laugh.
That won’t be happening any time soon. The group’s devotees flock to any location the band plays. Their typical haunts in Brunswick include Moondoggy’s, Toucan’s, and Tipsy McSway’s, as well as many throughout the county.
Idle Hands has also become a festival favorite, appearing at Jekyll Island’s Shrimp and Grits Festival. They’re also slated to headline the upcoming Blessing of the Fleet in Darien.
“We’re doing the Crawfish Festival in Woodbine in April too,” bassist Jeff Butler says.
“We really shine in a festival setting. We love it,” Smith adds.
The band is also drawn to playing events with meaning. The group took to the stage during a recent fundraiser for the local nonprofit Riley’s Soles for Souls, a charity founded and managed by middle schooler Riley Letson.
“Brandon, Riley’s dad, works at Zachry’s and they’re just a great family so we were really excited to play at their event. Those are the types of things we really love,” Johnny White says.
Giving back is in line with the band’s dedication to the tenets of country music — faith and family. It’s also something celebrated within the group itself. Johnny’s younger brother, Lamar, is the band’s drummer.
“I started out opening the curtain for Johnny and his band. That’s the God’s honest truth,” Lamar says with a smile.
“He’s 10 years younger than me and, when I was in my prime trying to be the next Garth Brooks, (Lamar) was about 8 years old, opening the curtain for us. Then he’d run upstairs and do the lights,” Johnny adds.
The two White boys grew up in the local music scene, where their father, Otis White, performed for roughly 50 years.
“We got it from our dad. All of his side of the family are big in gospel. It’s pretty much in the blood, so to speak,” Johnny says.
Lamar, like his big brother, originally opted for the guitar, but later took up the drums. It all set the scene perfectly for the formation of Idle Hands.
The White brothers and Smith were first in the mix with Butler joining a little later on. But even with the line-up, before they could take to the stage, they the group had to settle on a name.
Of course, the term Idle Hands is often recognized as a biblical one, appearing in the book of Proverbs.
“There’s a lot of irony in the name. It comes out of Proverbs 16 … ‘Idle hands are the devil’s workshop,’” Smith says. “And ‘idle lips are his mouthpiece,’ but if you watch us, we really have some busy hands and busy lips.”
It also has a more personal meaning for the White brothers, both of whom work in construction in Savannah.
“I was at work one day, talking to another supervisor named Rico Landry. We were talking about the work ethic today,” Johnny says. “Just really how people don’t have the same kind of drive they used to have. (Rico) said his grandfather had a good saying, ‘don’t let those idle hands get you into trouble.’ And a light bulb went off in my head. I thought, ‘that is the name.’”
It has served the band well. In addition to being catchy, it also speaks to who they are and what they believe in. Whether they are sharing classic tunes like Conway Twitty or newer jams from Jason Aldean, their mission remains the same.
“We just like to love on our people. They keep coming. I tried to retire years ago but they just keep showing up,” Smith jokes, as the fellas joined in a laugh.