Happy, relaxed chatter floats across the breeze of a cloudless Jekyll Island afternoon. Families and friends gather around tables, clinking carefree glasses as they enjoy the picturesque views from Tortuga Jack's oceanfront restaurant.
At the front of the frivolity, four musicians clad in black suits and ties busily connect wires, push buttons, and plug in their instruments.
Scott Bachman takes a moment's break after setting up his drum set, soon joined by his bandmates. Phil King, guitarist and lead singer; Jody Frost, bassist and vocalist; and Randy Reynolds, lead guitar and vocals, settle in their seats, taking time to quickly recharge before their set begins. Many of their Friday evenings begin just this way.
The Island Kings, as the group is known, has become quite the go-to entertainment for many hot spots and tourist hubs throughout the Golden Isles.
It started when Reynolds was tapped by management at Sea Palms Resort on St. Simons Island to assemble a band to play for an open mic night. He sought out several musicians he knew from the local community. “I called Phil and Scott,” Reynolds says. “It really went from there.”
While Bachman, Reynolds, and Frost had known each other for years, King joined the Isles musical scene a little later. “I worked as a patient advocate at the hospital; so I wasn't really about to get out and play much until I retired. I knew these guys from Facebook and I knew Jody from the hospital, but I didn't meet them until I went to an open mic night at Loco's,” King says. With Frost rounding out the group, the sound proved too good to let go. They decided to make it a permanent thing and start booking some gigs.
Of course, even as long-established area musicians, it took time for word of their talents and chemistry as a band to circulate. But with the backing of a few people in the local business community, the Kings were off and running in no time. “Chelsea Hill and Karen Cross at Village Inn and Pub really gave us a start. They gave us a lot of gigs to help us get started. They would try to get us in that first year and believed in us. They introduced us to Larry Dinkins (at Tortuga Jack's) and then he liked us. He gave us a lot of gigs last year, too. This year, we have a lot with both places. I think the thing they like about us is our professionalism,” King says. “And that we turn it down when we're asked,” Reynolds adds, with a laugh.
The number of performances has steadily risen since they started a couple of years ago. “We started with about 20 gigs that first year. Then last year, we had about 70 gigs. This year, we will probably do about 100,” King says with a smile. “This is definitely our best season yet.”
Being able to accommodate the patrons is key, as is entertaining them. To that end, the guys make sure they have a playlist that suits a varied crowd. “We play all sorts of things … ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s,” Frost says. “We cover a little bit of everything.” “We don't do anything from the 2000s, I don't think,” Bachman pipes in with a laugh.
King shares some original songs with audiences. One of those, — aptly titled “In the Golden Isles” — showcases the natural beauty of the area. He has set the song to a video with images, including the people and places that make the Isles unique. A few of the restaurants plan to play the video at their locations. Local tourism officials also plan to use the song as part of their marketing materials.
Whether it's celebrating their home or rocking out to classic tunes, there is something for everyone who comes to their shows. The Island Kings enjoy offering diversity for all ages. “We play hit after hit after hit,” Frost says.
“The fun of it is the reaction of the audiences. We can do 'Hound Dog,' followed by 'Keep Your Hands to Yourself' ... everyone is out dancing,” King says.
The exceptional skill of the bandmates makes even the difficult songs manageable, and let's each individual shine. “I know I like to play 'Born to Run' because it's a beast on the drums,” Bachman says. “I've never played that in a band before.”
While some musicians come and go, this particular grouping has no plans to leave. “It's a lot of fun. We're musicians, and we just all been playing for 30 years or so ... it's just great to be able to play music,” Frost says. “You have to love it.”