From left are band members Daryn Bee, Michael “Frankie” Lambert, Shawn Bragg, Gord Sackville and Gary Robb.
By Dan Rankin
On Oct. 25 at the St. Marys United Church, St. Thomas-based band Frankie and the Fairlanes will put on a show sure to prove that “Rock ‘n’ Roll is Here to Stay.” According to frontman Michael “Frankie” Lambert, those coming to the 3:00 pm Sunday matinee show can expect to see medley tributes to both 1960s surf music and to the Beatles, as well as hits by Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, the Jordanaires, Bill Haley and the Comets and much more.
Lambert said the group has been in existence for almost nine years, and is composed of a top-notch group of musicians and singers, including himself, saxophonist Daryn Bee, guitarist Shawn Bragg, drummer Gord Sackville and keyboardist Gary Robb.
“The gentlemen I’m playing with now are all guys I’ve known for many years,” he said. “It’s evolved over the years, and the current Frankie and the Fairlanes lineup is the best it’s ever been.”
Lambert never got the chance to see the musicians he pays tribute to in their primes in the ’50s and ’60s. “Most of these acts were long gone by the time I was into listening age, having had my formative music years in the 80s,” he said. But, Lambert developed a love of this era of music as an offshoot of his interest in antique cars.
“I’ve got a ’56 Ford Fairlane, and I’ve had that since the early ’90s,” he said. Taking the car with him to numerous car shows and fairs, Lambert said he noticed the disc jockeys and tribute acts at those events tended to be lacking a certain something. “They sounded okay, but didn’t really look the part,” he said. “I thought, gee, there’s got to be a niche here for a ’50s band with a bit of flash and some costuming, and just a little more charisma than what I was seeing.”
Now, his group is known for their stage show that incorporates theatre elements such as jokes, costume changes and props. Audiences might even learn something, as the group shares stories about the history of the British Invasion and the music scenes of the ’50s and ’60s. “Our main focus the last few years has been this kind of sit-down theatre kind of setting,” such as the one they’ll put on in St. Marys next weekend, he said. “But we also do weddings and corporate events and things like that as well.”
This will be the band’s first visit to St. Marys, though their fall tour has recently included stops in Sarnia, Burlington and Etobicoke. St. Marys will be the last stop of that tour, Lambert said, before they embark on a holiday-themed winter tour dubbed “A Very ’50s Christmas.”
Lambert said that one of the most uplifting parts of performing songs from the early days of rock ‘n’ roll is sending audiences back to those days in their own lives. “I had a lady a couple weekends ago in her golden years, she shook my hand and said ‘you’ve made us all feel young again,’ and it really touched my heart,” he said. “We know we’re bringing some memories and some happiness to people, and we’re also exposing this music to whole new generation, in that a lot of people are bringing their kids and their grandkids to these shows. We’re making new fans for a genre of music, as well as reliving it for the people who went through it the first time.”
Doors open at 2:30 pm for the 3:00 pm show. For tickets, call Marion Ready at 519-393-6965, contact the Church Office, open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm, at 519-284-3016 or purchase them at Stonetown Travel Ltd. (150 Queen St. St. Marys). Tickets are $20 for adults, $10 for children 12 and under, and free for children under five. For more information, visit StMarysUnitedChurch.weebly.com or FrankieandtheFairlanes.com.