It’s only rock and roll, but we like it
story by Cindy Burbage photos by Nelson LaPorte
Music is the gateway to the soul, speaking to many on a sundry of levels. It tells a story, and with just a few notes of the melody or lyrics, memories of the past can gush to the future. The late George Harrison said, “I think people who truly can live a life in music are telling the world, you can have my love, you can have my smiles. Forget the bad parts, you don’t need them. Just take the music, the goodness, because it’s the very best, and it’s the part I give most willingly.”
Live music is not as popular as it once was, but Pooler is home to various venues that keep live music pumping. Rock and roll cover band, Guns 4 Hire, plays in this local music circuit. Band members Kenny Warman, Fred Hodges, John Neal, and Mark Carter hold a lifetime of musical experience plus a side of longtime friendships among the group.
Kenny Warman began his singing career in the mid 1960’s. “I was a flower child. Anybody that had any talent in Savannah, when the Beatles came out, wanted to be in a band. It was like a revolution.” While belting out his favorite tune in the shower after gym class, Kenny was overheard, and his dream became his reality. “The guy said, ‘I know someone wanting to start a band, and they need a singer, you sing real good.’ So, I went and auditioned for the band and started singing; that was in 1964 or 1965. Back then we didn’t have the equipment we have these days. So, if you didn’t have a good strong voice, no one heard you. They were looking for a loud singer. Some guys sing loud and some sing good, I sing good and loud,” the vocalist lightheartedly shared. I continued to sing in bands throughout junior high school and high school, until I was drafted in 1971,” Kenny reminisced. “I got drafted and went away in the Army; came home and got married. At that point, my singing career was over. And besides that, disco was the big thing, and Kenny don’t do disco!”
In the beginning, Kenny was ultimately just a singer but instrumental melodies were woven around him. “My mother played the piano in church and as I got older, my brothers had guitars and would mess around with them. But when I first started, I was primarily a singer- well unless you consider a tambourine an instrument,” he joked.
“But as I stayed in groups for a while, I started messing around with guitar. Guys that were in the bands, like Fred, would show me stuff and I picked it up quickly. I am self-taught and I had a lot of people to help along the way.”
Fred Hodges discovered his love of music with a set of drums. “I always liked drums and started playing the drums. Because we couldn’t find a guitar player, I just learned to play the guitar. I sold the drums and got a guitar. I guess I was about a freshman in high school. My family was always into country music, so there was always music on growing up. I had a cousin from Statesboro that was in a rock band. I saw them do Credence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Proud Mary,’ like when it was on the radio, and I was just awe struck. I had another teenage cousin that was big into the Beatles and had an electric guitar; I thought that was the greatest thing in the world. I think I was enamored with the look of it at first,” the guitarist ardently remembered.
Drummer Mark Carter is a product of his environment; his passion for music is hereditary. “My father played guitar. His father played the banjo and it was handed down to him; I now have that banjo. My dad taught me a few basic chords after I had started with the drums. This got me interested in guitar. I don’t call myself a guitarist,” Mark ribbed. “I’m like guitar George, he knows all the chords but doesn’t want to make it cry or sing.” (Referencing classic rock band Dire Straits lyrics)
As a teenager, bass player John Neal discovered his musical talents while trying to impress the ladies. “I got a guitar just to impress girls…but it didn’t work at all,” he snickered. “But then I had some guys in school that played and knew I played guitar a little bit and so I ended up in a high school band.”
Times have changed for music lovers over the years. Today, music is an instant commodity. With just one stroke of a button your favorite tunes are revealed. If you are eager to learn the technique of the song via instrument, it is accessible also. When the members of Guns 4 Hire were finding their way in the music world, they had to work for it. Fred explained, “In the past, in Savannah, there were a lot of music dedicated clubs – there was Night Flight Café on River Street and Congress Street Station. I would go and watch local bands and watch the guitarist intently. We were sneaking in a lot of the places underage, so we could see someone play. In those days, there were not videos to watch. Often times you would buy an album and there wasn’t even a picture of the band on it. Then we would have to play it and pick apart what they were doing in the song to learn it, which we mostly figured out wrong. There is so much technology at your disposal to learn. It’s easier to learn now and not too many people are learning to play.”
“We count ourselves as ‘old school’ because we rehearse and bring our own sound system. We play the music live, but we do try to use modern technology as much as we can- like the video stuff and YouTube where we can learn the music correctly. Back in my day, we used to buy a 45 and set the needle on the record and play the first verse. Stop and try to learn it, put it on back again and start again”, Kenny shared. “But everything that we play is live music!”
Since the 1980’s, the four musicians have played in different bands together; however, never in this arrangement. “It took this many years and a lot of miles for us to have the current lineup,” Fred added. The members of this band is extremely grateful to still have the opportunity to perform and do what they love.
Guns 4 Hire plays at an array of venues throughout Pooler and the surrounding areas, including, but not limited to, Molly Macpherson’s, Wild Wings and Bootleggers. With a song play list of more than 60 tunes of various artists from Black Crowes to the Beatles, with a little bit of country in between, this basic rock and roll band is sure to be a good time. This lighthearted and just simply fun music group is also available for private parties and functions. Follow them on Facebook to keep up with their upcoming performances and events: Facebook.com/Guns4HireBand.