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Five questions with Benny Anderson of Benny Anderson & The Drifters
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Bennie Anderson & The Drifters

Part of The Arts Council's 2009 Summer Series

When: 8 p.m. Friday; rain date Aug. 7
Where: Smithgall Arts Center, 331 Spring St. SW, Gainesville
How much: $25 per person; $240 for a table of eight
More info: 770-534-2787

Lyrics from "Under the Boardwalk," a hit for The Drifters in 1964, conjure the smell of salt water and the feel of lazy summer days.

"Under the boardwalk

Down by the sea

On a blanket with my baby

Is where I'll be ..."

The Drifters began in the early 1950s and was named for its band members, who often "drifted" in and out of the group.

Benny Anderson & The Drifters began performing together in the 1960s, and comprises three original Drifters members - Anderson, Georgia Wallace and Andrew "Mose" Odem - and new members David Wilson and Arnell Hill.

The group performs Friday at the Smithgall Arts Center as part of The Arts Council's summer concert series.

Arts Council director Gladys Wyant said she chose the group because concert attendees often request music they can dance to, and "they're still full of energy. They're showmen."

For Friday's show, the Drifters will sing several of their hits, like "Under the Boardwalk," "This Magic Moment" and "On Broadway," but also will cover other Motown classics by artists like Michael Jackson and The Temptations.

We spoke by phone with Anderson, who is originally from West Point, and he told us what it was like to be a part of the band as it crossed over from rhythm and blues to mainstream pop.

Question: What is the history of Bennie Anderson & The Drifters?

Answer: We are a part of the group that came along in the '60s. It's a very old group. The personnel have changed several times, but we are the only group that has memories, that has been together for over four decades.

Q: What was it like to be part of music history, when this style of music was so popular?

A: It was unbelievable for the simple fact that you had no idea it would go that far. You've got to remember ... that being an R&B group, which stands for rhythm and blues, that it was called then "The Chitlin Circuit," and you had a dominant black audience.

And all of a sudden ... we started traveling worldwide and we were sort of experiencing, professionally experiencing, going to Europe and Asia, and it just changes your life. Because you never thought that coming from a small town in South Carolina and Georgia, and places like that, and then all of a sudden you're traveling worldwide. It just changes your life, when it comes to entertaining.

Q: What was it like when you first performed on "The Dick Clark Show"?

A: It was big time. It was, like, an experience that we'd never experienced before. In the '60s and '70s, if you made it to Dick Clark, you had gotten over, more or less, because that was the dream, to make it to Dick Clark. It was a crossover, more or less.

A lot of groups recorded small (R&B) hits, but when you made it to Dick Clark, you knew you had made it, because there was a wider audience, and you knew you was on your way to big times.

Q: What about when you first heard one of your songs on the radio?

A: Oh, well, you woke up your mama and your auntie and ran down the street and woke up the neighbors and everybody. It was just an experience that, you know, you had never experienced before, like having your first born.

Q: What can people who attend Friday's concert expect?

A: They can expect to see a pleasing show, regardless of what age. You just include material, songs that all ages can relate with. I think (any) of the hits can be related with the crowd, from "There Goes My Baby" to "Under the Boardwalk" to "Saturday Night at the Movies."

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