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Take a melodic trip back in time
Nostalgic band showcases songs from the 1960s
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Back in Time Band
8 p.m. Friday
Where: Smithgall Arts Center, 331 Spring St. SW, Gainesville
How much: $20; $200 for a table of 8
More info: 770-534-2787 or click here

Listening to music can take you back to a moment or a memory and make you feel like you’ve gone back in time.

If you want to go back to the beach and soul music of the 1960s and ’70s, you can see Back in Time Band, scheduled to perform at the Smithgall Arts Center on Friday.

It’s only been about a year since the band got together, although most of its members have known each other for decades.

Retired East Hall High School band director Mercer Crook, 62, of Gainesville, said he paid his way through college with rock and roll.

“In the ’60s, when I was in college, I had an eight-piece band called The Axmen, and we played all over the Southeast,” Crook said.

But when Crook began teaching at East Hall, his rock ’n’ roll dreams were pushed aside for Friday night football games and teaching clinics.

“When I retired in 2001, it was at the top of my bucket list,” he said. “I wanted to play rock ’n’ roll again. I kept putting it off, and my wife kept prodding me, so I said, ‘Let’s do it.’”

Crook called his college bandmates and local drummer Chuck McKissick, and asked his two sons, Michael Crook and Rory Crook, to join the band, and Back in Time Band was formed.

Crook, who plays keyboard, said being in the band with his sons — Michael on trumpet and Rory on trombone — is a great way to spend time with them.

“I enjoy that part of it, and this gives me a chance for me and my boys to be together again,” he said.

The band was derailed for a few months when Crook was hospitalized after a “pretty bad wreck.”

“I was in a coma five and a half weeks,” he said. “As soon as I finally got home after 109 days in the hospital, they were ready to start practicing again, so they would roll me to the basement in a wheel chair. This is one of the things that gave me the impetus to get well, I think, because I’ve just always wanted to do it.”

The band is back on track, performing often, and will bring a popular set list to The Arts Council concert.

Crook said the band will play songs like “Sweet Soul Music,” by Arthur Conley, “Higher and Higher,” by Jackie Wilson and The Platters’ “With this Ring.”

“We even do a little bit of Tom Jones, a little bit of Jimmy Buffett, a little bit of Ray Charles,” he said, “because we want to be sure that everybody gets to hear a little bit of the stuff they really like.”

“The folks that come out are going to be interested in hearing the beach and soul music of the ’60s, and that’s what we base our show upon,” he said.

Another song in the band’s repertoire? “Back in Time,” from “Back to the Future.”

Crook said he heard the song and thought it would be a perfect band name.

“We’re ‘Back in Time’ because we play the music of three or four decades ago, back when rock ’n’ roll… you could understand it, you could listen to it, you could dance to it.”

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