It was a time of drive-in movies. Juke boxes. Black and white t.v. with five channels. Guys with slicked-back hair and girls dressed sensibly in polka-dot, swirly skirts and tight angora sweaters. Root beer floats and fries at the Diner.
The 50’s, some say, was an optimistic time. It was kinda corny when I look at films of that era and hear the music. But it had a happy, simple, Ozzie and Harriett innocence about it. And some say it’s when rock was born.
You’ll certainly be transported back to this happy time listening to the Doo Shots. Ted Stevens, lead man, guitarist and vocalist for the band is only 49 but somehow looks the part of a 50’s guy naturally. Of course the slicked-back hair helps. He’s too young to have grown up with the 50’s rockabilly, root-rock and surf, but somehow, he says, “it seeped into him.”
Ted is a ball of fire and appears to have the energy of a 25-year-old and enthusiasm to match, always quick to flash his infectious smile or say something witty. Whether he’s chatting with you, or playing his guitar, the spark is there. Super nice, fun guy. He’s humble about his ability to sing and play, and says his success relies just as much on being a team player.
His band mates, “Smokin” Joe Hendricks, the drummer, and Butch Alan, or “Upright Butch” on upright bass are equally full of fun and vigor and when they’re not cracking jokes amongst themselves they’re engaging the audience in conversation or, of course, playing the hard-driving rockabilly they’re noted for. Sometimes they bring the snare and bass out in to the audience. Joe’s known to drum on anything that’ll make a noise. It makes for a fun time and it’s so cool when bands connect with their audience like that.
Boo-bop-a-doo-wap-a-bing-bang-boom…cymbal crash. The DooShots come out shooting with the first song of the first set driving people to start twisting. It’s rockabilly, roots rock, and surf tunes at their finest. They play many originals, and covers thrown in for good measure. It’s almost dizzying – the upbeat, happy tempos of the rockabilly. Then the Western, sultry, twangy sounds of the surf music that sets the audience swaying.
They showcase tunes from three of their CD’s and Ted says a fourth is on its way. The first three feature all originals and the next to be released soon will have some cover tunes as well.
Ted plays with The Drifters when they come to Florida and had a regular gig with them early on. He’s been a front man for The Coasters and The Platters as well.
“I’d have to say some of the most magical moments of my career were with the Drifters…you know when the sound is right, the lights, crowd, the whole thing comes together,” Ted said.
“But I don’t want to tour anymore. I’m happy here, I love to kayak, boat, be in nature, and come home at night. So working full time with the Doo Shots is what I want to do. It’s what I came here to do.”
Ted started playing out when he was 21 and he’ll tell you his early influences were Johnny Cash, Elvis, Ricky Nelson and Chuck Berry. He started touring with blues, Motown and R&B bands in Rhode Island and New York and was most enamored with rockabilly, hence the start of the band here five years ago.
He did actually have a career as a fish and game warden in Rhode Island in his 20’s. But at some point, he said, he knew he wanted to play and write music.
“I guess I just love the freedom of it,” Ted said. “I knew I wanted to play music full time at that point…although if I would’ve stayed in my job I’d probably be retired with benefits right now,” he laughs.
The Doo Shots play at local venues several days and nights a week including The Swordfish Grill, Island Time, Linger Lodge, Sun N Fun, Peggy’s Coral, and Gilligans on Siesta. And when they’re not at clubs they’re doing events and weddings.
“They blew the sand off the beach when they played,” said Sven Frackleton, Hot Rod Radio.
Looking to be transported to simpler, happier times? Be sure to catch Ted Stevens and the Doo Shots at Swordfish Grill every other Friday night and the third Sunday of the month. Or check out their website at www.tedstevens.fourfour.com for more information on show times and locations and a sampling of their tunes.
Photos by Patti Pearson