By VICTOR SKINNER
“What keeps me going is I love the music and the reaction from the people when I’m doing a live performance,” said Carl Webb, 64.
Over the last decade, Webb and bandmates Tom Hull, Bill DeMarse, and John Jennings have built up their playlist with a wide variety of music – from country classics to current pop hits – to fit virtually any venue, and Webb believes it’s the group’s adaptability that’s driving its growing fan base.
“It’s our versatility, I think,” Webb said. “It’s our ability to play a 60s song by the Stones and then do a One Republic song that’s on the radio today.
“They always say ‘You have such a variety,’” he said.
Hundreds of folks made their way to The Carl Webb Band’s latest gig at the Dancing Downtown event put on by the Women’s Division of the Muskegon Chamber of Commerce, and the group enjoys support from regulars at downtown’s Hennessy’s Irish Pub and the Red Rooster in North Muskegon. The guys also play at the Grand Haven Eagles Club, as well as The Boat Works in Holland and area festivals and events.
The band’s ability to shift seamlessly from classic rock to blues to country to pop has also helped to land them a spot at this year’s Muskegon Bike Time July 16, but Webb said the band is also about a lot more than just cover songs.
He writes the group’s original songs, which the group works in with every set. They plan to release a new album this summer titled “Drive You Home,” Webb and Hull’s third CD together and the second for The Carl Webb Band after “New Beginnings” in 2006.
Prior to The Carl Webb Band, Webb and Hull, both of Muskegon, played together in a country group called Southern Edge, which disbanded in 2001. The Carl Webb Band allowed the duo to branch out into other music genres, Webb said, and the response has been encouraging.
“When I played at the farmer’s market, Dancing Downtown, there was probably 300 people there and about half were there to see us, which was nice,” Webb said. “Over the last 14 years, (our
fan base) has been really building.”
The popularity is likely due to the group’s unique mix with Webb playing guitar and harmonica and leading the vocals, and Hull on bass guitar and vocals. John Jennings, of Grand Rapids, adds some soulful saxophone to the mix, and Grand Haven drummer Bill DeMarse keeps the beat.
The guys, who are all at or near retirement age, said it’s performing live that keeps them young at heart.
“I’m 64 years old and I’m still rocking. My bass player just turned 57 and my drummer is 60. My saxophone player, I think, is 72, and he’s in the Michigan Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for a group he was in in the 60s,” Webb said.
“I love writing music and I always have tunes going through my head,” he added. “It’s the same with the other guys, they just love to play.”
Hull said he believes one of the band’s biggest strengths is its dedication to keeping up with modern music and ability to read a crowd and understand what gets them going.
“We work hard at trying to stay current. We don’t have just a box full of the golden oldies,” said Hull, who manufactures guitar amplifiers and supplies all of the group’s tube amps. “We pull out a few things that are on the radio today, and that makes it fun on my end.
“We’re open to new stuff … we haven’t gotten too old and crusty.”
Learning new tunes, however, comes naturally to Hull and Webb, who are both self-taught guitarists.
Webb said he learned the basics from his mother, a southern gospel singer, and forged a bond with Hull 18 years ago that’s blossomed into the success they’re enjoying today.
“I’m self-taught, and neither Tom nor I can read music,” Webb said. “He learned how to pay guitar by himself, too.”
The Carl Webb Band is next scheduled to perform at the McGraft Park Summer Concert series at 7 p.m. Aug. 11.
More information about the band, their original music, recorded performances and tour dates is available at CarlWebbBand.com.