Those of you who were wondering, this is our audition for 'American Idol,' " quipped Jerry White, founder and manager of the 50-strong Sun City Strummers.
On a recent sweltering July afternoon, about 40 residents braved the mugginess to attend a performance by the Strummers in the community's outdoor Pavilion. Twenty rapidly spinning ceiling fans did their best to take the edge off the sultriness.
Never mind: the Strummers came to play. Some wore colorful bandanas that did double duty: they were a stylish way to stanch perspiration. Band members and singers alike wear a blue shirt with the Strummers name and logo and khaki shorts or slacks.
As Sun City Hilton Head resident Jean Dormer, watching with her husband Tom said, "You can tell they enjoy themselves; they really look like they're having fun."
Five singers, plus a fiddler, acoustic, electric and steel guitarists, harmonica, banjo and bongo players, accordionist and keyboardist presented a two-hour show of songs ranging from folk to favorites from the Great American Songbook.
Because the Strummers group is open to anyone who has a yen to play a stringed instrument or sing songs such as "Ain't She Sweet,'' "Your Cheating Heart,'' "South of the Border (Down Mexico Way),'' and "Carolina in the Morning,'' there is an interesting diversity to the performance, with plenty of energy and enthusiasm on the part of the performers.
"This song is dedicated to all the politicians,'' White cracked, as the group launched into "It's a Sin to Tell a Lie.''
Mary Anne Schroeder, who hails from Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, performed on the guitar, bongo drum and maracas, wearing sunglasses and no shoes. She said she has been performing for many years, starting in college and including with her church group.
Doug Linn, on guitar, said he has been performing "for years and years,'' and like Schroeder, joined the Strummers about eight years ago. He is an avid jazz fan and followed performers such as the late Ben Tucker in Savannah.
Nearing the last half hour of the concert, the heat finally got to four people, which was duly noted in his usual witty manner by White:
"I get it: Leaving early to beat the traffic," White said.
White started the group in 2002, and there are about six spinoffs from it, including a jazz combo that plays at local venues. Currently, the Strummers have about 150 songs in their repertoire.
"When I moved here the salesman said, 'If you don't find a group that you're interesting in joining, start your own.' I wanted to get together and play music and have fun," White said. "So I put a note up on the bulletin board (near Pinckney Hall) asking people to contact me if they were interested in playing music just for the fun of it, and two or three people signed up and then seven, and now we're up to more than 50 members."
White said members may bring in any new song they like, copies of it are handed out, and at the end of the jam session, the Strummers take a vote on whether they want to include that song in their book.
Mostly, the Strummers stick to selections in the C&W, folk and Tin Pan Alley repertoires.
How about meshing levels of expertise that range from polished to newcomers?
"We are here to have fun and if you're off key, don't worry -- we're loud enough to drown you out."
Aside from performances at Sun City, the Strummers appear at assisted living centers in and around Bluffton and Hilton Head Island.
At one such performance, in the memory unit of a facility, White said a gentleman seemed lost in his own thoughts until the Strummers began playing "Won't You Come Home Billy Bailey,'' at which point, "he started to sing along with us. If we get one person like that singing along, we're happy,'' White said.
About the club The Sun City Strummers meet each Tuesday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. in Pinckney Hall for their weekly jam session. For more information, contact group manager Jerry White at 843-705-7127 or firstname.lastname@example.org.