Brownwood Square. Photo by Nicole Hamel
The live entertainment in The Villages town squares every night is a big draw, but the people on the stage enjoy it as much as Villagers do.
An evening spent on any town square in The Villages includes live music, dancing (if you’re so inclined), and visiting with friends and neighbors. Most everyone enjoys the casual atmosphere, drinks and snacks, and entertainment.
But what about the view the band or entertainer has of the crowd? Maybe it’s like a mini concert every night or it could be more like an evening with friends. Whichever it is, one thing’s for sure—they keep coming back to the bandstands in Spanish Springs Town Square, Lake Sumter Landing Town Square, and Brownwood Paddock Square to perform.
Rocky and The Rollers
This group doesn’t play only in The Villages town squares, it also performs big shows at the Savannah Center and hosts its own cruises. The band, which has a combined 40 years of experience, has performed with Dick Clark and a host of great artists from the ‘50s to the ‘70s—Chuck Berry, Peter Noone, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Fabian, just to drop a few names.
The talented musicians making up the band are Gerry “Rocky” Seader, who plays drums and does vocals; Bruce Wallace, who also does vocals and plays guitar; Al Layton, another vocalist who plays keyboard; Jimmy Miller, the bass guitarist and vocalist; Bruce Nardi, a vocalist who plays the saxophone; Al Morse does vocals; Steve Falkner plays the trumpet; and Rick Abbott is on the trombone.
“We’ve been playing The Villages for 20 years,” Rocky says. “It’s like no other venue we play anywhere in the world. We travel around the country, and The Villages is almost a step above.”
Two of the band members are Florida natives. Al Layton is originally from Hollywood and Al Morse is from Sanford.
Photo: Anthony Rao
Being from Philadelphia, Rocky has played drums since he was 10 years old. He was a drummer for Danny and The Juniors and that led to touring with many of the greats from the ‘50s and ‘60s. He met Jon “Bowzer” Bauman of Sha Na Na in the 1980s and they became great friends and still enjoy working together.
“[Rocky and The Rollers] play the town squares around three times a month and Katie Belle’s one or two times,” Rocky says. “We probably do seven or eight shows a month in The Villages.”
The group is considered a big band because of the added horns. The musicians love it when they play the familiar tunes for Villages residents and the audience sings along. “It feels warm and successful when that is happening,” Rocky says.
He says the band also knows it has to change its music with the times. “We no longer play as many songs from the ‘50s. The baby boomers like songs from the late ‘60s and ‘70s,” Rocky says. “Thousands comes to see us at the squares because we’re consistent. Some of the visiting artists who know us will come to the squares and come up and sing with us.”
Rocky says he and his wife, Nikki Perry, love living in The Villages. Their home is in Sumter County. “We both like to work and play in The Villages.”
You’ll find a complete list of the band’s tours and events at rockyandtherollers.com. The band’s next big show is “Rocky and The Rollers present The Elegants, The Capris, and Jay Siegel’s Tokens” at the Savannah Center on Oct. 17.
“One of the saddest things for me is the friends I’ve made in the 20 years at The Villages that are not here anymore,” Rocky says. “The shows and cruises we do are just for The Villages to enjoy. It’s how we give back for their support for so long.”
Scooter the DJ
“I came to The Villages for a private party in the late ‘90’s at a park near Lake Miona. I had done a wedding in Orlando for a girl who’d moved up to The Villages. There was a lady from The Villages Entertainment at the party,” Scooter the DJ says. “I started playing Spanish Springs in the early 2000s. I originally had a “bad visual” of The Villages. I pictured more of an assisted-living place and was reluctant to come here! I think my original words were ‘I don’t want to go play some Sinatra Fest!’”
Scooter soon learned his idea of The Villages couldn’t have been more wrong. “The first time I played The Villages, I loved it. I saw three generations of people on the square having a blast. I immediately wanted to get them all up dancing together with songs that bridge time,” he says. “When you see the pictures of the dance floor with grandparents/parents/kids all dancing together, it’s really special.”
Scooter became a DJ while in college through an accident—when his fraternity had a party, he was the only one with a collection of 45 rpm records. He learned how to use a mixer and turntables at a local music store and was greatly relieved when the party was over. However, that night changed his life.
“The phone started ringing off the hook,” Scooter says. “Every sorority, fraternity, and club wanted me to DJ their events, and it snowballed from there.”
Scooter’s “trademark” is audience participation. He has a selection of songs he plays at every performance, and the audience yells at him to play them. They include the “Burger Dance” and “Pizza Dance” along with the Cha Cha Slide, Wobble, Cupid Shuffle, YMCA, Car Wash, and others. You can see a photo gallery of his performances at scooterthedj.com.
He adds that playing in The Villages gives him the freedom he loves. “The Villages allows me to be ME. I do my show as I like,” he says. “I can be the real Scooter the DJ. When I do private events, the show is for the client, and I have to adapt to their wishes.”
What does he like best about performing at the town squares? “I like the atmosphere. Each square is different. Spanish Springs has a different crowd than Brownwood, but both crowds are a BLAST! Sumter Landing is great because it’s so big,” Scooter says. “When you see that many people dancing, it really is amazing. It’s also free to come there. You can’t beat free!”
Though he travels all over the country doing a variety of events, he’s always happy to come “home” to The Villages. “I’ve played almost 30 years at major theme parks in Orlando and done corporate events to weddings, that’s what I do. It’s always great to come back to The Villages. These ‘seniors’ are a blast!”
Photo: Nicole Hamel
Leaders in a worship team, Second Slice members began their musical careers as a group of friends playing together at Center Point Church. Doug Gulick plays drums and percussion and does backing vocals. Mark Seymour is the lead vocalist and plays keyboard. Shawn Palmer is the band’s guitarist and does backing vocals while Donnie Helms plays bass guitar.
Doug says it took two years of emails with The Villages Entertainment Department for the band to get a chance to play. The musicians proved themselves well and have been playing in The Villages for five years now. “The Villages hold a high standard,” Doug says, “as they should, of bringing quality live entertainment to their residents.”
However, the band has now branched out to other areas of Lake and Sumter counties and enjoys a busy and productive schedule.
“Each square definitely has its own uniqueness as to the stage position and shape and the differing themes of each one,” Doug says. “The specialness is attributed to our faithful fans who come to see us rain or shine, no matter which venue we are performing.”
The music of Second Slice features a wide variety with songs from the ‘50s to the ‘80s and ‘90s. “We play songs through the classic rock era right up to the most current and popular music you hear today,” Doug says. “Slow- or fast-paced, our music is danceable and energized.”
You can see a full list of the musicians repertoire of songs on their website at second-slice.com. They stay busy and enjoy every minute of the musical work.
“The Villages residents are some of the finest people you will meet anywhere. We have truly developed great friendships with several of them,” Doug says. “They are really good people that have worked hard all their lives and have set themselves up for a full, fun-filled, and exciting retirement. They love music and show their appreciation to us for what we do. That makes all the difference, and for that, we are blessed.”
He said the band has a deep appreciation for The Villages Entertainment Department and the people who work there. “They selected Second Slice as one of their many musical groups…and they took good care of us,” he says. “It is one of the most sought-after places to perform in the Central Florida area, after all.”
The view from the stages mirrors the love and appreciation of music that comes from the chairs and bleachers in the town squares, and, don’t worry, there’s entertainment tonight!