Make no mistake about it – legendary singer Bill Medley loves performing in The Villages.
And when he and Bucky Heard bring The Righteous Brothers to life at the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center Thursday and Friday night, it will be quite clear that the 79-year-old living legend is in his element and doing what he loves best.
“I’m the perfect age to be working in The Villages,” Medley said with a chuckle during a recent exclusive interview with Villages-News.com, while also recalling a performance in Florida’s Friendliest Hometown a year ago. “I was so surprised. It was so mellow and so cool and everybody seemed to be just so happy and relaxed.”
Medley and his Righteous Brothers partner, Bucky Heard, have a residency at Harrah’s Las Vegas Hotel and Casino three days a week, so they are selective about where they spend their time performing concerts. Clearly, The Villages ranks high on the list.
“It’s just the best of both worlds,” Medley said. “We hand-pick the concerts because the traveling just gets tough. The shows are the payoff. I tell people, ‘You pay me to travel. You don’t pay me to do the show.’”
One of the many highlights of last year’s show was Medley’s tribute to his original Righteous Brothers partner, Bobby Hatfield, who died in 2003. Medley attempted to go back on the road in 2004 to perform tribute shows for Hatfield, but quickly realized that neither he nor Righteous Brothers fans were emotionally ready for that. After that, he said he hadn’t considered another version of The Righteous Brothers even though fans and friends had been encouraging him to find another partner and keep the music alive.
That is, until one night 13 years after Hatfield’s death when he was watching Heard perform in Branson, Missouri.
“I knew he was a great singer and a hard worker,” he says. “I went in to see him perform one night and he did a couple of Journey songs. I thought to myself, ‘Wow. If you can do Steve Perry, you can probably do Bobby Hatfield.”
Medley said he took a walk the next day and decided that Heard was the one person he could work with to bring The Righteous Brothers back to their adoring fans.
“We had been real good friends so I knew that it was going to be a comfortable partnership,” he said. “That was as important to me as being able to sing songs.”
There’s no doubt that The Righteous Brothers have legions of fans who would qualify to call The Villages home. But thanks to three movies in the 1980s – “Top Gun,” “Dirty Dancing” and “Ghost” – that featured the songs “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin,’” “The Time of My Life” and “Unchained Melody,” respectively, younger generations also have become big supporters of the duo.
“A lot of those people are showing up, which is very cool,” he said. “We talk to people after the shows and a lot of them will say, ‘Our parents played your music all the time, so we grew up loving it.’”
In March 2003 – just eight months before Hatfield’s death – The Righteous Brothers reached the top of the mountain when they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by Billy Joel.
“Billy’s a great guy and a good friend,” Medley said. “Years ago, he came to one of our shows. I have a picture of it and he looks like a 13-year-old little boy.”
On that special night, Medley said he also realized something as he and Hatfield hung out with a virtual who’s who of rock and roll – Steven Tyler and the other members of Aerosmith, Elton John, AC/DC, the Clash, Elvis Costello and The Attractions and the Police.
“You just don’t realize how your music affected the industry,” he said.
Along those same lines, Medley might be the only person alive who can say he was close friends with Elvis Presley and once opened for the Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
“When you’re in the middle of doing it, you don’t realize that you’re doing anything but working and having a good time,” he said. “But then you back off – especially the age that I am now – and I think back to then and say, ‘Holy Mackerel.’”
Medley laughed as he recalled recently rereading a book he wrote in 2014 titled “The Time of My Life.”
“It sounds like I’m lying,” he said. “I mean, how could anybody do this? Frank Sinatra took us to Vegas the first time. And pretty much with The Beatles, we had a front-row seat to history. So, it’s been pretty amazing.”
When it comes to the shows at The Sharon, Medley said everyone can count on having a great time.
“We’re going to do all the hits,” he said. “We have a lot of fun on stage but we take the songs real serious. And we’ll also sign some autographs and stuff after the show.”
As for how long Medley will continue to perform as the lead Righteous Brother, he says one must have a job to retire.
“This ain’t a job. This is a 15-year-old boy’s dream,” he said. “A lot of younger people say, ‘For your age, you’ve got so much energy.’ My answer to that is just keep doing what you love to do. Why would you stop?”
Both Thursday and Friday night’s shows begin at 7 p.m. Click HERE for ticket information.