Rocky and the Rollers were swinging.
Joey Dee twisted back to 1962, with a Villager who appeared with him in a movie that year.
Jay Siegel was still in the jungle with a sleeping lion.
And the Rolletts were rolling on a river to New York, New York.
It was all part of “Rocky’s Big Band Meets Rock and Roll” musical extravaganza Saturday in a jammed Savannah Center. Gerry “Rocky” Seader not only had the Rollers behind him, but a nearly 20-piece orchestra, with a killer horn section of about 15.
It was like Rocky died and went to music heaven, along with the audiences for two packed performances.
You could say Rocky and the Rollers got de-greased. The fabled Villages band is best known for playing oldies from the greasy generation of rock and roll.
But Seader is a big-band lover at heart, who grew up in Philadelphia on Glenn Miller, the Eagles and cheesesteak sandwiches.
“I grew up with big band music, and started playing it with my grandfather, when I was 13,” the Rock said from the stage. “Tonight we’re going to swing.”
And swing they did, with the “Bandstand Boogie,” the theme to the Dick Clark dance show that dates back to 1954.
It didn’t take long for Rocky to flash his Philly roots. He led the band in a rousing version of “Gonna Fly Now,” from the original “Rocky” soundtrack.
“I love doing this music,” Seader said. “These big band shows are my favorite.”
Seader has a soft spot for Glenn Miller. Among the Miller standards the orchestra played:
“In the Mood,” “Pennsylvania 6-500,” and Rocky’s personal favorite, “String of Pearls.”
Later, the orchestra did a masterful job on Miller’s all-time classic and theme song, “Moonlight Serenade.”
Then the nostalgic time machine jumped to the early 1960s and the twist dance craze. Joey Dee, who helped turn the twist into a national obsession, took the stage and brought back some personal memories.
“I was in a movie back in 1962, called ‘Two Tickets to Paris,’” Dee said from the stage. “It turns out there is an actress here from that movie. She lives in The Villages and is as beautiful as ever.”
The spotlight turned on the audience as Villager Jeri Lynne Fraser took a bow. “Joey was charming, nice and always a gentleman, and he hasn’t changed,” Fraser said in an interview. “He’s a great guy.”
Dee is now 82, but Fraser believes he can still twist up a storm.
“He’s still dynamic,” Fraser said. “He can still jump, do the twist and sing. He’s still Joey Dee.”
Dee was rocking on such numbers as “What Kind of Love Is This,” “Hey Let’s Twist,” and “The Peppermint Twist.” He got the crowd jumping and clapping along with “Shout,” a song he covered early on from the Isley Brothers.
What’s a big band without a big band singer?
Steve Santo, of the Rollers, filled out that role in style. He started out with snappy Frank Sinatra number, “Fly Me to the Moon.”
Santo really hit his stride on a couple of Bobby Darin tunes: “Beyond the Sea” and, of course, “Mack the Knife.”
“For me, singing with a band like this is a dream come true,” Santo said.
Jay Siegel just turned 83, but when he came on stage with the Tokens, the guy turned back the clock and his pipes were as strong as ever.
He opened with a doo-wop standard, “Tonight I Fell In Love.” But Siegel will always be known as the guy who, with the Tokens, turned “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” into an iconic musical work long before “The Lion King.” The song remains as fresh as ever.
Finally we get to the Rolletts. The female trio features Kathleen Kane, Dawn DiNome and Mary Jo Vitale.
They wore shimmering, sequined outfits and took a time trip from the Andrews Sisters with “Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy” to Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary.”
They capped off the night with the Empire State anthem, “New York, New York,” that included the ladies doing high kicks like a chorus line.
It was all part of a remarkable blend of musical styles and outstanding performances.
“I’ve been playing this music since I was 13,” Seader said. “And I never get tired of it.”
Tony Violanti covers arts and music for Villages-News.com. He was inducted into the Buffalo NY Music Hall of Fame as a music journalist.