It’s a little before 6 p.m. at Nonna Picci on South Main Street in Statesboro. The breeze is a nice break from the heat and humidity of the summer in South Georgia. On stage, Jerry Roberson is leading the sound check as the crowd gathers.
In the last two years, his newest band has become one of Statesboro’s most well-known and beloved groups. Jerry had been playing with The Dukes regionally, but he had a musical itch that needed to be scratched.
“Basically,” he said one evening as we were chatting, “I want to do a band that just plays all my favorites. A lot of ‘guilty pleasure’ and ‘one-hit wonder’ type stuff.”
After listing off a few of his ideas, I knew this band was going to be his best yet. After all, there are plenty of us who grew up in the 60s, 70s, and 80s who don’t get to hear our favorite top 40 tunes very often.
It took a few more months, but it came together, and the band started rehearsals with a fantastic line-up of local musicians and vocalists guided by the world class ear and direction of Mr. Roberson. When it came to vocalists, Jerry picked two powerhouse singers — Rachel Elkins and Ashley Whittemore — to front The Ripleys.
They kick off their show at Nonna Picci with a little Sheryl Crow, “All I Wanna Do.” The tight harmonies are spot on with every song, and the instruments don’t miss a lick. It’s not any wonder. These folks put in the work to make their show top notch, and they make sure a song is perfect before they show it off. It is easy to see why the patio at Nonna Picci is packed this evening.
So, why The Ripleys, you ask? Well, that’s a great story. The very first song Jerry listed when he was telling me about his vision was “The Greatest American Hero (Believe It Or Not)” from the 80s TV show by the same name. When Jerry told then bassist Michael “Redbone” Walker about the song, Redbone asked “Who’s that by? The Ripleys?” The rest is history.
Since the band’s formation in June 2019, Redbone has replaced Pete Bragg on lead guitar, and they’ve brought on well-known local musician Jacob McCooey to play bass. On drums, Gabriel Petkowich rounds out the rhythm section, unless you take into consideration the awesome aux percussion provided by Ashley and Rachel.
Their slogan “Not your average cover band” is completely appropriate. They cover a little of everything from rock, pop, and top 40. Of course, one of the best parts of a Ripleys show is the fun and shenanigans. If you’ve known Jerry, Rachel and Ashley very long, it’s easy to see how shenanigans might occur.
On a good night, Jerry will get a wild hair and go on a tangent telling everyone about “the origins of The Ripleys.” There’s no way I could do it justice, so you’ll just have to show up at a Ripleys show to really appreciate just how much thought and hilarity has gone into it. It’s just one example of why this band is so much fun to watch.
Now, you don’t have to take my word for it. They are easy to find on Facebook, and they are playing nearly every week somewhere within a 60-mile radius from their home turf in Statesboro. Believe it or not, you’re gonna love them. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna close the computer and enjoy some fantastic music by The Ripleys.