Country Music Doubly Enjoyable For Twins

December 18, 1991|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff writer

A new tune comes over the car radio, and the Talbott brothers start taking notes.

They turn up the volume, and before the music ends, they have figured out keys and chords and are harmonizing in rich tenor voices.

The song will get an "official tryout" the next time the guys gettheir hands on their guitars.

"We both have great musical ears," said Westminster resident Ray A. Talbott, speaking for himself and his identical twin brother, Roy of Manchester. "We learned to play by ear, listening to the radio for hours when we were kids."

The 37-year-olds have been into music since their parents gave them what they called "cheapo" electric guitars for Christmas 25 years ago. From that day, their lives have been entwined with music.

The brothers grew up dueling on guitars, and they say their fraternal competition is good for their music.

"Roy got so good on guitar, I had to switch to bass (guitar)," Ray said with a laugh.

They had their share of boyhood squabbles, too.

"There was that time when we were kids, I got so mad at him I whacked him over the back with a guitar," Ray said.

Neither would think about whacking the other with the state-of-the-art equipment they play today. But they are "still doing time musically," playing in their own country band, Still Doin' Time.

Since forming the band five years ago, they have become regular players at the Westminster Fire Hall, Veterans of Foreign Wars Hall and the Coon Club.

Both men have full-time jobs off the stage. Ray sells cars for McKeithan Auto in Towson and Roy works for Eldersburg Plumbing Supply Co. They manage to cram hours of rehearsing and, often, two performances a week into their schedules.

The time and dedication has paid off, they say. Their five-member band has been invited to perform Saturday in the Appalachian Jubilee, a live stage and radio show in Chambersburg, Pa. The show is broadcast on 15 different radio stations in the East.

Still Doin' Time has chosen six songs for its radio debut, including "Hillbilly Rock" and "Crazy."

The band has about 125 songs in its repertoire and can tailor its performances to a wide range of audiences. The members play Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison"oldies," classic rock 'n' roll standards and Top 40 country tunes.

"What we do is one of the toughest jobs in music," Roy said. "We play about 50 songs a night, remembering all the lyrics, harmonies andkey changes, and we remain cognizant of the crowd."

They dance, sing, strum their guitars and beat the drums. They don't talk a lot, though.

"People don't come to hear you talk," Roy said. "They come to hear the music, have a good time and dance."

Both men called their fans "great people" who appreciate what they hear. And the band aims to please.

"There might be crowd favorites that we are so tired of (that) we want to throw them against the wall," Ray said. "But the band recognizes what people want."

A four-hour gig usually translates into an eight-hour shift for the band members, who unload equipment, set up and tune their instruments before the show and then reverse the whole process after the crowds clear.

"We don't have the luxury of roadies to help us with equipment," Roy said.

In addition to shows in Westminster, the band often appears in Baltimore clubs.

And they prefer playing country sounds, said Ray, who once was a member of a rock band. He came back to country after two years, he said, because "it offers more of a message."

"Country is not pretentious, puts on no airs," Roy said. "Everyone can understand its message."

The message runs the gamut of emotions and deals with current issues, such as ecology and illiteracy, the brothers said.

"It's not all about drinking and relationships that go wrong," Roy said.

He offers their standard joke about their musical choice:

"They say there's Satanism when you play rock and and rock backward. When youplay country backward, the wife comes back, the dog lives and the bills get paid."

They both say they have butterflies about performing in the jubilee but are eager to try. If they are successfully received, they could be invited back for two or three performances a year.

Meanwhile, Roy has written several songs and hopes to have a well-known artist record one. For now, though, they plan to keep on strumming.

"When we retire, then we'll sit back and listen," Ray said.

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