It's only rock 'n' roll, but these six love to play it

June 27, 1995|By Shirley Leung | Shirley Leung,Sun Staff Writer

Married with children, and they're still rocking.

They're Deja Vu, a six-member band that plays the hits of their youth.

The average age is 44, and the average number of children is 1.6. The drummer has three grandchildren.

On Saturday, the hometown band will headline Crofton's Fourth of July Celebration on Hardy Field.

"We had them last year, and we thought they were great," said Michelle Devine, president of the Bowie-Crofton Jaycees, which is organizing the event. "They wanted the publicity, and they were inexpensive."

The group charges $350 to $500 a gig, about $60 a person. They aren't in it for the money, or the groupies. They're the hometown band -- with families and day jobs.

They've performed 50 times since they formed last year, mostly in the halls of Veterans of Foreign Wars and the lodges of the Moose and the Elks in Anne Arundel and Prince George's counties. Their biggest show was before 400 people at the L.A. Singles night in Greenbelt.

The band started two summers ago when Ron Collett, a keyboard player, put a notice on the community bulletin board of the Giant Food store in Crofton. It said, "Looking for a bass player."

Six months later, George Vermillion, a bass player, answered. He knew a saxophone player and a guitar player. Their teen-age kids played together in the Arundel High School band.

Mr. Collett knew of a drummer he had jammed with since high school and a singer whose Ellicott City country band was breaking up.

When they got together they called themselves Deja Vu.

"The name means we have been here before -- all the music we've played before," explained band leader Mr. Collett.

They practice in the basement of the saxophonist's two-story Colonial home in Crofton. When performing, they wear khaki pants and silky mauve and blue print shirts. Sometimes they'll dress head-to-toe in black or don Hawaiian shirts.

Most have been playing or singing since high school. The saxophonist is the only one with any formal training. He has a degree in music from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and spent four years directing a high school band.

"They do it because they all love it. Some of them will probably be doing it in their 60s and 70s," Sheryl Smith, wife of the saxophonist, said as she sat on the sidelines Saturday night at the American Legion Post 40 in Glen Burnie. "Music is something you never grow out of."

Music and the suburban life seems to be their only common ground.

By day, Mr. Collett, 48, the keyboard player and vocals, is a security officer and runs his own lawn business. Ken Smith, 45, the saxophonist and vocals, is a manager at Nationwide Insurance. Mary Widic, 41, lead vocalist, is a regional manager at Bowl America. George Vermillion, 46, the bass player, is a retired Navy lieutenant commander and an engineer. Lyle Kelly, 40, the lead guitarist, is a researcher for pharmaceuticals and law firms. Sonny Brown, 48, the drummer, is a graphic printer.

The band plays rock and roll dance music from the '50s and '60s. The songs don't always have broad appeal because most of their audiences are older than the band members.

"I'm from the old school," Henry Paskoski, 71, said at the American Legion Post 40 Saturday night. "I like old music from the '40s and the '50s -- from World War II, 'Me and My Gal,' 'Sentimental Journey,' Bing Crosby."

Still, Mr. Paskoski enjoyed the music, adding, "they're a very nice band."

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