July 7, 2012 3:12:45 PM
Jan Swoope - [email protected]
BY JAN SWOOPE
The boys are back in town. Or soon will be, when original members Clyde Lindley and Billy Watkins join with Taylor Watkins, Jonathan Scarborogh, Mike Dawson, W.G. Watkins and Todd Watkins for a reunion performance of the 21st Street Band
The group of Macon-area natives formed on a whim in 1971, influenced by The Beatles and the whole "let's get a guitar and start a band thing," said Watkins. Current band members now live in Starkville, Tupelo and the Jackson area.
The public is invited to the reunion performance Saturday, July 14, at the American Legion Hut in Macon. The 7 p.m. event will be a chance for old friends to reunite -- and for everyone to meet a very special guest.
Baby boomers may know Eddie Hodges from his 1957 Broadway debut in "The Music Man," or maybe from the 1959 film "A Hole in the Head," in which he and Frank Sinatra sang the irrepressible "High Hopes."
Still others will remember most his title role in Michael Curtiz's 1960 "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," or the red-headed teenager's recording career.
What many may not know is that Hodges was born in Hattiesburg and returned there in the late '60s to earn degrees at the University of Southern Mississippi. The first Mississippian to win a Grammy has been a mental health counselor since.
Hodges and Lindley have been friends for several years, which worked in Lindley's favor when he suggested the former teen idol make a trip to Noxubee County to perform a few numbers with the group.
"I think this will be really fun," said Hodges by phone Thursday from Hattiesburg, where he still writes songs from time to time.
"I wanted to start another life; I needed to move my life in another direction," he said of his return to Mississippi. He still keeps in touch with fellow actors of his day, such as Paul Peterson ("Donna Reed Show") and Kathy Garver ("Family Affair"), and expressed sadness at the recent passing of his friend, Don Grady ("My Three Sons"). But he's never regretted leaving show business.
"I suspect it's the best thing I've ever done," he remarked. "I love mental health counseling ... but I may start doing more music; Clyde's got me interested," he joked.
Another treat for the 21st Street Band will be the reunion return of original bass player Bobby Branson, who lives in Indiana.
"It'll be the first time we've seen him since 1973. That's like an early Christmas present for us all," said Watkins.
The music -- Credence Clearwater, Allman Brothers, Beatles, Elvis, Eagles, America, Pearl Jam -- is a common thread that binds the members together, old and new.
Lindley said, "We really wanted to come together again and to provide friends and the general public an opportunity to socialize and be entertained. It'll be a warm, friendly Southern gathering."
For more information, contact Lindley at 662-418-2082.
Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.