Atlanta music legends to play farewell concert August 13 at Lanier Islands
Their meeting was like the stars aligning when 53 years ago Banks Burgess dropped in on a performance by A.B. & Mike in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“I was in a band called ‘The Other Brothers’ with my high school and college friend Tommy Harris and we headed to St. Petersburg from the University of Georgia to play hotel pools in St. Pete,” said Burgess. “We spent the nights checking out other bands and saw A.B. & Mike at The Down Under, and they really stood out. They were great, real show business. They had professional lighting and a real sound system. One of the guys in the band was Paul Shane.”
That chance meeting in the summer of 1969 was the first step toward a life-long career of making music together and building a following in the Southeast and around the world. Three years later, they founded “Banks & Shane.”
Their first gig in August 1972 at The Lark and the Dove in Sandy Springs led to other venues, including a 10-month engagement at Underground Atlanta’s P.J. Kenny’s Saloon.
By the next spring, they’d added bass player Mike Erwin and by the end of the summer, they began touring around the Southeast.
“We were on our way, soon expanding to Texas,” Burgess said. “As we spent time on the road, we fell into a touring pattern of three months away, and three months in Georgia.”
It was the beginning of getting to know their fans and the communities where they played. Tucker’s Steak & Ale became the band’s performance home in Georgia and opened the door to stints in Houston and Dallas. By 1974, they broke into the Colorado market with winter and summer tours in Steamboat Springs, Evergreen, Vail and Copper Mountain.
Their own clubs
Burgess and Shane opened their own dinner club in Sandy Springs in 1983, “Banks & Shane’s.” They performed five nights a week, and on Sunday evenings hosted special concerts featuring acts like The Kingston Trio, Count Basie Band, the Platters, The Drifters, the Tams and Sawyer Brown.
“After five years with our club, we were asked to be an anchor with the new Underground Atlanta,” said Shane. “We wrapped up Sandy Springs, moved the club to Underground and, after three years, the Rodney King disturbances in downtown Atlanta and Underground Atlanta happened. Our business evaporated almost overnight. It scared everyone away.”
They turned to corporate bookings, including becoming ambassadors for the Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau all over the U.S. and overseas, including London, Munich, Frankfurt, and Amsterdam, representing the Atlanta Convention & Visitor’s Bureau, Delta Airlines, and The Georgia Hospitality and Travel Association.
“We also had an 8-day tour in Saudi Arabia for Aramco, the Arabian-American oil company,” Shane said. “They would bring in entertainment for the Americans who lived in compounds over there to give them a taste of home.”
Since the beginning, the band has performed for dozens of local charities. “We’ve been gratified and humbled to have helped raise over $2 million to benefit local causes,” Burgess said.
In 2006, Banks & Shane joined comedian Jeff Foxworthy and Banks & Shane presented “Jeff Foxworthy with Banks & Shane for Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Camp Sunshine” at Presentation Point Amphitheater at Lake Lanier Islands.
They also created their own holiday special in 2008, “A Very Special Christmas Concert” at the then-new Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in Cobb County, joined by 55 selected 5th graders from Cobb County schools. From that event, $65,000 was donated in the names of the participating children to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
“We’ve been blessed,” Shane said. “We played for Camp Sunshine for 13-14 years to help kids with cancer. There were a lot of nice things we were able to do to raise money and help people be happy.”
In 2012 they celebrated 40 years at Peachtree Point Amphitheater in Lake Lanier Islands. And to celebrate radio talk show host Neal Boortz’s “Happy Ending” retirement, they performed at the Fox Theatre in early 2013.
In 2005, when U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson was sworn in, he took Banks & Shane to Washington to play for his celebration at Kennedy Center.
“Johnny was a dear friend, and both of us consider this as one of the great honors of our lives to have been personally invited by Senator Isakson before his death to sing at his memorial service in January 2022.”
Fifty years of performances and 12 albums means that Burgess and Shane have seen times change. But they’ve also seen many things stay the same.
Burgess said that it’s rewarding to see those fans from the 1970s now bringing their grandchildren to concerts. “It’s funny. After all these years it seems that now the only people who come to see us are old people … and their parents,” Burgess deadpanned.
Wistful and misty-eyed
“We did an interview a few years back for a show in Sandy Springs, where it all started for us, and at the end of the interview it occurred to me after all these years, I’m not sure that we have any “fans” at all, but we sure have a lot of friends.
“We’ll never tire of performing, but it’s not really about the music; it’s about the connections we have made with so many wonderful friends,” he said. “They have supported us, cheered us on, and many times had us in their homes. It is a great blessing. Fifty years has been a good run. We are so very fortunate.”
Banks & Shane will celebrate 50 years together on Saturday, August 13, in their “Farewell Friends” Concert at Peachtree Pointe Amphitheater at Lanier Islands. They’ve brought together some of the former band members and other musicians for a Big Band show that includes horns and their distinctive sound for an evening celebration.
For tickets visit www.banksandshane.com.