Lifestyles Music

One night brings two tributes to legendary rock bands

(Editor’s note: This concert was originally scheduled for April 15, and the story first ran April 4. It was postponed until Sept. 22. The story has been updated to reflect the changes.)

“Vegas Dave” Turner never set out to be in a Tom Petty tribute band.

“I was playing shows in my early 20s. I never did a lot of covers. I played mainly original music with different bands,” said Turner, who will take the Imperial Theatre stage with The Mad Hatters on Sept. 22. Also performing that night will be Freebird.

Turner spent several years with a band called The Hot Rods, featuring Augusta’s own Fred McNeal, but life got in the way. He stepped back to raise a family for several years when he got a message from McNeal.

 “He said, ‘We’re thinking of doing this Petty thing,’” Turner said.

Freebird will pay tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd Sept. 22 at the Imperial Theatre.

 McNeal told him to watch some videos. Turner checked out other Petty tribute bands, and he decided he was in.

Turner has a wide taste in music. He got his first acoustic, classical guitar when he was in the fifth grade. He took some lessons, but the instrument collected dust until he was a teen. After listening to Guns ‘N Roses and their acoustic sets, Turner picked it back up and taught himself to play.

“I’ve always been able to play by ear,” he said. “I would put on the radio and play along or put on a tape and play along.”

From Guns ‘N Roses hard rock sound, he moved to listening to metal bands such as Megadeth and psychedelic bands such as The 13th Floor Elevators. In between all of that, Turner said there was a sweet spot for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

 “I’ve been a fan of Tom Petty music since I was a kid, growing up watching videos on MTV,” he said.

The Mad Hatters will bring a “live Heartbreakers’ band” experience.

 “We bring a really good show. It’s basically a rock show,” he said.

 Band members work well together.

 “The five of us have all played with each other or in bands or have been in the same scene for so long, we kind of have a connection. We anticipate where the guys are going. We’re not just playing notes, we bring a feeling along with it,” he said.

And the fans seem to enjoy the feeling they bring.

Vegas Dave Turner sings as Tom Petty with The Mad Hatters. Courtesy photo

“Everyone of them is all excited about it. They know all the songs. They all sing and get up and dance and have a great time. Tom Petty tribute fans are really into it,” he said.

The band members have a great time as well and fans notice that too.

“I really like doing the tribute thing,” he said.

 Joining The Mad Hatters will be Freebird, a Lynyrd Skynyrd tribute band.

Turner said they played a music festival last year in Cumming, Ga., and Freebird  was part of it.

“They played before us. And we all just hanging out and said wouldn’t it be great to do this thing. The Imperial is such a big room, nice theatre. We figured it might work to have a double billing,” he said.

The concert will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40-$65 and are available here.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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