It’s been several decades since John Green walked away from the limelight on a professional stage. And for the last 12 years, his drums have been collecting dust in his garage.
But the music in his heart did not stop. It did not die.
Now at age 70, the retired professional performer and construction engineer is having a Second Chance as a musician. That also goes for the half-dozen other retirees who are suddenly finding themselves in the limelight at the Woobridge at Del Webb community in Manteca.
Following their musical baptism of fire during the 2012 National Night Out observance at the Family City’s age-restricted residential neighborhood in north Manteca, the group has been quite in demand. Right now, they are gearing up for a number of upcoming gigs. Two of them are happening in the next few weeks. They will be rockin’ and rollin’ Saturday, Jan. 26, at an event aptly titled, “Shall We Dance? Let’s Rock!” taking place in Del Webb’s clubhouse from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Right on the heels of that gig is the Valentine’s Day Dance at the same venue set for Thursday, Feb. 14, starting at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets to Saturday’s big to-do are $3 each, and it’s all sold out. The door fee to the Valentine’s Day Dance is $12 per person. Making a special appearance as a singer with the group that evening is Del Webb resident Claudia Whitaker who played with a professional Dixieland band in San Francisco years ago.
The six mainstays, besides Green who started the group, are Chuck Lewis who plays the keyboard, his wife Irma who plays percussion and also does vocals, Gary DiMare and Fred Welch who both play guitars, Elizabeth Cunning who is the other keyboardist, and Dann Ayala who is also a guitarist and saxophonist.
“He also writes music. He actually won the talent contest we had here about a month or so ago. He wrote a couple of songs and sang them. He was pretty good,” Green said of Anaya.
It was Cunning who came up with the name for the band that everybody liked. “It was either Last Chance or Second Chance. Last Chance sounded like the end of something, but Second Chance sounded good because we’re all having a second chance,” Green said laughing.
Their weekly Wednesday rehearsals are actually jam sessions where they play for fun, usually at Green’s house.
“We do odd jobs here and there and whenever we get a chance at the clubhouse,” explained Green. He said they are trying to see if their band can play there once in a while, say, once every two months.
“That way we get used to playing to the public because most of the guys haven’t played 35 to 40 years. Myself, I actually have not played since 1999 after my wife died,” said Green who played professionally from the 1960s up to 1978 when he “left the (music) industry and went into construction.”
He actually started playing trombone at age 8 with the Young People’s Band of the Salvation Army in London.
“My parents were Salvationists and my father was a trombone player and played the big large brass with the Salvation Army, and he introduced me to playing the trombone,” Green recalled.
He taught himself how to play drums and, later, he went to the Ontario College of Percussion in Canada after his family moved there in 1957. While in Canada, he and his band traveled in the United States performing in New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Youngstown, Ohio. He also was the drummer for five or six other bands.
The rest of the Second Chance members pursued careers outside of the music industry. DiMare worked in sheet metal. Chuck Lewis was in management at hospital where he met his wife, Irma, who was also working there. Welch was employed in the computer industry, as did Ayala. Cunning was a housewife abut also worked as a teacher at a religious school. Whitaker, the sometime singer for the group, worked at Livermore Lab besides singing professionally.
Green describes their general repertoire as “mostly the ‘50s and ‘60s music – ‘Stand by Me,’ ‘Margaritaville,’ ‘Love Potion No. 9,’ ‘It Had to be You,’ ‘Girl from Ipanema.’”
In the few short months since their National Night Out debut last year, the Second Chance Band has been receiving plenty of “really positive reactions from everybody.” And that is quite surprising for Green because “when we started off, we were a little rough,” he said laughing.
“But practice and constantly playing is slowly paying off. It’s slowly coming together,” he said, still laughing.
Shirley Vasconcellos Smith begs to differ, though.
“They’re all good,” she stated firmly. “The residents (at Del Webb) like them so much. We have a lot of hired musicians coming here to play but (the residents) love them just as much as the other groups. They don’t sound like little kids playing drums. They’re pros. And most of them have been living here only a year and a half.”