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The Fabulous Hubcaps - Every night is Saturday night

February 19, 1998|By KATE COLEMAN

The Fabulous Hubcaps is not a club band, according to Jim "Jimi" Simon, spokesperson and band member. The oldies and classic rock 'n' roll band puts on a show that is more than music to dance to.

"Every night is like Saturday night," Simon says.

The Fabulous Hubcaps will be in Hagerstown Saturday, Feb. 28, to perform at "A Pedigree Affair," a benefit for Washington County SPCA. Slick back your hair and get out your blue suede shoes. Put on your poodle skirt and get ready to rock and roll.

The show band will do three 60-minute sets of the music that has become its trademark since its core got together 24 years ago in Southern Maryland. Some of the artists the Hubcaps honor are Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, The Coasters, The Platters, The Everly Brothers, Connie Francis, The Shirelles, The Righteous Brothers, Sam and Dave, Sonny and Cher, James Brown, Otis Redding and many Motown stars.

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Because of Carl Wilson's recent death, The Fabulous Hubcaps surely will do a Beach Boys medley, Simon says.

The band is known for its doo-wop - a singing style of four-part harmonies born on the streets of New York City and Philadelphia. Simon describes some of the phrases as comical, as in "Potato chippey wah wah wah."

"A lot of thought went into that," he says sarcastically.

Simon, 44, says the program has expanded to include music of the '70s and '80s. He grew up with the Beatles. "Led Zeppelin is oldies now," Simon says.

Simon is but one of the seven-person band's seven lead singers. How does a band function with so many in starring roles? "It keeps us from being bored. It keeps it fun," Simon says.

The variety of the program provides plenty of opportunity for everyone to shine. These guys - and one "gal" if you speak in oldies' lingo - also play a range of musical instruments.

Coe Anderson is on lead guitar and saxophone; Denny Cook plays bass and keyboards; Barry Holober is on drums and percussion; Doug Lewis plays bass and guitar; Barbara "Barbie" Riehl plays saxophones; Jimi Simon is on piano and keyboards; and Rocky Simon plays saxophones.

But the Hubcaps are not just playing and singing. They travel with a four-person technical crew. It's a show with costumes and characters. They take their audiences back to an earlier time. And it's OK if people get out on the floor during the show set. "We never mind if they dance," Simon says.

The show band got its inspiration when Jim Simon's brother, Rocky, went to Woodstock in 1969 and saw Sha-Na-Na, the oldies band. He also saw a Three Dog Night concert where the band did a quick '50's medley. He and Cook and decided to give it a try. They became Harvey Hubcap and Do-Ron-Rons.

Jim Simon spent some time with a group called Half Moon Band. When the female singer left, he had to pick up her part. To this day, he handles a lot of the falsetto singing. With a three-and-a-half octave range, he can do it. He likes ballads and some of the rockabilly tunes the Hubcaps do.

The Simon brothers grew up on their family's 100-acre farm in Brandywine, Md. Their father was a musician who played organ, piano, clarinet and accordion. There always was Midwestern polka music in their home. Jim Simon still lives on the farm and manages the place for his mother.

The Fabulous Hubcaps have traveled all over the U.S. and average about 200 shows a year. The touring schedule picks up in the summer. The band is available for fund-raisers such as Saturday's event, private parties and has played some notable venues including Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where they sang the national anthem. In July 1995, they played at the Press Corps Picnic on the South Lawn of the White House.

Simon is joking when he says that Monica Lewinsky was there, but The Fabulous Hubcaps were invited to the Rose Garden to meet President and Mrs. Clinton. "The president wanted an encore," Simon says.

A Web site at (http://www.thehubcaps.com) brings The Fabulous Hubcaps into the computer age. Cassette and CD recordings are available as are T-shirts, tote bags, hats and satin jackets. It's a Hubcaps boutique.

What does the future hold for this oldies band?

They'll keep on keepin' on with their classic material and shows, but there are some new projects on the horizon.

Simon says band members are excited about a prospective gig on Montgomery Cable television, channel 21. They're hoping that it will develop into a mini-series variety show format and be picked up by other cable channels. It also will provide a new opportunity to display some of their original music.

Jim Simon says that lately he's listening to more jazz than anything else. But he keeps his car radio on scan. "I like everything if it's done well," he says.

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