The countdown has nearly ticked down -- in just under four hours, the Five Emprees will retake the stage at the Hidden Pointe Fun Park & Event Hall, 1062 Nickerson Ave., Benton Harbor, and write another chapter in the groundswell of a legend that's continued to grow since they began doing the first of their periodic one-off reunions since 2006 (though some would go back farther, to 1989, when they recorded a nearly impossible-to-find live album at Babe's Lounge, near downtown Benton Harbor).
Tonight's affair will mark the first one they've done since the COVID-19 bomb dropped, I believe, but I'm assuming that it will be a great show, as always. We're fortunate to have four-fifths of the original band -- Don Cook (singer, guitar, percussion), Ron Pelkey (bass, vocals), and Bill Schueneman (keyboards, vocals) -- still with us, doing what they do best. (Drummer Mike DeRose hasn't been part of these recent get-togethers, having left music long ago, to become an architect.) I'd also expect to see Steve Phillips (guitar, keyboards), who played an important role in the band's existence near the end of their original run, as members started getting drafted.
Interest in this show is running high, as I see from this comment on the Five Empress official Facebook page: "Tickets are LIMITED, and I personally think it is very likely they could all sell out, so I suspect time may be of the essence in procuring them. I am taking no chances, I got my tickets yesterday, cause I do not want to miss this historic event."
And, just so nobody missed the point, this update, from 8/29: "If you still need tickets, as of about an hour ago there was a very limited number at Hidden Pointe, and as of Sunday night Don Cook of the Five Emprees still had a few dozen tickets. I do not think there will be any tickets left at concert time based on what I am seeing at this point. So if you want to go to this historic concert this Sunday, September 3 at 8 PM, I urge you to buy them NOW."
Mine and my friend Don's are numbered 367 and 370, out of 500, respectively, so it's fair to say we got near the end of the post -- but not so close, as to cut it too close, which is just the way you want it, right?
So what keeps the flame burning after all this time, when the original fivesome landed a song ("Little Miss Sad") onto the bottom rungs of the national charts in July 1965, peaking at #74 (Billboard), and #85 (Cash Box), depending on which survey you believed? (It's also fair to note that the song did much better in the Chicagoland area, peaking at #33 on WLS's "Silver Dollar Survey," where it held a spot for two solid months.)
I'll hand that answer over to Ward Merrill, who administers the page: "You asked and asked for them. The Five Emprees heard you and will be giving one more concert this Sunday, Sept 3. They have to travel here for Georgia, Florida and Arizona to do this for you, but they heard your requests and agreed to come.
"This will be an historic evening. A trip back in time, back to the good music most of us remember from our youth, back in the 60's and the 70's. (yes, there will be some music from other decades, but they will be heavy on that music you remember from back in the day.) You will be able to hear them play oldies you have been wanting to hear. You will be taken back to a different time period for an evening and relive some of your younger days. You won't need lyric sheets because you will know the words and be able to sing along.
"Make sure your friends know all about this night, because you will want them to be there also. This will be a night you will not forget! If you have heard the Five Emprees play, then I do not need to tell you more, because you already know how good they are. If you have not heard them before, you are in for a wonderful treat, a truly great evening from this historic band. Some of you still have some of the records they made from back then.
"Linda and I look forward to seeing you at The Five Emprees concert at Hidden Pointe.
I think this posting from Kevin William Bell, on the Five Emprees Facebook page, sums up the feeling well, too: "They opened the door and and struck lightning with Little Miss Sad. For Benton Harbor and St. Joe....what a great accomplishment. Break a heart boys ..yer always in this Benton Harbor boy's rock n roll heart."
There you have it. We'll see what tonight brings! And if you snatched up a ticket? I'll see you there.