Mack McKibben loves music of all kinds, but nothing beats getting a whole bunch of guys together and putting on a show.
Big bands require big shows, a rarity during the downturn, but McKibben thinks the time is right.
His newly-formed, 11-member band Drive Time is kicking off its career with a free benefit concert at 4 p.m., Sunday on the square to raise awareness for breast cancer. All proceeds will go to the Hope Boutique and cancer support groups at the Newton Medical Center.
McKibben, owner of McKibben Music, said even though the concert will be for a good cause and expose the community to all of the local talent around.
"I gave up playing in Atlanta to do this huge local band," he said last week. "This is an amazing band. We can do Earth, Wind and Fire, Gloria Estefan, we have a kid who can sing Michael Jackson and James Brown. It's unbelievable."
He's always wanted to form a large show band, but it took some prompting from his son and fellow musician, 22-year-old Micah, to finally pursue the dream.
"It's kind of a dying art with the bands now. They kind of condensed themselves to smaller groups because of the economy, but we are seeing it pick up a little bit and the demands of a big band," McKibben said. "This is something I really dreamed about, putting together a big band like this.It's going to be a job for these kids; they all have jobs, but I really want to make this band a part of their livelihood."
The Drive Time band consists of a horn section including McKibben's nephew Peter Hall, Stephen Wilson and Charles Harris Jr.; vocalists Christon Varner-Hallback, April Allen and McKibben's son Micah; guitar players John Lansburg, Scott Lansburg and Johnny Hamby; drummer Jarius Hardge; and a group of individuals who will do sound and lights.
"I think the community needs to come hear this group," McKibben said. "This is an exciting group that is based right here with all local musicians. Everybody lives right here in Newton County."
Drummer Hardge, 22, said he has been playing drums since he was 2 years old.
He said he has worked with McKibben for the last three years and he thought getting involved with the band would help bring the community together.
"It'll definitely keep us together as far as unity because we need that around local towns," he said. "With Covington growing, this is a great spot for talent."
Hall, 22, who plays the trumpet in the band, said his uncle inspired him to play trumpet and it was an honor and an accomplishment to play with him. He said playing with the group has been fun.
"I think this band is a great opportunity to bring new life to this community through music," Hall said. "We are going through hard economic times and if you look at history, music has always been something that has brought people together," he said. "I think that's what we are looking for Covington."
New Covington resident and trombone player Wilson, 58, was a member of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra for 28 years.
He said when he first moved to the area in March, he walked around the square and found the McKibben Music store and talked with McKibben and his wife Deborah.
"Right from the very beginning I liked them both just tremendously," Wilson said. "Mack brought some ideas about wanting to put a group together out on the square and he asked me if he would be interested and I said sure."
Wilson said nothing beats live music and that it was food for the soul.
"I played one concert and performed with this group already and you should have seen the effect it had on the audience. It's just priceless," Wilson said.
"When you see people from all walks of life and every ethnic group standing out there and just having a great time, we feed off of that and they feed off of the music we produce.
"It's a wonderful experience and I feel very blessed that I'm a part of this in terms of being a musician."
Bass guitar player and McKibben music teacher Scott Lansburg, 55, whose son John is also in the band, said he thinks the concert will be something the community will enjoy.