Musicians come together, jam as the Bucket List Band
It was a summer wedding that brought them together.
Though the wedding has since ended, that band – the Bucket List Band – remains.
The group's core comprises of Jim Hampton on the keyboard, David Cooper on the guitar, Dave Mercer on the drums and Deveran Roof on the bass.
One June night, Hampton was one of several performers to come out to downtown Aiken's Playoffs Sports Bar and Grill.
When he took a break, a soon-to-be married female audience member approached him and told him her new-founded wish – to have a jam band play at her wedding.
Hampton later mentioned this woman's request to another performer. That performer was Mercer.
As the wedding performance approached, Mercer called upon his friend and current bandmate Roof. When Cooper came in, the Bucket List Band was complete.
The band plays at Playoffs every Wednesday starting at 9 p.m.
At each weekly performance, the band never knows what to expect.
“I counted it the other day. We've had (over 25) people stand in with us,” Hampton said.
These “guest acts” – as Hampton puts it – have included locals like singer Brooke Lundy and band Anybody's Guess.
However, these guests aren't always planned.
Mercer recalls a past night where two customers were sitting nearby, “going back and forth with each other.” He noticed this pair and signaled for them to come up stage. The band continued to play as their guests freestyle rapped. “Anything can happen,” Hampton said.
That assertion also alludes to the band's name.
The name came about when Hampton and Cooper played with another band. That band had a difficult time deciding on a setlist.
“They decided each person should have a 10-song bucket list,” Hampton said.
Some items on the Bucket List Band's bucket list are songs “Route 66,” “Kansas City” and “Sweet Home Chicago,” as well as songs from performers like The Allman Brothers Bands, B.B. King and Merle Haggard.
Each member of the Bucket List Band performs outside the band.
Hampton, for example, makes guest appearances at Anybody's Guess' formal events. Cooper is part of the Southern Meltdown Band.
Mercer plays guitar with local bands Chairleg and Saawariya, while Roof has been with bluegrass bands Doug and The Henrys, and Delta Cane.
Mercer and Roof met around 15 years ago. The first time they played together was in the band Sibling String. Hampton and Cooper met two years after they were suppose to. Around five years ago, Cooper played with South Carolina's Doug McCormick and his band.
At a gig, Cooper was given Hampton's phone number. Later, Cooper's phone malfunctioned. He never called Hampton. Two years after that, the two met serendipitously at a mutual friend's house.
“The minute he said his name, I was like, 'Hang on, you were suppose to call me two years ago, and you never did,'” Hampton said, as he glanced over at Cooper. Cooper laughed in response.
“We've gotten along that way ever since,” Hampton said.
Hampton started his performing career in the '60's – a time he deems of great musical culture.
A few years afterwards, he was drafted into the U.S. Army. When he returned, it took a couple decades for him to fully return to the music scene.
Cooper remembered buying his first guitar before he was 18. He bought it with S&H Green Stamps or “Greenback Stamps,” Cooper said.
Mercer started out with church and punk bands. He performs with numerous bands today.
Roof was involved with music years before he studied it at Georgia Regents University, formerly known as Augusta State University. He also has worked and taught out of record stores for over 10 years.
When the four perform together, you might hear a low-key swing version of John Lennon's “Imagine” or a jazzed-out take on country song “Redneck Woman.”
One consideration the band tries to maintain is its volume level.
“(People have said) that they can come in, listen to live music but still carry on conversation,” Mercer said.
When they aren't with each other, you can still catch them around town.
“We are playing somewhere almost all the time, just not necessarily with this band,” Hampton said.
Every Wednesday night, though, these four musicians can be found on the Playoffs stage in downtown Aiken.
The bar is on the corner of Newberry Street and Richland Avenue.
For more information, visit the band or bar's Facebook pages.
Stephanie Turner has a hand on all areas of production for the Aiken Standard, where she reports, edits and lays out pages.
She graduated in July 2012 with a journalism degree from Valdosta State University and lives with her family in Evans, Ga.