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Teen Town reunion: The Intruders go back to the ’60s for concert, dance

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The music of The Tams, The Drifters and Aiken County's own James Brown will bring dancers to the floor at Houndslake Country Club on Nov. 23 just as it did more than 50 years ago at Aiken's legendary Teen Town.

The Intruders, a nine-member band started by Aiken High School students, played to packed houses almost every weekend at Teen Town during the mid- to late-1960s and will perform its first reunion concert the weekend before Thanksgiving, John Gardner, the band's drummer, said after band practice Tuesday during a telephone interview.

And baby boomers are more than eager to dance the “Tighten Up” again and sing along to “My Girl” and other songs that played on the radio and on 45 rpm vinyl records as the soundtrack to their high school years.

“The concert and dance sold out in 24 hours,” Gardner said. “We will likely see many familiar faces though 'slightly' older now. I hope Aiken remembers us.”

A share of the concert proceeds will go to endow the Aiken High School Alumni Scholarship Fund to benefit future Aiken High School graduates at USC Aiken.

Aiken High School roots

The Intruders started at Aiken High School in 1966 with Mike Stewart and Stuart Harris on vocals, Archie Jordan on lead guitar, Dickie Hobbs on bass guitar, Russ Burleson on keyboard, Bob Harte and Alan George on trumpet, Charles Holley on saxophone and Gardner on drums.

The band's name was a group decision, Gardner said.

“We all discussed it, and someone came up with it – don’t know who – and we all liked it,” he said. “We put up signs in the halls at Aiken High School saying 'The Intruders are coming!' just to pique interest. Kids were asking, 'Who are The Intruders?'”

They soon knew.

In the mid-1960s, Teen Town, now the home of Aiken Senior Life Services on Morgan Street behind the old Aiken County Hospital, was the place to be for Aiken High students and teenagers from across the city, and The Intruders packed them in and on to the dance floor weekend after weekend.

“We played at Teen Town almost every weekend for year and a half,” Gardner said. “We used to pack the place. I mean you couldn't even get in the door. It was really popular because it was great dance music.

“We played at Teen Town at least once a weekend like three times a month, four times a month, and it was standing room only. You couldn't even get in the place, and that's a huge building. It was a great place. You'd have 400 or 500 kids in that place and never have a single problem.”

Back together

The band started practicing for the reunion concert and dance about six months ago. Gardner continued to play drums through the years and still has a good drum set, he said, but the horn players had not played in 50 years.

“They both started anew when we started back. They've really come a long way and are doing great. As of last practice and this practice, I can see that we're not going to embarrass ourselves too badly,” Gardner said and laughed. “And everyone who's going to be there is our age, so they'll be hearing the band that played 50 years ago.”

The band will perform at least 13 R&B classics from its original set list, including “Wicked” Wilson Pickett's “Mustang Sally” and The Tams' big hits, “I've Been Hurt” and “Be Young Be Foolish But Be Happy.” The band also will cover James Brown's signature song, “I Feel Good,” Gardner's favorite.

Six of the band's original members will perform at the reunion: Harte, who still lives in Aiken; George and Burleson, who live in Columbia; Jordan, who lives in Twin City, Georgia; Dickie Hobbs, who lives in Wilmington, North Carolina; and Gardner, who lives in Charleston.

Holley and Stewart have passed away. Don Goldman of Aiken, who was a friend of Stewart and is known as Bear, will fill in for Stewart on vocals.

Success in music and beyond

The original band broke up in the late ’60s after high school with some members heading to college or the military – Gardner to the U.S. Army and Vietnam. All of the bands' members went on to successful careers in different fields.

Gardner is an architect in Charleston. Harte, an Aiken lawyer, is a former Second Judicial Circuit solicitor and the Aiken County Clerk of Court.

“We've got a banker, a couple of lawyers, an accountant, and three of the guys made it big-time in Nashville,” Gardner said, referring to Jordan, Stewart and Harris. “All wrote numerous songs that reached No. 1 on the charts. Stewart Harris is still in the music business in Nashville.”

Jordan, the band's youngest member, toured with The Tams the summer after he graduated from Aiken High, Gardner said, and after earning a master's degree in music from the University of South Carolina, he moved to Nashville. There, he wrote or co-wrote several Grammy-nominated No. 1 songs for country singer Ronnie Milsap, including “It Was Almost Like a Song” and “What A Difference You've Made in My Life.”

Although more than 50 years have passed and weekends of dancing at Teen Town are just a memory, The Intruders' music that made so many teens feel young, foolish and happy in the ’60s will play again Nov. 23.

“It's just been great,” Gardner said of the reunion. “It's like people say: it's like we've never been apart. We got together for the first practice, and we were just cutting up and joking just like we had been together the day before. We still have great camaraderie.”

Larry Wood covers education for the Aiken Standard.