Jamboree Boys to play Bethany bandstand Saturday

How often do you get to see a state senator jam with his family and friends? Well, this weekend, locals and visitors will be able to enjoy music by the Jamboree Boys, featuring state Sen. Gerald Hocker on bass guitar.

On Aug. 29, at 7:30 p.m. Hocker, along with his two sons, Gerry and Greg, friends and fellow musicians Reggie Helms and Bill Ulmer, with Trent Hitchens and Jimmy Holson on lead guitar, will take the Bethany Beach bandstand stage and perform a free concert.

“This is one of our two gigs every year,” said Gerry Hocker, noting that the other is the Springtime Jamboree, a fundraiser concert for area nonprofits that features local musical and comedic talent. “I think everybody in the group really enjoys playing together.”

“It’s a lot of fun. When I was young — I’ll say 5 years old — I got my first Fisher Price drum set,” said Greg Hocker, adding that he started out drumming on old cardboard boxes and his mom’s pot lids at the age of 3. “And dad and them would be downstairs in the basement, practicing for the Jamboree, and I’d be down there beating on my little teeny drum set.

“Finally, I believe I was 8 or 9 years old was the first time I got to play drums in the show. And ever since then, I’ve played with them every single year.”

Greg Hocker said the group’s regular lead guitarist, Andy Timmons, will be unable to play at the bandstand this year, but local artist Trent Hitchens will be filling in.

“Trent Hitchens is a local player who’s absolutely phenomenal. He basically jumped into our practices in the last two months. He knew some of the songs, but he did not know all of them. And he had to be familiar with our set list of about 30 songs.

“He has a gift of playing lead, where he can just listen to a lead and pretty much turn around and play it. To hear him play some of these songs he didn’t know a month or two ago… he’s phenomenal,” said Greg Hocker, adding of Timmons’ absence, “We knew he would be greatly missed. Hopefully, in another year, he’ll be able to play with us.”

The group was founded by the senior Hocker, with his father, while he was in high school.

Gerry Hocker, who plays steel guitar in the band, said he loves music with a passion, and it’s always a treat to play with his family.

“It’s fun. It’s just something totally different,” said Gerry Hocker, who manages the family’s grocery stores. “It’s exciting. A lot of people we know are there. Locals and even tourists who support our stores are there. Over the years, different customers ask, ‘What date are you guys playing there?’ It’s neat. I see a lot of people in the audience that I recognize.”

“It’s a lot of fun playing with your family. I wish that we could definitely play more,” added Greg Hocker. “But when you have family businesses, it takes a lot of time playing other places.”

Greg Hocker, who has three kids of his own, said his kids already want to play drums, and he plans to have them take lessons.

Gerry Hocker said the group has been practicing for the last couple months to prepare for the bandstand gig.

“Over the years, we’ve created such a library of songs we can do… The problem is what songs to pull out for an hour and a half,” he said. “We pull out a good mix of about 30 songs.”

Their repertoire varies from Kenny Chesney to George Jones to Luke Bryan.

“Certainly, the crowd loves ‘Wagon Wheel.’ I don’t know any country band that doesn’t play ‘Wagon Wheel,’” he said. “And then we usually like to close the show with Dierks Bentley’s ‘Lot of Leavin’ Left to Do.’ That’s a fun song to play.”

Greg Hocker said anyone who likes country and oldies will have a fun time at the concert, and he encouraged people to return or come for the first time to enjoy a night of great music performed by the Jamboree Boys.

“I always look forward to the Jamboree and also playing at the bandstand every year. It’s just a fun night.”