The Best Westerns, a five-piece western swing band based in the Milwaukee area, will make its Fond du Lac debut June 24 at the Monday Music Under the Stars concert series. The free concert held at Buttermilk Creek Park, takes place from 7-8:30 p.m.
The band's founder, bass violinist Mark Hembree of Oconomowoc, is a professional musician who has performed with top musicians like Bill Monroe and Randy Travis. In the 1980s he was part of the founding group who formed the Nashville Bluegrass Band -- a band that later went on to perform the music soundtrack for the movie, "Oh Brother Where Art Thou."
Working fulltime as a magazine writer and editor, Hembree's passion for music led him to create the Best Westerns band four years ago. With the new venture, he brought together other veteran musicians who have performed with various bands over the years.
A wealth of musical performance experience is evident when listening to the Best Westerns whose sound is unique.
"There's no other band around, that I'm aware of, that plays western swing," Hembree said, noting it's a meshing together of jazz, Big Band and western music. "There's a touch of Benny Goodman with a western flavor," Hembree said.
Familiar tunes like Bob Will's classic, "Take Me Back to Tulsa" or "Airmail Special" and "Flying Home" by Benny Goodman punctuate the band's performances.
Members of the Best Westerns include Fond du Lac resident and lead guitarist Tim ("Beezer") Ferguson who has been with the band Radio Flyer, Ida Red and others. Other members include steel guitarist Frank Anderson of Appleton; drummer Andy Pagel, Milwaukee, and fiddle player Jon Vriesacker, Madison. Chris Wagoner, Sun Prairie, fills in occasionally on the fiddle.
"Most of us have been playing in other bands over the years while pursuing careers in other fields," Hembree said. "Jon, our fiddle player, is a fulltime musician who is making a career of it. He plays in the Madison Symphony."
Hembree, a Grammy-nominated artist, cut an album with the Nashville Bluegrass Band in 1987. He also had a small part on the Randy Travis album, "Storms of Life" which went on to Platinum acclaim.
As for their debut in Fond du Lac, the Best Westerns will be belting out everything from "Choo Choo Boogie" to "Sally Goodin" to "Flying Home."
This is the second band to perform in the 10-week summer concert series known as Monday Music Under the Stars. The free concerts take place every Monday night through August 19 in Buttermilk Creek Park. Food can be purchased prior to and during the concert, starting at 6:30. Brats, burgers, hotdogs, popcorn, root beer floats and more are available. Attendees need to bring their own chairs.
NOTE: To learn more about the Best Westerns, go to http://thebestwesterns.com/about. To book the band, call Mark Hembree at (262) 567-3762. A sample of their music can be heard online with the search words: "You Tube -- The Best Westerns Flying Home."
For information on this or other upcoming Monday night concerts, call the event organizers 921-1167.