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Peter Graves’ Atlantean Driftwood Band to return to Sanibel after over two decades

By Staff | Oct 11, 2017


Peter Graves’ Atlantean Driftwood Band featuring the Grammy award-winning saxophonist Ed Calle and Florida Music Hall of Fame vocalist Dana Paul, will return to Sanibel after 23 years to play at BIG ARTS’ Schein Hall Saturday, Oct. 21, at 8 p.m.

Before the Atlantean Driftwood Band came into being, Peter Graves played trombone in the Jackie Gleason Show’s orchestra.

“When I got out of the Navy, I was lucky as could be and immediately got a shot on the Jackie Gleason Show. I played in the orchestra for the last three years that he was on the air,” Graves said.

Graves worked on the show once a week for 13- week periods, affording him the opportunity to build his own band. Graves received his big break after backing Frankie Avalon at the Newport Beach Hotel.

“We were playing a club and I was asked to back one of the traveling artists, which was Frankie Avalon, this was in 1969. I said ‘Sure,’ so we put together the band to back Frankie Avalon and the headline of the Miami Herald the next day was ‘What A Difference A Band Makes,’ that pressed for a band itself and led to doing the same thing for Gladys Knight & The Pips and Wilson Pickett,” Graves said.

During the early ’70s, the Peter Graves Orchestra was asked to relocate to Joe Namath’s Bachelors III in Fort Lauderdale for five years where he backed up The Temptations, Mel Torme, The Spinners and many others. The late Jaco Pastorius, who played bass, joined the band during this time.

“It was an amazing run,” Graves said.

Music producers eventually caught wind of The Peter Graves Orchestra. The musician who called upon him first to record on his album was Dr. John.

“We ended up doing his No. 1 hit, ‘Right Place Wrong Time,” Dr. John being the night tripper, he said ‘You guys are desitively bonnaroo,’ it’s a Cajun word meaning ‘the best of what is,’ so he named us the Boneroo Horns, ” Graves said.

The Boneroo Horns is the name Graves used while working in the studio with different artists. Shortly after working with Dr. John, he received a call from bassist Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones to do some recordings on their album, “Monkey Grip Glue.” All of the recordings were done at Criteria Studios in Miami.

“(Wyman) was great. He was certainly the most low-key of the group,” Graves said.

Following the closing of Bachelors III, The Peter Graves Orchestra moved to the Sunrise Musical Theatre which was brand new at the time. One of the first musicians to perform there was Frank Sinatra. Sinatra loved Graves’ orchestra so much, he used them on his all his concerts in the southeast U.S. as well as Superbowl appearances in New Orleans, Louisiana and Atlanta, Georgia.

“For the next 20 years, until he retired in the mid-’90s, everything he did in the southeast, he used my orchestra,” Graves said.

Another big name Graves worked with was the Bee Gees, which was one of the highlights of his career.

“I was contacted by their manager and they flew me to their home in the Isle of Man – halfway between Liverpool and Ireland. I met with the Bee Gees, we hit it off and that started the whole thing. The first album we did was “Children of the World.” I was with them solidly for the next six years,” Graves said.

In addition to helping them record their “Children of the World” album, Graves also worked on “Spirits Having Flown” and the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack which happens to be one of the best-selling albums of all time. Graves even recalls going on tour with them.

“We did two tours with them, one shorter one in ’76 and one in ’79. We were out on the road for six months. We had our own private jet, a Boeing jet, with a ‘Spirit Having Flown’ logo on the side of it. So, we flew private. We were in New York at the St. Regis Hotel for a month. We would go out, get on the plane, fly to let’s say Buffalo, play the concert and then fly back to New York City that same night so we never had to change hotels,” Graves said.

To Graves, tour life with the Bee Gees was a family affair.

“The parents, grandparents and kids were on the road. It was first class. The music was well-done. It was pretty amazing,” he said.

Graves sums up the majority of his musical experiences as pure luck.

“A lot of it is really that fickle finger of fate,” he said. “Obviously, you have to be prepared when you get the opportunity to take advantage of it but I can’t dismiss the fact that you have to be lucky a lot in this business as well.”

Another turn of fate was when Michael LaTona who was a bus boy at the time at the King’s Crown at South Seas Island Resort, and Scott Siler of the Mariner Group, brought the Atlantean Driftwood Band to Captiva to play at the grand opening of Chadwick’s Square in June of 1978.

“The hall was packed. There were literally people hanging out of the windows. It was a real island affair, it was free for the islanders,” Graves said. “It was such a humungous success that Michael, Scott and I all looked at each other and said ‘How can we do this more?’,” Graves said.

After a few years of going over ideas, Sanibel Jazz on the Green was born. The festival kicked off at the Dunes Country Club in 1981 and attracted thousands of people each year until its final year in 1994. The annual event attracted an impressive lineup of artists, some of which included Michael Franks, Spyro Gyra, Bob James, Chick Corea and Chuck Mangione

“This all happened with the blessing of the president of the Mariner Group, Al TenBroek and Scott (Siler) of South Seas putting it together. We would take the proceeds of the festival and give them to BIG ARTS and other art organizations on the island. It was a win-win, the band loved it, we filled up empty rooms during a slow part of the year and the profits flowed to the arts,” Graves said.

For the one-night reunion at Schein Hall, the band will be joined by Ed Calle, Dana Paul and a handful of other original musicians who played at the festival throughout the years. Calle, who won a Latin Grammy in 2015, teaches music business and production at Miami Dade College. Calle became involved with the band while he was a student at the University of Miami.

“(Peter Graves) started hiring me for a lot of different things and he just really liked the way I played. I’ve been a member the band ever since,” Calle said. “I started with the band in the late 80s.”

Calle said returning to Sanibel after all these years is wonderful, yet, bittersweet at the same time.

“We haven’t done it for so long and the music business has changed so much in the years since we stopped doing it. It’s reminiscent of a magical time in South Florida, Southwest Florida and in music,” Calle said.

Dana Paul, who was a recipient of the Florida Music Awards Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement this year, has known Graves for over 50 years. Before the Atlantean Driftwood Band, Paul played in The Captiva Band with Michael LaTona, Jaco Pastorius and Marty Stokes. For the reunion, Paul said they plan to play a mix of songs from Sanibel Jazz on the Green and The Jaco Pastorius Big Band.

“It’s my hope that there’s enough people on the island that remember this so well that they can’t wait to come out and be part of it again,” Paul said.

Tickets are $45, reserved seats are $50. To purchase tickets go to bigarts.org or call 239-395-0900.