And the Fans Danced On: Yvonne and the Reverbs Rock the VFW in White River Junction
Janice Amaral, of Canaan, dances with Harry Cole, of Springfield, N.H., at the VFW in White River Junction last week. Amaral and her partner, Steve Seiler, of Enfield, have been dance night regulars, even though Seiler lost his leg last year. Though Seiler no longer dances, he watches as Amaral dances with her friends. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Pedal steel guitar player Jim Eibner, of Grantham, plays with Yvonne and the Reverbs occasionally. The band has been playing at social clubs and benefits, summer fairs and campgrounds for 43 years. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Ninety minutes into their set, the band acknowledges birthdays, anniversaries and other milestones of those in attendance. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Phil LeMay of Lebanon sits with a cup of coffee and watches the dancing while taking a bit of a break at the VFW in White River Junction on March 16, 2013.
Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »
From left, Jim Eibner and Yvonne and Jim O’Keefe look through an album of band photographs collected by Jim O’Keefe over the group’s four decades of playing. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Wearing a green hat and sunglasses to mark St. Patrick’s Day, Frog Fournier, of Thetford, sings along with the band while waltzing with his wife, Jill. The Fourniers are dance night regulars at the White River Junction VFW. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Yvonne and Jim O’Keefe laugh with bartender Becky Potwin while Christina Scott-Smith, center, also a bartender, looks on during a break from the music at the VFW. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Yvonne and the Reverbs members, from left, Jim O’Keefe, Skip Dunham, Yvonne O’Keefe and Jim Eibner play a mix of songs for their monthly Saturday night crowd at the VFW in White River Junction last weekend. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
White River Junction — A fixture in the Upper Valley music scene, Yvonne and the Reverbs have been playing social clubs and benefits, summer fairs and campgrounds for 43 years. The band’s fans have aged along with them, but they haven’t stopped shaking it. Their recent Saturday night gig at the VFW found the chairs mostly empty and the dance floor full.
Between songs, Myla Stoddard, 80, and her husband Arnold, 75, returned to their seats just long enough to take a sip of their beers.
They live in Charlestown, but when it comes to live music, the recently married couple doesn’t mind driving. The Stoddards travel to Winchester, N.H., for dances, and have driven to Barre, Vt., to see them play. Saturday nights, they often head to the VFW in White River Junction.
“We come here a lot,” Myla Stoddard said before she bopped back out onto the glossy wooden dance floor.
Last week, tunes by Patsy Cline and Anne Murray filled the floor with dancers, many singing along as they two-stepped in the glow of tiny white lights strung overhead.
Before the show, lead singer and drummer Yvonne O’Keefe went table to table greeting, often hugging, her fans, many of whom are also her friends. O’Keefe estimated that she knew about 90 percent of the people in the room.
Her husband, band leader and lead guitarist Jim O’Keefe, started the Reverbs with bassist Skip Dunham in 1970. Yvonne O’Keefe joined in 1973. Their fans, ever loyal, often travel to their shows in Barre and Keene.
“The Upper Valley in general has been good to us over the years,” said O’Keefe, 66. “We are really blessed.”
Phyllis Regione, a member of the VFW auxiliary, frequently staffs the door during the post’s Saturday night dances.
The Reverbs draw a good crowd, she said. “They have got regulars.”
She sees a lot of the same faces week after week, said Regione, 76. But that shouldn’t keep new people away.
“Once you come in here a couple of times, people get so they know you,” she said. “It’s a very friendly crowd.”
Alice and Robert Vincent try to see the Reverbs whenever they play the White River Junction venue. On Saturday, the Hartland couple sat side by side at a table waiting for the band to start. Both wore glasses, black blazers and metal belt buckles decorated with eagles. Wednesday would mark their 58th wedding anniversary, but they were celebrating a few days early, said Robert Vincent, 79.
They have known the O’Keefes for years, he said. “They played at our 50th wedding anniversary.”
During their decades together, the band has performed throughout New England and in Texas, Las Vegas and New York.
“We’ve played on stage, in the grass, in the rain, by the pool,” Jim O’Keefe, 73, said with a laugh. “It’s been a great ride.”
“Many moons ago,” they cut a record in Nashville, Yvonne O’Keefe said. “We’re not recording much at our age.”
The Reverbs may be slowing down, but they’re far from stopping.
For the first 20 years, they played three times a weekend, said Jim O’Keefe. Now, they gig three or four times a month, with more in the summer. They’re already scheduled to play six or seven shows in August.
“It keeps me young,” he said. “It keeps me doing something.”
Aimee Caruso can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3210.