Don’t stop the music
It was a wet and windy Saturday and The Travellers were waiting to perform. Manuel Pereira did not expect that many people would show up.
But to his amazement, “people kept coming, and coming” and the seats soon filled.
The turnout, at the Police Recreation Club this month, was extremely satisfying for the 73-year-old who had been performing with his twin brother, Michael, and their long-time friend, Glen Cuoco, for decades.
The Pereiras fell in love with music in the 1950s, enthralled by singer Ricky Nelson’s performances on the sitcom The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.
When they were 7, they were given guitars for Christmas. They were excited, but had no idea what to do with the instruments until six years later, when a neighbour taught them to play You Are My Sunshine. Emboldened, they formed a band with their younger brothers, Danny and Jimmy.
They had limited musical abilities, but turned the family garage on Aubrey Road in Hamilton Parish into a studio and hammered away at their instruments.
“Somehow, we stuck together playing and practising,” Mr Pereira said.
A year later, their mother, Maria, offered up the band to play at a friend’s wedding.
“We looked at each other and said, ‘Are we ready for this?’ We just kept on practising.”
They named the band Silvertones after the brand of Michael’s guitar — Silvertone.
“It was good enough,” Mr Pereira shrugged.
That first performance went so well that they were inundated with requests and started playing every Thursday, usually at weddings for Portuguese families.
A teacher at Kindley Air Force Base in St David’s heard them play and suggested they perform there at a weekly event for teenagers. Although initially nervous, they were a hit and were soon asked to perform at all the military bases around Bermuda.
“We played a lot of Beatles hits and some Mick Jagger,” said Mr Pereira, explaining that transportation was sometimes a problem as they were not yet 16. “If my father wasn’t able to drive us to a gig, we had to catch a taxi.”
A fight broke out — once.
“It was basically everyone in the club fighting,” he said. “The manager said: ‘We’ll put your cheque in the mail. I’m closing the club.’ We only got to play two or three songs.”
Gigs sometimes lasted longer than anticipated. At one wedding they started playing at 9pm and were supposed to play for three hours.
“But the people at the wedding kept giving us money and asking us to continue,” Mr Pereira said.
“We didn’t get home until daybreak. Our mother was furious. She had stayed up all night waiting for us. I think we made about $800 on that gig.”
Requests poured in from hotels. The Silvertones played Grotto Bay Hotel, Coral Island Club and Club Med and, in 1964, produced an album Sing Out Loud, with Everest DaCosta and Eddy DeMello. They also opened for visiting acts such as country music singers Big Al Downing and Charlie Pride.
The band members drifted apart and the twins rejoined Mr Cuoco, performing as The Travellers after many of its members retired.
Apart from that, Mr Pereira and his brothers, Michael and Jimmy, were busy with Pereira Excavating and Landscaping until the business closed in 1991.
For a while, he drove a taxi until D & J Construction came calling. He is working with the company still, getting the airport ready for its planned opening next summer.
In recent times, The Travellers have had regular restaurant gigs, but business is a little sporadic at the moment.
“It is not like it used to be in the old days where everyone was playing all the time,” Mr Pereira said. “Whoever calls, we’re there.”
The band plays contemporary, rock and roll, reggae and country music. Although they used to be a five-piece band, they are now down to three.
“People just aren’t hiring five-piece bands any more,” Mr Pereira said.
“Tourists pay all this money to come here and then when they finish their dinner what’s next? There’s no entertainment. A hotel might have one guy playing the piano, and that’s it. I find it amazing. If I stay in a hotel, I want to hear a band.”
Mr Pereira and his wife, Pamela, have been married for 50 years and have two children, Lisa Almeida and Ricky, who they named after his idol, Ricky Nelson.
As for his performances, Mr Pereira has no plans to stop.
“I said to Michael the other day, it’s amazing that we’re still playing and that people want to hear us. I guess I’ll keep playing until they don’t want to hear me any more.”
• Lifestyle profiles the island’s senior citizens every Tuesday. Contact Jessie Moniz Hardy on 278-0150 or firstname.lastname@example.org with their full name, contact details and the reason you are suggesting them
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