COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — This Friday, Broadway will be filled with the sound of horns. In the fourth week of Uptown Columbus’ fall Friday Night Concert Series, the River City Horns will bring ‘60s and ‘70s hits, plus contemporary tunes, to the street. Like all of the concerts in Uptown Columbus’ series, the event is free to the public and family-friendly.
Sam Ruffner is the leader of the River City Horns, however his bandmates and he prefer to use the more affectionate term “Band Daddy.” According to Ruffner, nearly half of the 12-piece ensemble has played together off-and-on for more than 50 years since high school. At that time, they were the Soul Proprietors.
“Our high school was having a reunion and I got the guys together to play,” said Ruffner, who sings and plays guitar for the River City Horns. He continued, “I said, ‘Well, goodness gracious, all our kids are mostly gone, our jobs are solid, why don’t we keep playing?’”
And so, the band continued on. They added new musicians, becoming the River City Horns. Today, the group has been together for nearly 10 years.
While many bands use electronic components to replicate horns and instrumentation scales on tracks, Ruffner said the River City Horns are different. The advantage of having a six-piece horns section is they can play these types of songs live.
Ruffner said, “It takes a band like we’ve got to do that.” The River City Horns have a diverse setlist which ranges from rock to country to R&B and more. Ruffner explained the band loves to cover songs with strong brass sections, such as the 1970 hit by Chicago, “25 or 6 to 4.”
Other band favorites include songs like “Mustang Sally” (1965) by Wilson Pickett, “Beginnings” (1969) by Chicago and hits the by jazz-rock band Blood, Sweat & Tears, which rose to fame in the late 1960s and ‘70s. By Ruffner’s estimate, the band currently has a repertoire of about 40 songs.
Despite shifting music tastes with younger generations, Ruffner explained the songs his band covers continue to be enjoyed by people of all ages. The River City Horns’ leader remembered playing for a friend’s daughter’s wedding. The guests were mostly in their late teens and early twenties.
“The wedding planner came up to me during the gig and looked at me [pointing at their watch] and said, ‘It’s time for her [the bride] to leave,’” said Ruffner.
He recalled looking toward the dancefloor and seeing the bride, dress held up, still dancing the night away with family and friends. The band decided to keep playing until everyone was ready for the party to end.
Ruffner said, “The point I’m trying to make is, our music is pretty universal to most people now.”
With these types of songs, he explained, it’s easy to evoke a sense of nostalgia across generations. The songs get passed from listeners to their children and so on. The band is proud to help this process by playing their favorite songs for audiences, according to its leader.
“We just love to play music,” Ruffner said, emphasizing there is nothing quite like watching a live music performance. “We play the real McCoy.”
On Friday, families can expect a fun performance filled with good music, Ruffner said. The band has even added a new song to their performance set, “Margaritaville” in honor of the late Jimmy Buffett who passed away on Sept. 1. The River City Horns will begin their concert at 7 p.m. on the 1100 block of Broadway.