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Savannah Jack talks to CSO 
"The hardest working band... ever!"  

by Cheryl Harvey Hill, Sr. Staff Journalist

Savannah Jack is comprised (alphabetically) of Jay Darby, Don Gatlin, and Mike Ulvila. Let's get the two most obvious questions out of the way; no, they aren't from Savannah, although they would love to appear there, and, no, Don is not related to The Gatlin Brothers. However, I feel compelled to interject here that it is, no doubt, the incredible three part vocal harmony of this energetic trio, as much as the name, that begs that question to be asked. If you have had the good fortune to hear them, you already know they are most assuredly on par with the mega-talented Gatlin's and they are also well on their way to guaranteeing their own, unique, spot in the country music chronicles.

While searching for the "right label," they stay busy performing across the country and I was able to catch up with them during their week long gig at the Tropicana Casino in Las Vegas. Within minutes of sitting down with these charming, personable, fellows it becomes crystal clear that the somber, albeit sexy, press photos do not accurately represent their delightful sense of humor or playful approach to their career and their lives. All three of them are articulate and animated when they talk and just having a simple conversation with them makes it easy to see why this mega-talented trio is so effortlessly capable of garnering a standing ovation on stage.

When I ask about their career goals and how they want their fans and peers to see them, their immediate reply, in unison, is "as the hardest working band." "In the country" Mike quickly adds. "Or the world" interjects Jay. "Or ever!" suggests Don, smiling confidently. They all nod in agreement. "Yes, for sure," Don reiterates, "we would like to be known as the hardest working band," and just as they do on stage, they respond in perfect synchronization, as if on cue, to finish his sentence together with "ever!"

Interviewing them proved to be difficult only because we were having just too much fun and that made it hard for me to stay focused. It became clear, early on, that they like to laugh, especially at themselves, and they got me sidetracked several times with their humorous responses to my questions.

They are generous when it comes to crediting their family, friends, and fans with their successes and quick to concede how important networking has been for them. They are truly appreciative of the Internet and the power of "myspace.com." Their fans will be happy to hear that it really is Jay, Don and Mike who are reading and replying to the comments and messages posted there. They all agree that they love getting invitations from new fans inviting them to come to "their town," and they attribute the fans with being a valuable resource when it comes to finding out about new venues and festivals across the country.

When I ask them what they feel it is that sets them apart from any other new artists or groups today; not surprisingly, they all agree that it is their vocal harmonies that give them a unique sound. Although they say they were influenced by The Eagles, Restless Heart, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Alabama, they are quick to point out that they are not like many other groups who have a lead singer and two background singers. They emphasize that they are three lead singers and although their performances showcase their extraordinary harmony, each of them takes the lead at various times during each concert.

With the popularity of reality television, I asked them if they would consider doing a reality show. They all had a quick response to that question and each one answered a little differently but they all agreed that if they did a reality show, it would probably be classified a comedy. They said they would be interested in hosting a television show if the opportunity ever presented itself and, after spending only an hour or so with them, I think they would be terrific hosts. They are like the Smothers Brothers with an extra Tommy, or Rowan and Martin with two Martin's; they effortlessly play off of each other and are incredibly funny.

They did get serious when they spoke about their families. Each of them had something endearing to say about their spouse and/or children but the mood quickly strayed away from serious when I asked the next question, which was about cooking. With a weekly article in a major music publication that features country artists cooking their favorite meal, well, I thought it was a good question. I can't recall exactly what Don's response was, and we are all laughing so much on the tape at that juncture that I can't decipher his answer. I only know it was funny. Yep, "Laugh InĒ revisited. Really!

I asked if they had a favorite place where they had performed and their response was immediate. They all feel this has been a most awesome year for them; in fact, I believe the word "awesome" is echoed about ten times in their answers to this particular question. They have been to several, diverse, destinations this past year and they had something positive to say about each of them. Hawaii, Montana, West Virginia, opening for Vince Gill and Any Grant in Colorado, and opening for Kenny Rogers in Niagara Falls ranked high among their favorite places, most memorable gigs, and incredible audiences. Due to basic logistics and time restraints, most often, opening acts barely have a chance to even see the headliner, let alone actually interact with them. Gill, Grant and Rogers all made a concerted effort to meet their opening act and the guys were genuinely impressed, inspired, and grateful for the consideration and respect they were given by these veteran performers.

For my final question I asked which artist, of any genre, they would most like to open for or tour with. Mike immediately responded with Kenny Chesney. Don chose Billy Joel, Elton John, and Paul McCartney because they are the artists who have most influenced him. Mike agreed that touring with Paul McCartney would be a great gig and added that the reason Jay didnít say Paul is most likely because he isnít old enough to remember the Beatles. [insert more laughter here]

Don added that if his choices had been limited to country artists he would have definitely chosen Ronnie Milsap and Kenny Rogers. Mike again agreed with Don and said that he too was a huge fan of Ronnie Milsap. Jay would also like to tour with Kenny Rogers but says his dream gig would include opening for Kenny Chesney or Garth Brooks; in fact, he said that he would be content to just meet Garth Brooks. When he remarked that they share a birth date, Don's, instantaneous, dead-pan response to that was that he didn't think it would really be enough to get Garth to agree to tour with them and, once again, they all had a good laugh.

Their combined musical history is impressive and they have a long list of accomplishments between them. They are not only amazingly talented vocalists but they are all skilled musicians, songwriters, and music producers; if it is even remotely related to music, they have most likely perfected it. Suffice it to say that they have done their collective homework and each of them has paid their individual dues. They come to the stage prepared, experienced, and accredited, and when you factor in their handsome good looks and vibrant personalities, well, it isn't difficult to see why they have easily managed to assemble a network of fans from across the country and around the world.

When it comes to what artists they respect the most, well, I didn't even have to ask. Despite the jokes and the tongue in cheek responses to a lot of my questions, it is crystal clear to me that they have the utmost respect for each other. They each had successful careers of their own but when you hear their remarkable three part harmony, it is easy to understand why they were willing to shelve their personal goals and ambitions to come together to form "the hardest working band... ever," and I'm predicting they just might be one of the most successful bands ever.

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