Ed Turner is quite a character — if you’ve never had the pleasure of talking to him, just know that he’s full of jokes. Unless you’re accustomed to his brand of humor, you might not know whether he’s joking about being his band’s “benevolent dictator” — it might not be a joke at all. Who knows, really?
Turner, who grew up in a musical family (his parents started the Augusta piano store Turner’s Keyboards in 1955), leads the band Ed Turner and Number 9. The band — which focuses on reliving classic hits of the 1960s and ’70s — recently was recognized as Metro’s Best Local Band in 2017. The band’s lineup is sort of a who’s-who among current Augusta musicians. While Turner has been on keys and vocals since the band’s inception in 2005, Zach Swenson has been on drums, percussion and vocals since 2009; Steve Swenson has been on percussion and “good vibes” since 2011; Steve Mitchell has been on lead guitar since 2010; Ryan Abel has been on lead vocals since 2013; Phillip Lee Jr. has been on rhythm guitar and vocals since 2013; Duane Wilson has been on bass since 2011; Michael Vincent Baideme has been on lead guitar since 2013; Bethany Davis has been on vocals since 2016; and Keith Petersen joined on with his guitar skills just last year.
The Metro Spirit recently spoke with Turner to find out more about the band.
Metro Spirit: Is it spelled “Ed Turner and Number 9” or “Ed Turner & Number 9”?
Ed Turner: Ed Turner and Number 9. I’ve always been wary of ampersands. Gerunds still give me the willies, too.
Metro Spirit: Have you been inside the renovated Miller Theater, and what do you think?
Ed Turner: Yes! (repeat nine times) I grew up watching movies at the Miller, and it’s just so rewarding that they got the renovation right! The acoustics are superb, too.
Metro Spirit: Why are you excited to play that venue? What does it mean to you?
Ed Turner: When I was 10, I saw The Beatles’ first movie “A Hard Day’s Night” there. Every boy who saw that flick wanted to be a Beatle, but since that wasn’t gonna happen, they wanted to be musicians. Girls screaming while you are playing? Yes, that did happen to me several times, but it was usually girls screaming for me to stop.
Metro Spirit: What can people expect from your shows with Symphony Orchestra Augusta?
Ed Turner: Two one-hour sets of classic rock that feature strings and horns as much as possible. We briefly considered a small juggling troupe, but that’s already been done.
Metro Spirit: How are they different from your shows without an orchestra?
Ed Turner: Number 9 rarely plays without horns anymore, and our August shows at the Imperial always have five horn players and five strings. Our March 2 and 3 shows at the Miller will have our 17-piece core band augmented by several members of Symphony Orchestra Augusta. The sound will be rich and full, as the acoustics at the Miller are just sensational.
Metro Spirit: How did your shows playing with the orchestra come about?
Ed Turner: Anne Catherine Murray and Don Edmunds from SOA first asked us to team up two years ago, and our collaboration at the Bell turned out extremely well. The band and I were very pleased that our show was so well-received that folks had issues finding tickets! That’s why we are playing two consecutive nights at the Miller, but those tix are selling like crazy, as well. You can still get good seats at soaugusta.org. Stop reading this NOW and get yours!
Metro Spirit: Who wrote the parts for the Symphony Orchestra Augusta?
Ed Turner: Dr. Rob Foster from Augusta University and Dr. Laura Tomlin usually write the horn and string parts. They have been in Number 9 for 11 of our 12 years, and they are both outrageously talented in arranging and performance.
Metro Spirit: How did the members of your band come together?
Ed Turner: I am the last member of the core band still on board. But we’ve had guest appearances from several of the original members since they left the band.
Metro Spirit: Was it always called Ed Turner and Number 9 — meaning, were there always 10 of you? If not, how was it in the beginning?
Ed Turner: We started out as a Beatles band. Our first show was our five-piece band playing the “Rubber Soul” album from start to finish. We eventually did every Beatles album during the next five years, including “Sgt. Pepper,” “The “White” Album,” and ending with “Abbey Road” in 2010.
Metro Spirit: How many shows a year do you and your band put on?
Ed Turner: Usually less than nine. Performing for me is a nice place to visit, but I don’t want to live there. Besides, every single musician in Number 9 are much better musicians than I am. Out of our vocalists, Ryan Abel possesses one of the finest voices you will hear anywhere!
Metro Spirit: Is Number 9 strictly a cover band, or do you write/play originals as well?
Ed Turner: Number 9 is a cover band that plays ’60s and ’70s songs other bands can’t … or won’t. Phillip Lee Jr., another fine singer/guitarist in Number 9, has released songs, as has Ryan Abel. Ditto for our Bethany Davis, who sings with a bucketful of soul every night.
Metro Spirit: What artists’ songs are your favorite to perform?
Ed Turner: It will always be the Beatles for me!
Metro Spirit: When you say you’re the band’s “benevolent dictator,” describe how you’re benevolent and how you’re a dictator.
Ed Turner: That’s simple. I majored in being a “Benevolent Dictator” during my days at the Electoral College. I was also big into curling. That broom work on the ice is just fascinating to me.
Metro Spirit: How did you get your start in music?
Ed Turner: My family was in the piano business … and still is! I started working at the original Turner’s Keyboards on Walton Way when I was 13! I retired six years ago to work/play with Number 9. But I did not really begin playing the piano until my late teens, and I wasn’t in a proper band until I was 53. Yes, I am an old hippie.
Metro Spirit: What else do you like to do besides play music?
Ed Turner: I’ve already mentioned curling, but I am a long-suffering Falcons and Braves fan. I also love to walk my dog Babe and second-guess my wife (who’s a Superior Court Judge) on some of her rulings, even though I am totally clueless in that area.
Metro Spirit: Have you always been an Augusta resident?
Ed Turner: 63 out of my 64 years!
Metro Spirit: What are the positives you see in Augusta as it is today? What is it like compared to when you were coming of age?
Ed Turner: There’s no comparison. Augusta is an internationally known hotspot for so many exciting things. As you know, our area is full of great musicians, too! But we do need more efficient leadership in so many areas.
Metro Spirit: Congratulations on being listed among Metro’s Best in September! Would you like to say anything in response to that?
Ed Turner: I would like to thank the Academy and the local populace for recognizing our hard work and dedication in helping us raise almost $1,000,000 for local child abuse agencies and various pet adoption facilities. As I’ve said for years, I love pets and most children. It’s grown-ups that I am most wary of these days.
Metro Spirit: Anything else you’d like to say about music, life, your upcoming shows … or anything else?
Ed Turner: If you have never seen Number 9 in concert, the March 2 and 3 shows at the Miller (you must see this place!) will be a fine start. We will be playing what some might call our “Greatest Hits,” which means we’ll trot out songs from Bob Seger, The Beatles, Chicago, The Guess Who, Greg Allman, and many more. There’s a good reason we’ve sold out 49 out of our last 52 shows! Besides, one always runs into friends at a Number 9 show.
Ed Turner and Number 9 will be performing with Symphony Orchestra Augusta at 7:30 p.m. March 2 and 3. Tickets range from $45 to $75. Visit millertheateraugusta.com or call 800-514-3849.