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Blu Maxx back for concert

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

COVINGTON -- Newton County, get ready to take a trip back in time to when hard rock was big and the hairdos of the guys playing it were bigger. Blu Maxx is back.

The local rock band made a big splash in the Southeast in the '80s and '90s. But these days, the band plays just two to three gigs a year, and those are limited to fundraisers and events that "add value to the community," said Blu Maxx co-founder Jeff Hay.

The Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce's annual concert fundraiser, slated for Saturday, Aug. 28, qualified as such an event, and the band is happy to be playing for a hometown crowd. The concert will take place at The Church at Covington pavilion, located at 11975 Ga. Highway 142 in Oxford. Gates open at 6 p.m. and the concert begins at 7 p.m.

"It's an opportunity for everybody who used to come out and hear us to reunite. It's really like a high school class reunion for Rockdale and Newton counties," Hay said.

Hay and his fellow Blu Maxx members Jeff Autry, Tommy Forgay, Keith Cross and John Riley all hail from Covington and Conyers. The band was formed in 1980 by Hay and Autry, with its members ranging in age from 13 to 19. Its covers of Top 40 hits and electrifying live performances took them from performing in Covington and Conyers to Atlanta and eventually to touring in several states.

"Timing is everything. We happened to hit at a time that teenagers were looking for somewhere to go and something to do," Hay said. "Riding through the plaza in your car is one thing, but it wasn't an opportunity for everybody to get out and make friendships and hangout. We became a hang out spot for Rockdale and Newton County.

"Fortunately for us, there weren't many other bands when we started playing," he continued. "Fortunately, people gravitated toward what we were doing. Once we were heard at one place, we were booked almost every weekend within a six-month period. It wasn't just about the music. We were focused on the show being top quality and professional. We played music people wanted to hear at that time."

The band's heyday was in the late '80s and early '90s. The member lineup went unchanged until 1992. After that, the band continued, with some member changes, until 2000 and then parted ways. But five years ago, the guys reunited to play at a community Fourth of July celebration and picked up right where they left off, albeit a little older and with flatter hair.

"We look like aging rockers. If you look at all the older rockers, like Bon Jovi, their hair is shorter these days. But once you strap that instrument on it's like stepping back 20 years," Hay said.

The guys quickly started getting requests to step back on the stage for other local events, and they've been helping raise money for community organizations and entertaining local crowds ever since.

Hay said the Aug. 28 show will feature classics, as well as original material few people have heard.

Though Blu Maxx relies on its loyal fan base, Hay said those unfamiliar with the band should enjoy the show too.

"If you like really quality music performed just as you heard it originally by a group of lighthearted guys, then it would definitely be the event for you," he said.

Chamber Programs Director Lisa Oglesby said Blu Maxx was a natural choice to perform at this year's event.

"The Chamber has been on a campaign to buy local, shop local, be local. We thought we would follow suit with that, instead of going out and getting a band to come in," she said. "We thought the better thing would be to put our money where our mouth is."

Hay said the group plans to stay together as long as a demand is there. He thanked the community for its ongoing support.

"Their participation in the event allows us to keep doing this. As long as they're willing to keep coming out and hearing us, we're willing to keep playing," he said.

Tickets to the show are $15 each or two tickets for $25, if purchased prior to 5 p.m. Aug. 27. Tickets at the gate are $20 each. To purchase tickets, call the Chamber at 770-786-7510 or visit www.newton

chamber.com, click on "Chamber Calendar" and then on the concert. The event will be "Chastain-style" said Oglesby, and attendees are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and blankets, food and beverages.

Updates on future Blu Maxx shows can be found on Facebook.