Grisamore: The beat goes on for ‘Unhooked’

February 20, 2014 

Machelle Palma and Paul Palma of Unhooked.

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Once upon a time -- about 25 years ago if you’re keeping score -- there was a house band at Whiskey River nightclub.

At first, nobody knew what to call them. They didn’t even know what to call themselves.

“The band with no name,” said bass player Paul McIntyre, laughing.

Well, that wouldn’t do. That’s when local deejay Rick Knight rode to the rescue. Whiskey River’s slogan was “Party With the Big Fish,” so Knight dubbed the group Hook, Line & Sinker.

Officially ordained, the band that once had no name began making a name for itself. They rocked along and built a large and loyal following.

After a decade as one of Macon’s more noteworthy groups, the members started going their separate ways. Breakups happen all the time in the music business. This was no different.

For Hook, Line & Sinker, it was time to cut bait.

“That band was special to a lot of people,” keyboard player Tony Cooper said. “It becomes like your family. When you part ways, it doesn’t mean you stop loving ‘em. We still remained friends.”

Tony has been playing in bands for more than 40 years. He joined his first as a 15-year-old growing up in Warner Robins. It was called Blood Friday. It got its name from a banner the Red Cross would hang across Watson Boulevard near the Houston Mall that read: “Give Blood Friday.”

He has had stints with Larry G. Hudson and Toy Caldwell, of The Marshall Tucker Band. He has opened for everyone from George Jones to Ernest Tubb to David Allan Coe.

About this time a year ago, Hook, Line & Sinker was resurrected for a two-night reunion at Whiskey River.

“It was like we had never been apart,” said Tony. “The songs came right back to us, like riding a bicycle. You never forget. If you fall, you just get back on.”

The crowds came out, and old flames were fanned. Guitarist Phil Palma and his wife, lead singer Machelle Palma, approached Paul, Tony and drummer Ross Lindsey about the possibility of permanently plugging into a reincarnation of Hook, Line & Sinker.

They not only got a “yes,” they got a resounding “Heck, yes!”

“Everybody was out there doing their own thing, so we thought there would be no way,” said Phil. “But everybody was on board.”

The riffs started coming together late last year. Ernie Shepherd, the owner of Whiskey River, brought them back in early January as the official house band three nights a week.

They fortified their versatile playlist with everything from the classic rock of Journey and Fleetwood Mac to the rising new country sounds of Little Big Town and The Band Perry.

The band that began with no name, and then became a household name, soon started shopping for a new name.

Ross, whose father R.J. Lindsey owned Nashville South, invited everyone to his house to brainstorm. The first suggestion, Loaded, received a thumbs down. Off the Hook got a warmer reception, but the band members eventually settled on Unhooked.

“It was a take-off on the old name, a clever way to be Hook, Line & Sinker without being Hook, Line & Sinker,” said Tony.

Unhooked plays at Whiskey River on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays, starting the first of three sets each night at 10 p.m. They have their own Facebook page, and a CD is in the works.

The Comeback Kids aren’t exactly kids any more. They are seasoned veterans who have added new life and energy to the iconic south Macon nightclub, where they claim “The River is Rising.”

“Except for Machelle, we’re a bunch of old guys with jobs, mortgages, children and grandchildren,” Tony said. “It’s all about the music now. And some of the best music in Macon is being played on that stage.”

Reach Gris at 744-4275.

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