Bradenton's most famous drummer will turn 75 later this month. On his birthday, he'll be on tour with his 50-year-old band.
"We're calling the show 'Fly Me High,'" Graeme Edge said. "This year it's our anniversary. It's 50 years since we first rehearsed."
The band, of course, is the Moody Blues. They've actually been around longer than 50 years -- they started as an R&B band that produced such hits as "Go Now" -- but it was in 1966 that Justin Hayward and John Lodge joined the band, sending the Moody Blues in a new direction. Dreamy hits with lush synthesizer backgrounds, including "Nights in White Satin," "Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?)" and "The Question" helped make the Moody Blues one of the most popular bands of the late 1960s and the '70s.
During its peak, the Moody Blues were a five-piece band, with drummer Edge, guitarist Hayward and bassist Lodge joined by keyboard player Mike Pinder and flautist Ray Thomas. On the current tour, the band is down to three core members, with some additional musicians joining them on stage.
Edge, who has lived in Bradenton since the late 1970s and is the only remaining original member of the band, said he still keeps in touch with Pinder and Thomas.
"They're having health problems," he said. "And that's all I'm going to say about that."
Their commercial heyday may be long past, but the Moody Blues and their music are still popular. Their upcoming show at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota is sold out. (Sometimes tickets become available shortly before the concert date, so there's still a chance fans can get tickets.)
If you can't get tickets for this tour, though, Edge hints that a tour next year might be even more special.
"It's the 50th anniversary of 'Days of Future Passed,'" he said. "We're planning on doing something really spectacular." "Days of Future passed," as any Moodies fan knows, is the 1967 album, recorded with an orchestra, that signaled the band's change of stylistic direction. It was the band's second album and its first concept album, and it included "Nights in White Satin" and "Forever Afternoon (Tuesday?)," along with spoken-word pieces written by Edge.
The shows on the current tour go back over all 50 years of the band's Hayward-Lodge era. They don't go back longer than that, to the days when Denny Laine (later of Wings) was a Moody Blue, and they don't include any songs by Pinder and Thomas.
"We don't do any of Ray's or Mike's songs," Edge said. "We don't do any songs that were sung by people who are no longer in the band. "It's just Justin, John and me."
Details: 7 p.m. March 6, Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, 777 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. Tickets: $39-99. Information: 941-953-3368, vanwezel.org.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.