Tommy Hancock started his musical career singing Elvis songs at a California bar owned by Conway Twitty’s lead guitar player. He later was a member of a band comprised of Germans who toured Europe and played American country music.
Some 40 years later, at an age when most people are listening to music rather than playing it, the Lake Tansi resident has started a band with a group of guys in their 60s and jamming like it’s 1979.
Hancock is cofounder of Hollerback, a quartet that plays country, rock and blues monthly in Crossville and surrounding areas. Although he’s written original songs, Hancock, who sings lead vocals and plays guitar and harmonica, said they’ve only done cover songs thus far.
“I enjoy Hollerback!” said Hancock, a Chattanooga native who has lived in Crossville for 16 years and performed as an actor-musician-singer at the Cumberland County Playhouse for seven seasons. “I enjoy the camaraderie.”
Hancock’s knack for sounding like Elvis landed him the gig at the Blue Bayou bar in Los Angeles. He later moved to Germany, where his brother was stationed in the military, and after working as a teacher for a number of years continued his fledgling musical career by playing guitar and singing country songs with his German bandmates throughout Europe. Back in the States, Hancock stayed connected to the music scene by winning an Elvis contest in Buffalo, singing Travis Tritt songs while capitalizing on his resemblance to the country singer, and playing in a number of bands, the latest being Hollerback!
Lake Tansi is well represented in the group, as two of Hancock’s neighbors are members.
Bob Holder plays drums. He stopped by Hancock’s home, located down the street from his place, after spotting Hancock and another man with their guitars and mentioned he plays drums. The next day, Hancock brought over the band’s set of songs. The former Army drummer had a new gig.
“I get to play with guys my age,” said the longtime Illinois resident who moved to Lake Tansi three years ago. “I enjoy playing once a month.”
Holder started playing drums when he was 12 after a teacher complained about his banging on his desk. Possessing a natural talent for drums, he took lessons and played in the school band before joining the Army. Starting out in a signal battalion, he transferred to the band and finished out his enlistment.
“It was light duty,” he said. “It was somewhat boring, but it was OK.”
Holder played in a praise band in Illinois for eight years after leaving the service, using the gift God gave him. Subsequently, busy with family and church, he didn’t play drums for some 15 years. Wanting to renew his longtime passion, Holder bought a kit six years ago but hardly touched them for four years. That suddenly changed after talking with Hancock and then “going to the woodshed” to hone his dormant skills and rekindle his love for playing drums.
Mike Krizan plays lead guitar in the group. A native of New Jersey, he moved to Crossville in early 2020. It wasn’t long before he started performing at the Lake Tansi Restaurant & Bar with Jukebox Dan Pastore, and at one of the gigs Hancock joined in. Out of that collaboration they decided to form a band and name it Hollerback!
The idea for the name came while Hancock and Pastore were riding around. Pastore suggested Holla Back, from the Gwen Stefani song, “Holla Back Girl.”
Hancock said he was onto something, but suggested “Hollerback” followed by an exclamation mark.
“We say it all the time around here,” Hancock said. “We’ll say ‘I’ll holler back at you.’”
The blues guitarist from New Jersey had to expand his musical repertoire to include rock and country but quickly hit the right notes on the page and with his bandmates.
“I like the guys,” said Krizan, 61. “We have good chemistry and sound good. We don’t want to be famous. We just want to fun and make a few bucks.”
Krizan comes from a musical family and is self-taught on the guitar, an instrument his father played. He started performing in bars in New Jersey when he was 17 or 18 and developed a style that borrowed elements from Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Chuck Berry.
Krizan took a break from playing music for a number of years to focus on family and his job at the gas company but returned to the stage in 1992 and performed with two blues bands, doing some original songs and recording a CD with one of the groups. Krizan has performed for some 45 years and isn’t ready to take his last licks on stage.
“I love playing guitar,” he said. “You can be a old guy and sing country and blues.”
Roland Rock sounds like a beer, yet he’s actually the bass player for Hollerback!
A native of New York, Rock moved to Crossville two years ago. Initially filling in at several shows for Hollerback! Rock, 65, joined full time after the group’s original bassist left, and was impressed with the energy level and talent.
“Tom’s a very talented singer,” Rock said. “These guys like to rock it out. It’s a lot of fun.”
Rock started playing the guitar when he was 12. He discovered bass while stationed in the Air Force in Japan. While guitarists were plentiful among the 14,000 Air Force personnel, there weren’t any bass players. With his experience playing guitar, Rock quickly learned the instrument was suddenly in great demand among various bands on base.
Rock returned to the States and played in bar bands before taking a 20-year break. He returned to the music scene in the Finger Lakes area and performed original songs and covers at wineries, breweries and distilleries.
Now he’s performing at watering holes in and around Crossville.
“I don’t think the desire to be a rock star ever stops,” Rock said. “It’s a hobby I can’t put down. I didn’t want to sit around all day.”
There’s also the lure of an instrument that has a distinctive sound that stands out from the song and often draws cheers from the crowd.
“It has a lot of power,” Rock said. “I’m laying down the rhythm with the drummer for the song. The bass lays down power and thunder.”
Demi Pilot and her husband, Dave, are fans of Hollerback!
“They play a fabulous blend of music and we dance all night,” said the Fairfield Glade resident. “It is that good and fun. They have a real good positive energy about them and engage the crowd.”
Rick and Shyla Chapman of Lake Tansi also sing the praises of the band.
“We love going to see Hollerback!” Shyla said. “They are a fun band that knows how to play to the audience. We enjoy both listening to and dancing to the country and rock tunes they play. They’re very talented and fun band to go see.”
For further information on the band, go to Tommy Hancock’s Facebook page.