It was a family band back then and it still is. Things have changed though.
Kimberly and her brothers, now known as the Band Perry, don’t have to worry about getting gigs these days. Sometimes they have more requests than they can fill. Another thing is that their performances aren’t free anymore. They’ve performed in Australia, Europe and across the United States. A second tour to Europe is on their agenda.
The Perry siblings have roots that go back for several generations in Piedmont. Both their great-great-grandfathers worked at Standard-Coosa-Thatcher, as did their great-grandfather, Oliver Minton. In fact, it was at SCT that Oliver met their great-grandmother, the former Arretha Simmons.
Oliver and Arretha married in 1934, built what is said to be the first all-brick home in Piedmont in 1936, and had their first child, Sue, in 1937.
Sue grew up and a year after graduating from Piedmont High School married a southern Baptist minister from Attalla, Bobby Perry. That was almost 57 years ago. Bobby preached in five southern states, which kept them and their three children moving fairly often. Bobby and Sue settled in Gulfport, Miss., in 1980, but they come to Piedmont fairly often where Sue still feels comfortable in the home in which she grew up.
That home, still standing and in excellent condition, is located on the east side of town. Arretha got the idea from a Better Homes and Gardens magazine.
“Mother saw the house plan and liked it,” said Sue “Dad approved, so that’s what they used.”
The Mintons had another child, a son, Paul, who lives in Boaz.
Bobby pastured churches from 1955-80 and continues to do interim preaching. Sue worked at several jobs, but said her favorite was as an artist developing educational material for teachers from K-12.
She left that job when her parents’ health began to fail. She moved them to Gulfport where she cared for them until their deaths.
Arretha played classical music on the piano and instilled a love for that in her daughter. Sue took piano lessons from Willie Webb who lived on Center Avenue for many years. Ms. Webb was also an English teacher.
“I’ve had to develop a love for country music, because I grew up studying classical piano,” said Sue.
The Perrys’ daughter, Cathy Bloomfield, a registered nurse, and her family live in VanCleave, Miss., about 40 minutes from her parents. Their younger son, Dayn, lives in Chicago, where he is an online sports writer. The three children of their older son, Steve, a pediatrician, and his wife, Marie, make up the Band Perry.
As the band was evolving, Steve began to research and learned who they needed to partner with and what the best route was to get them to where they wanted to be.
Now that the Band Perry has hit international popularity, the family doesn’t have many chances to all be together at the same time.
“Everybody was together and around my table this past Christmas,” said Sue. “Kimberly, Reid and Neil came. They had flight reservations but had to change them, so they brought the tour bus and parked it in front of our house because they couldn’t get it in the driveway. It sleeps 10 and is a big black thing. We created a lot of chaos. We had children sitting across the street with their cameras, but we did get to have them for a couple of days.”
Sue and Bobby say they’re amazed at their grandchildren’s success.
“Of course, we’re very proud of them,” said Sue. “It’s been a family adventure all the way through. But the whole family has worked so hard for this. Their mom, Marie, travels with them all the time. She couldn’t turn her babies loose to go all over the world with no telling who. Now, Steve is beginning to have a little more time to travel with them.”
It’s mostly males that Kimberly and Marie are around while they’re touring, so Sue was glad when another granddaughter, Ann Carter, Cathy’s daughter, joined the band to help with public relations and fan parties.
“It’s been a good thing for Kimberly,” said Sue. “The boys had their buddies because the band members are all guys. Of course, she had her mom, but now she has also has a buddy.”
Bobby said that because there’s so much involved and so many different personalities who are involved, he has “learned to dodge and stay out of the way.”
He quickly points out that that “If I Die Young”, which was written by Kimberly, has gone quadruple platinum.
“I think it’s exciting to see how hard work can pay off,” said Sue. “Back when I first knew they were targeting country music, I though that it was so unreachable. Now, when I hear some of the songs Kimberly wrote that they perform, I’m amazed. It’s given us our 15 minutes of fame, because we wouldn’t have had it otherwise.”
Sue said the band’s success has changed the lives of the entire family in a good way.
Band Perry has opened for Tim McGraw, Reba McIntyre, Keith Urban, Alan Jackson and Brad Paisley, among others. Friday night, they performed in Cullman at the Rock the South concert. Also on the bill were Sara Evans and American Idol winner Scotty McCreery. Saturday night, they performed in Columbus, Ga.
Sue and Bobby were in Cullman along with 93-year old Eva Simmons of Piedmont who is the great-great-aunt of Kimberly, Reid and Neal.
The trio spent a lot of summers in Piedmont, often practicing singing and playing musical instruments while here.
“When they were still living in Mobile, Marie brought Kimberly and the boys here,” said Sue. “They would practice and I remember Kimberly saying, ‘I think this is far enough from the neighbors that we won’t bother them.’”
All three Perrys remember Piedmont.
“We have so many fond memories of Piedmont,” said Kimberly. “One of our earliest writing retreats was spent in the Minton House. We were inspired by the small town spirit and the history of our family from Piedmont.”
Their interests went beyond singing and playing back in those days.
“Their favorite pastime would be planning a play,” said Sue. “Sometimes the plays would be musicals and sometimes they were dramas. Kimberly would do the planning and assign roles. That night they would present the play for us.”
Bobby admits that he’s a proud grandfather.
“Anywhere we go, people know us,” he said. “They’ll comment on the Band Perry.”
Kimberly, who is almost 30, does lead vocals and plays guitar and piano. Reid, 24, does vocals and plays bass Neil, 22, does vocals and plays mandolin, drums and accordion.
Sue enjoys the fact that they all three have individual personalities.
“As the oldest child, Kimberly is the natural leader of the group,” said Sue. “Reid is a deep thinker, and Neil adds his own brand of humor to every situation. I’m just really proud of the kids because I feel that they maintain their Christian testimony through all this, and there’s a lot of opportunity to do otherwise. They know where they came from and they’re still the same sweet kids that we’ve always known, so I appreciate that about them. It hasn’t changed them. They’ve got their heads on straight and have a good Christian background.”
Sue said in many of their shows they do their variation of “Amazing Grace.”
That makes for two proud grandparents from Gulfport, Miss.
Contact Margaret at email@example.com.