By Judy Wakefield
Band breakups are common. Sometimes the split is temporary and followed by a comeback tour. Sometimes the breakup is forever.
Peking and the Mystic, which kicked off Andover's outdoor summer music series at the bandstand in the Park on Wednesday, July 11, has been together for a whopping 39 years.
Over the years, this five-man a capella singing group - with Andover residents Gene Blake and Tim Vaill at the center - has performed throughout the United States and Canada, China, Japan and Brazil. They have been on PBS' National Public Radio and local television stations.
Today, Thursday, July 12, around 4 p.m., Blake, Vaill and the boys will perform at a Fenway Park concession stand. Fenway Park is one venue in Boston where they haven't performed since the band started in 1973.
"We're all friends. We've watched all of our kids grow up and we've been there for each other," Blake said. "I know it's been a long time. We just really enjoy what we do."
While band members Blake and Tim Vaill are from Andover, Andrew Cranin is from Acton, Chris Parker is from Lynnfield and Dave Pratt is from Wellesley.
Each of the band's members sang with the Tufts Beelzebubs, a leading collegiate a cappella group.
Andover's show was the band's summer tour kickoff show and Blake said there's no better place to start a tour.
"Andover is a music community," Blake said. "Andover really likes songs from the swing era and Motown. We're upbeat and inspirational and Andover likes that."
As a result, songs by Bobby Darrin, the Mills Brothers and Tommy Dorsey are always on the Andover playlist. So are popular Motown hits such as the Temptations' "Get Ready," Smokey Robinson's "Tracks of My Tears" and Tom Jones' "It's Not Unusual."
Peking and the Mystic already has three CDs ($10 each) featuring hits from the '50s to today, such as Michael Buble's "Just Haven't Met You Yet," Blake said. The band is now working on their fourth CD.
If you missed them in Andover, Blake, Vaill and company can be seen performing at Woodman's Restaurant in Essex on Sunday, July 15 from 5 to 7 p.m. and at the Wilmington Commons on Wednesday, July 25 at 6 p.m.