Foxes and Fossils First Appearance
ATLANTA LIVING & ARTS

 

Father and daughter lead Smyrna cover band to YouTube success

Foxes and Fossils, a homegrown cover band from Smyrna has never released a commercial record. They’ve never gone on tour. Their promotion has occurred — almost accidentally — by word of mouth.

They began 10 years ago with a performance in a pizza parlor and haven’t progressed much from there. A subset of the band — the Fossils — played in a Hapeville parking lot in July, but the full band hasn’t performed in three years.

Then, last year, something strange started happening online. Videos of live Foxes and Fossils shows gathered steam on YouTube, led by their video of the Crosby, Stills & Nash 1969 chestnut, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.

That tune was recorded in 2010 at their first gig, at Bella’s Pizza in Smyrna, when Sammie Purcell was 15 years old, and her friend Maggie Adams was 16. In the video, the two clutch their microphone stands and seem deeply serious, while their colleagues, the Fossils, including Sammie’s father Tim Purcell, are more relaxed.

sammie purcell, foxes and fossils

It makes sense that the older members of the band were at ease. By that point, all the Fossils had been working in the vineyards of the music business for 30 years or so, and all had resigned themselves to anonymity.

“I’ve struggled as a musician for 40 years, schlepping equipment in and out of hotels and seedy dives,” said Tim, “and then in my so-called retirement, this happens.”

What happened is Tim’s band became YouTube famous. “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” notched a million views by December of 2018 and will probably tip 3 million views by the end of the month, according to the band’s unofficial statistician, John Hazeldene.

In the meantime, the group has regularly released videos of songs recorded during performances at The Twisted Taco (now a hibachi restaurant), at another pizza restaurant, and at outdoor festivals. They cover songs from the vocal harmony aisle of the classic rock superstore, by such bands as the Beach Boys, the Mamas, and the Papas, the Eagles, Jackson Browne, Linda Ronstadt, and Todd Rundgren.

tim purcell

Among their videos with a half-million views or more are “Seven Bridges Road” (made popular by the Eagles), “Helplessly Hoping” (Crosby, Stills & Nash), “Amie” (Pure Prairie League), and “Landslide” (Fleetwood Mac).

But reflecting the influence of the Foxes, there are also some more contemporary tunes in the repertoire, such as Colbie Caillat’s 2009 hit “Fallin’ for You,” Tori Kelly’s “Nobody Love” (from 2015), and “Good Kisser” from 2018 by Lake Street Dive.

Sammie says the emphasis on classic rock is fine with her. “What I listen to is newer, but it all came from somewhere,” she says. “Good music is good music, no matter where it’s from.”

Altogether the band’s YouTube channel has more than 90,000 subscribers and 39 million views of their 65-plus videos.

They have become perhaps Smyrna’s most famous cover band, while hardly stepping outside the metro area. Proceeds from their share of YouTube ad revenue, plus their own sales of T-shirts and CDs and the virtual “tip jar,” have brought in as much as $45,000 every three months.

Their fans leave thousands of comments on their pages and are hopelessly devoted. “This is like finding a Rembrandt at a yard sale,” wrote follower Jennifer Small, in comments under “Can’t Let Go,” a Linda Ronstadt B-side. The video was shot in 2013 at an outdoor patio for The Twisted Taco; behind the performers, we see a parking lot with random folks walking and driving.

“There’s something so poignant about the background of people parking their cars and going shopping while this profoundly talented, super-special band performs right in their midst,” wrote Small.

Brian Okamoto, a fan from San Jose, California, said, “You look at that relationship that Tim’s got with his daughter and his high school friends, and you think, ‘isn’t that cool? Wouldn’t it be great to have a dad like that?”

Other fans include Graham Nash, who emailed Tim to praise the F&F version of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” Todd Rundgren linked to their cover of “We Gotta Get You a Woman” on social media.

Tim Purcell, 64, traces the beginnings of F&F to a miserable New Year’s Eve 10 years ago when his band, the Mustangs, couldn’t find a gig.

foxes and fossils band

The band was the latest and most successful of many groups Purcell had been in since he attended Hapeville High School. The band played Tim’s original songs, and eventually included Scott King (bass), Toby Ruckert (guitar), and John Pike (drums).

While hunting the elusive record deal, the Mustangs began playing in clubs (covering the hits of the day), then corporate events, then weddings, until the corporate events dried up. Eventually, Tim let the name go and gave up the website.

“Everyone in the band can point to a time and convince you — and themselves — that they were on the verge of making it,” said Tim, “and they were. It just never happened.”

Discouraged, he sat down one day with Sammie, the youngest of his three children with wife, corporate attorney Terri, and worked out harmony to the Paul Simon tune “America.” Later Tim and Sammie recruited Maggie, a fellow chorister from church, and Tim says he almost cried when he heard their blended sound.

With former Mustangs Pike and King and fellow Hapeville High graduate Darwin Conort, the band was launched. King came up with the name, Foxes and Fossils, seconds before the first tune at the first gig. “He whispered it from the back of the stage, and I announced it,” said Tim.

Much of the slow-rising success of the band is due to Tim’s skill at remote recording and to friend Terry Heinlein’s willingness to shoot multi-camera videos at F&F gigs. Credit should also go to the band’s flexibility. Early on Toby Ruckert replaced Conort on guitar, but recently Conort came back to the band after Ruckert experienced health problems.

tim and sammie

In 2012, Maggie departed for college in Nashville, and by 2014 had too many commitments to return to Atlanta for gigs. Amy Wallace, a former Mustang, asked one of her students, Chase Truron if she would consider joining. “We need a new Fox, or the band is going to die,” she told Chase.

Chase, 15 at the time, and the child of cruise ship performers were in. “I was ecstatic,” she says.

Now both Sammie (Vanderbilt/Boston University) and Chase (University of Iowa) have followed Maggie to college, and gigs are on hiatus due to COVID-19. Foxes and Fossils must do their performing in the studio on holidays. But Tim has videos in the can from previous summers, enough to continue releasing a video every month, at least for a while.

Meanwhile, their views continue to stack up. “Even if we did nothing, it would take 15 years to go away,” says Tim. “It’s shocking.”

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30 Comments

  1. David Dahlgren

    I love watching and listening to the Foxes and Fossils. I like the down to earth delivery of the music. The Foxes have some pretty awesome vocals, plus they are all real easy to look at. Please keep going. I really love ‘Dedicated to the one I love’ by the Mamas and Papa’s. With Chase doing her part on that 5 part harmony, it sounded great. You should do the State Fair circuit? I don’t but I have a feeling you would do in my neck of the desert here in AZ. How come Georgia has so many great musicians? Must be something in the water? Please continue.

    Reply
  2. Ron Edgington

    A great story, even though I already knew a lot of it from reading and listening for the past couple of years. I am 82 now and how young these tunes, and their performers make me feel, I would never had imagined what pleasure I I get from F & F, and all the other music that fills the YouTube “airwaves”.
    I sang too, as a boy, my claim to stardom was being recorded on 78 rpm disc, 11 May 1952, my 14th birthday. I was Head choirboy and sang a Solo Anthem to a packed Church congregation, and I still have the original , 12 inch aluminium disc with shellac coating.
    Keep singing you guys and gals, I promise to keep on listening, and keep safe. LOL Ron

    Reply
  3. Ryman Jones Sr

    As a former Georgian from Buford/Hall County, now living in Richmond, VA, I was turned on to F&F by a relative living in Holland, Michigan. I quickly became a big fan and watch for all new mentions on Tim and the gang. Hope all will be around for many years and someday see your name in lights. Your history and growth should be an example to other young musicians struggling to break into the music business. May God continue to bless all of you!

    Reply
  4. Junior Johnson

    I just found you on YouTube 3 days ago. I haven’t watched anything else since then. This group is mesmerizing. The most beautiful harmony I have ever heard, along with the voices of all the foxes. Waiting anxiously for the new release tonight, but don’t think y’all can top Harvest Moon. I listen to it over and over. I pray you guys can make it big or should I say bigger. To much talent there for it not to happen. Keep them coming. A fan forever!!!!!

    Reply
  5. Bill Bussiere

    Please consider, A whiter Shade Of Pale. I can’t imagine what Foxes & Fossils could do with that song!

    Reply
  6. Charlie

    Enjoyed the article and always enjoy the performances. Thank you for the talent.

    Reply
  7. tpaige

    Thanks for sharing this well-deserved write-up from the AJC. F&F epitomizes what I consider the concept of “ensemble” – as you noted – the whole being greater than the sum of it’s parts. Nothing is accidental – your individual vocal and instrumental talents, the collaborative musicianship and studio craft, as noted by so many commenters, are superlative. As a new follower, your music has helped lift me above the steady background level of anxiety and fear so many of us feel this year. We are at an inflection point in history where people crave some reassurance and respite from the troubling and divisive times we live in. Your performances remind me that there is hope, and that we Americans share more in common that what divides us if we’d only stop and listen to each other as individuals. What comes across through your videos is a sense of mutual respect across generations. I’ve been thinking about a song that would align really well with F&F’s instrumental/vocal chemistry that fits the moment, and suddenly it came to me: the Youngbloods’ “Get Together”. Their rendition was beautiful, I can only imagine the potential of an F&F arrangement that would not only honor the original but elevate it.

    Here’s the other thing that truly impresses me (as a former marketer/entrepreneur): You are demonstrating the viability of a (seemingly) new hybrid business model for music video performance, production and distribution. The performance AND production work, starting with the old live shows, the amazingly tight instrumental/percussion backing to the sparkling vocals and harmonies, the professional quality multi-track audio mixing, synced with the video shots, and now progressing to your new split-screen video remote/distributed studio recording process doesn’t just raise the bar, it’s a whole different bar, a new synthesis of multimedia performance.

    As the song says “we are but a moments’ sunlight” – and seemingly all who find your work feel that light. Congratulations on what you’ve achieved as a true ensemble – technically, and creatively – virtual on-demand “musical therapy delivery”.
    With sincere appreciation.

    Reply
  8. Bo Maxey

    Extremely talented group
    Suite Judy Blue Eyes better than CSN version and theirs is awesome
    Sammie and Maggie harmony’s are so spot on .
    Love the F & F really talented !

    Reply
  9. Michael

    I discovered them by accident. They were doing Don’t Worry Baby maybe my favorite song of all time. It was amazing other videos followed. Maggie is amazing. Tim a wizard on the studio. Hope they do a live concert and stream it. Worth 20!

    Reply
  10. John N MITCHELL

    Lover to listen to the F&F. Inspiring to my own emerging interest in playing music. Do you sell your arrangements? I would love to get your version of Harvest Moon.

    Reply
  11. Anders Ljunggren

    Stuck in Cambodia 1 year longer than planned, due to covid, I have found Great pleasure in F+F and their covers. I have spread The Word back to my friends in Sweden so I guess you have fans there as well.

    Reply
  12. Jody Radel

    You guys are awesome! Foxes Maggie, Sammie. Chase, you are so sweet and talented I’m 68 years old love all kinds of music and I told my wife I love those girls keep up the great work. Tim you deserve credit for hanging in there all years I wish you to a of success!!

    Reply
  13. Dan Baker

    If you can keep everybody together and Iam sure you will. Your going to end up on T.V then look out. Its just to good and the timing could not be better. You need more songs theres a lot of hungry people out there that want this kind of music. Iam 68 and right in the middle of this stuff when it was new. Tear it up its your time!

    Reply
  14. mike fogbank

    For the Tom Bean let me just say I have no idea what they are talking about when they “classic rock.”
    Whatever that is, it isn’t Todd Rundgren or Crosby, Still and Nash. Or Bob Dylan or Neil Young.

    Reply
  15. Laenette Belden

    I feel so incredibly lucky to have accidentally happened upon you while viewing Youtube a few months ago. I am so happy that you did not break apart when you Foxes went off to college and other life pursuits. This a miracle happening, and what continues to unfold is magical. I do believe in miracles, and magic…and possibilities. Foxes and Fossils…you have made these beliefs solid for me. Thank you for bringing excellent moments into our lives. We so need that right now.

    Reply
  16. Karen Elfers

    Thank you for being a source of hope and fun.

    Reply
  17. Geoffrey Harrison

    You guys gotta do John Denver’s “Leavin’ on a Jet Plane” (covered by PP&M). Made for you. Please!

    Reply
  18. Dennisd

    Just heard an interview with Sammi where she stated the majority of their fans are older patrons, probably true. In our house, not so much. I am a single father who has/is raising 3 girls. I listen to F & F regularly for the past year. I started to play them in the car (to the objection of my 16 and 17 year old kids). Then something happened….I’d catch them singing along to F & F! Before too long they acknowledged their love of their music…..they even converted a few of their friends. Tell Sammi….exposure is all it takes to gain the young crowd!

    Reply
  19. Emmett Grogan

    England calling. Love the songs, the singing and the playing. Every piece of your work* is a reminder that merely being keen is not enough to succeed in anything. You also have to have ability. I hack away on instruments and record at home and you’re a reminder of the chasm separating dabblers like me from the real deal. But we live in a world where people refuse to accept this fact. Their logic is, “I can open my mouth/sweat an instrument and make a noise that sounds like .” Their problem is that they don’t realise, are too dumb to realise, that they don’t sound like whoever it is they think they’re imitating. This terrible lack of self-awareness endures because they are surrounded by loyal family or friends who will naturally say, “Well done darling, you’re so talented,”. Later, they inflict their unwarranted confidence on a real and unforgiving audience, that tells them they sound like a coyote caught in a trap. Then they form the view the audience lacks taste, and remain oblivious to the inconvenient fact that that they themselves lack talent. So the circle turns. Keep up the brilliant work F & F – you are a joy to listen to. Keep on reminding the misguided and/or oblivious just how high the bar is, so that hopefully they may in due course divert their energy to something more productive and rewarding for them. You certainly keep me grounded! *PS: Yellow Brick Road is a no-no. Every piece of your work delights me, except that one.

    Reply
  20. John O’Quinn

    Greetings, from a “new and forever” fan! Like so many others, I found you by accident, and got blown away! Maggie and Sammie singing “I Can’t Let Go” did it for me. I’m hooked! Going through your videos, is like a kid in a candy store trying to pick a favorite treat. I love em all! God bless you all! And thanks again for the wonderful music!

    Reply
  21. Gordon M Sisk III

    There are just too many of your songs that I love that are not available for me to purchase. If you have a video on youtube you need that so I can buy it. Love your stuff.

    Reply
  22. Jim Wilson

    I stumbled onto my first F&F video on YT yesterday by complete accident, and except for about 6 hours of sleep, I’ve been watching/listening/re-listening nonstop to every F&F video for 24 hours. I’m an old guy, and I don’t write reviews, so I’m not exactly the demographic most musicians would be trying to reach. But I’m going to buy all their music, put it on my iPhone and never listen to anything else. If someone out there is reading these comments and has influence with Tim, please urge F&F to do more studio work so that we can download it and hear every nuance.
    Jim Wilson

    Reply
  23. Anders Jansson

    Hi ! My name is Anders and I’m from Sweden.
    Since I firsI heard your music, I really enjoy your music ,style and the way you are arrange your music and songs. In Simon & Garfunkle “Amerca” some of the tunes sound very similar Paul Simon
    when you sings, Tim. Also Maggies performans, which were one of the first songs I heard with you guys. The first one was, Early morning rain. Everytime almost, I visiting your channel when I’m doing some work at home.

    Reply
  24. Michael O'Leary

    I can only imagine a couple of songs that Foxes and Fossils could really perfect. One would be from the CD Joe Dirt Car by the Bodeans. There are others on that album also. Please take time to take a listen. You will be immediately inspired by what Maggie, Sammie, Chase, and Tim can do with their voices as well as instrumentation on a select few of their songs. The band never made it REAL BIG in terms of chart toppers but their songs will fit perfectly with all your talents, both vocal and instrumental. It is well worth the listen. Thank you for sharing your talents with the listening public.

    Reply
  25. Michael O'Leary

    I am Mike from Minnesota. Two songs I would like you to consider covering. Both are by the group the Bodeans. An upper midwest band with a cult like following in the 90’s. One song is “Good Things”, and the other is “If I could hold you tonight” both from the Joe Dirt Car album. Both songs will challenge your talents, but I am certain you will perfect.

    Reply
  26. Patrick

    Hey, when are you going to do “Feel a Whole Lot Better”, the Byrds tune? I’d love to hear that from your band.

    Reply
  27. steve dakota

    Have you ewer considered spending part of the summer in Branson, Missouri performing? You guys would be a hit as you are great wholesome entertainment for all ages. .

    Reply
  28. Joanne Gerber

    One of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard is James Taylor’s “You Can Close Your Eyes.” As a diehard fan of JT and Foxes and Fossils, I would love to hear you cover it.

    Reply
  29. Mark Blackford

    I absolutely love your music! I would really love to hear you guys do a version of the Hammond Song by the Roaches.

    Thanks,

    Reply

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