In 2010, when Foxes and Fossils played their first gig, there were about 50 people in the audience.
Most of crowd was there for pizza.
A cohort of family members, church colleagues and friends helped swell the cheering section. And yet, said videographer Terry Heinlein, this group of supporters, filling up the seats at Bella’s pizza parlor in Smyrna, was probably the largest bunch of fans that ever came to a Foxes and Fossils show just to see the band.
Heinlein added that at all the other Foxes and Fossils gigs, at Twisted Taco and the Crafty Hog and Keswik Park, there were people there to see the band, but plenty of other people were there just for the barbecue.
Vocalist Maggie Adams, one of the “Foxes,” was 16 years old at the time of the Bella’s gig. She agreed: “We were mostly background music for pizza and tacos.”
The “Foxes” were the young female members of the band, including Adams, Sammie Purcell, and Chase Truron. They all grew up and went to college.
The “Fossils,” including Sammie’s father Tim Purcell, the founder of the band, recognized that without the Foxes, they weren’t going to draw a crowd. The band essentially broke up. They existed only on YouTube, where Tim posted videos of their old performances.
Quietly, those videos began to gain an audience. More than a year after they stopped performing, Foxes and Fossils started tasting fame and began earning revenue from their internet views and merchandise.
Twelve years and 83 million YouTube views later, Foxes and Fossils is staging its first ticketed concert as a headliner.
The most famous unknown cover band from Smyrna is charging $100 a seat for two shows on Dec. 29 and Dec. 30. (That’s what Billy Strings is charging at State Farm Arena.)
The venue is the Legendary Ford Hall, a 500-capacity facility in Hapeville that began as a car dealership and has served as a church. Both shows are almost sold out. “We’re a weird case,” said Adams. “First a YouTube act, then a band in real life. That’s the opposite of how you usually see it working.”
Said guitarist/vocalist Darwin Conort, who works as a grip in the film industry, “We came in the back door.”
The Foxes and Fossils story has many improbable elements, all of which are covered in a new book about the band, “Ear Candy,” just out this winter.
Tim Purcell, drummer John Pike, and bassist Scott King all were members of Tim’s country-Americana-rock band, the Mustangs, a group that never made it past the bar-band stage.
Tim was ready to give up the struggle. One day he recruited his daughter, Sammie, and her friend, Maggie, to sing some classic rock covers, and he and King and Pike and his high school friend Conort tried this new ensemble at a few local fast-casual restaurants.
The sound was gorgeous. They even got as far as opening for Creedence Clearwater Revisited at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. They taped every show. Then Sammie went away to school in Boston, Adams moved to Nashville, Truron went to college in Iowa, and in 2019 King moved to Virginia.
In that same year their online following began to blossom. One cause was YouTube’s new algorithm that suggested Foxes and Fossils cover versions to viewers who watched the originals.
The first hit was their masterful remake of the very challenging Crosby, Stills & Nash classic, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.”
To take advantage of their growing internet fame, Tim continued to release old videos, and they recorded new ones, sometimes working remotely with home studio equipment in their various far-flung homes, mailing it in from four or five different locations.
Their fan base grew, tens of thousands subscribed to their channel, and listeners implored them to come back and perform live.
Now they have gathered in Atlanta over winter break to rehearse and get ready for their first show of any kind in four and a half years. Their apprehension comes not just from the long time apart, but from the intensity with which their fans are waiting for this concert.
“Thank you from the fans such as I that have wished and waited for this moment,” wrote follower John Shrader on their Facebook fan page. “You guys are loved and appreciated more than you may ever know.”
“It’s very awesome to get back together and cool to see how easily we all fell back into it,” said Sammie, 27, now working as a journalist. “I think the three of us (the Foxes) were more confident that everything would be OK. More so than dad. He’s worried about hitting some of the high notes.”
One enormous loss can’t be reversed. Bassist Scott King died of late stage prostate cancer in January of this year. A consummate musician, he was also the member who invented the group’s puckish name. “It’s going to be really sad” performing without him, said Adams. “He is the person I liked most joking with on stage, he was always making me laugh.”
Another former Mustang, Richard Meeder, will fill in for Scott on bass, along with Scott’s brother, Ross King. Guitarist Toby Ruckert, another original member, will share duties with Conort.
There are many requests from fans for specific tunes to get added to the set list for the Hapeville shows, but, said Tim Purcell, 66, “the main driving factor to me was: What songs can we do well?”
Said Sammie: “We don’t know if we’ll make a habit of this or anything. Everybody has other jobs and other lives. But even if it’s a one time thing it will be great to be up on stage again.”
Foxes and Fossils
7 p.m. Dec. 29-30. $100 (includes drinks). Copies of “Ear Candy: Foxes and Fossils, America’s #1 Cover Band,” by Paul F. Caranci and Sammie Purcell, will be available, along with band merchandise. Legendary Ford Hall, 621 King Arnold St., Hapeville. 404-301-0503. rebelity.com, foxesandfossils.com.
This story comes to Rough Draft Atlanta through a partnership with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, where this story first appeared.