Now they are celebrated performers, in demand at senior centers and special events across metro Atlanta and with invitations to perform in cities as far away as Philadelphia.
The group of eight even has a YouTube video.
Who would’ve thunk?
Not Luther Walker, Nick Bowers, Leon Nolton, Willie Banks, Hubert Jackson, Jerry Heard, Sam Swain or William Rogers.
The fame and accolades are just icing on the cake for the men who began dancing to stay fit.
Bowers, who at 58 is the group’s youngest member, said it’s a fun way to work out and take care of his body.
“For 32 years I coached football and baseball at Gresham Park,” he said. “Now I was just trying to keep myself going.”
On Aug. 13, the Beulah Boys will take the Main Stage at 2:30 p.m. at the CrossRoadsNews 2011 Family & Back-to-School Expo on the lower level of the Mall at Stonecrest in front of Sears. They will showcase some of the line dances that are keeping them fit and making them famous.
When they met in the line-dancing class at Beulah Baptist Church’s Family Life Center in the fall of 2009, all were strangers, except for Bowers and Nolton, who have been friends since their school days at Murphy High in Atlanta.
And only Jackson, who at 71 is the group’s oldest member, had line-danced before.
The average age of the men who boast two knee replacements and a hip replacement among them, is 63, but to watch them hop, skip and shake their booty, you couldn’t guess who has artificial joints.
Walker, 63, was the first brave soul to join the class of line-dancing women. Then Jackson joined him, followed by Bowers and Nolton.
After a few months in the class, their cohesiveness and new-found love for line dancing caught the eyes of instructor Jan Martin.
“They had camaraderie,” she said. “It wasn’t so much the skills. They just enjoyed dancing and it showed.”
She suggested the men form a group to perform at a July 2010 concert to showcase what the class was doing.
After a little arm twisting, they agreed.
“She is our instructor and we did not want to let her down,” Walker said.
Bowers said they were reluctant because they had never heard of a male line-dancing group.
“There are women’s groups and couples groups, but a male group, we had never heard of one,” he said.
Nolton knew “The Cleveland Shuffle,” but with only a short time to rehearse, Bowers said they weren’t very good.
That’s when he called upon his wife, Debora, to get them a uniform. They showed up in Western attire and brought the house down.
“I thought that the least we could do is look good together,” he said. “We missed a few steps but we looked the part.”
They left that evening with an invitation to perform at the Candler Road Senior Center.
Soon the “Beulah Boys” had invitations from senior centers across Atlanta.
“Everywhere we performed, we would get an invitation to perform somewhere else from someone in the audience,” Bowers said.
Though he was a deejay for 30 years, Nolton said dancing wasn’t his forte before the Beulah Boys.
When he joined the Family Life Center, he was doing water aerobics, lifting a little weight and doing other exercises, but when his good friend Bowers suggested they join the line-dancing class, he went along.
“It’s good exercise,” said Nolton, who had both of his knees replaced in 2009. “And I get the enjoyment of bringing enjoyment to the seniors. Anytime you can put a smile on anyone’s face, that’s a good feeling right there.”
Nolton also has had the pleasure of losing 40 pounds since he joined the group.
“It’s good exercise,” he said. “I get the enjoyment of dancing and of bringing enjoyment to the seniors.”
The class the men joined was the first one for Martin, a self-confessed lover of line dancing.
When she started the 7:30 a.m. class in September 2009, it was not on the center’s schedule.
“They had a class in the evening, but I am an early riser and there wasn’t one in the morning,” said Martin, who’s real job at the center is member services coordinator.
By January, she had enough people taking the class for it to be added to the schedule.
Martin said she suggested the men form a group because they had great chemistry together.
“They enjoy dancing,” said Martin, who can’t talk about the group without smiling. “It’s fun for them and it’s fun to watch them. You just enjoy seeing them enjoy each other.”
The song the men put their stamp on is “The Cleveland Shuffle” by Mark “Big Mucci” Wynn & the 71 North Boi.
“We just added our own little flavor to it,” Nolton said.
When Big Mucci’s mother saw them on YouTube, her son said she told him he had to meet them.
This summer, he was in the audience at the 2nd Annual Southeast Largest Line Dance Party on July 7-9 at the Sheraton Gateway Atlanta Airport Hotel in College Park and came onstage to tell them how much he loves what they had done with the song.
DJ Kenny Jammin Jason, one of the country’s top line dance instructor, was also in the audience. He was so impressed with the Beulah Boys, they now have an invitation to attend his Aug. 26-29 event in Philadelphia.
Spectators who see them perform just love their swagger.
At a January 2011 performance at the CrossRoadsNews Health & Wellness Expo, women threw dollar bills at the men during one of their hip-swaying, high-steppin’ numbers.
Bowers said that was a first for them.
Along the way, the Beulah Boys have become an inspiration for senior citizens.
Martin, who introduces the group at most of their performances, said that by the end of their performances at senior centers, even spectators who use wheelchairs are moving parts of their bodies.
“Everyone is tapping their feet or shaking their shoulders,” she said. “They make people move.”
At the end, someone always comes to her asking if they can have a class too. She now teaches three classes at Beulah, two at Senior Connections centers in Decatur and Lithonia, and at First Baptist Church in Austell. She also has helped many churches start their own classes.
“We are showing that you don’t have to give up because you are up in age,” Bowers said. “This is a dance that you can really do. Just get up and move.”
Because of their group, they say more men are taking line-dancing classes.
Beulah Boys’ repertoire ranges from country and western to gospel. And yes, they shuffle and wobble and dance to gospel music.
They also perform at churches, weddings, parties and other special events.
Jackson, the group’s senior member, had hip replacement surgery in February and by April he was back on the line.
“We enjoy going out and proving that we really can,” he said. “If we can do it, anybody can do it.”
For more information, call Nick Bowers at 404-310-0067.