Take the Money & Run
I was told that when I was 7-years old my father propped me up on the kitchen table and had me sing for some of the neighbors that were gathered there. Nothing about it seemed odd, not even the fact that the same people came to visit all the time. We had a juke box in the kitchen with all of the latest songs on it. I need but close my eyes and I can see in my minds eye, my father singing along with King Pleasure while the juke box blasted from the kitchen. I grew up listening to Sam Cooke and Rudy West, and on Sunday I got a good dose of The Dixie Hummingbirds and the 5 Blind Boys. Growing up in Norfolk, Virginia I didn't have many options for music on the radio on Sundays because the Black radio station played gospel music 24/7 or a sermon from one of the local churches. WRAP were the call letters for the one Black radio station and they WRAPPED every night a little after mid-night. After that Perry Como and Eddie Fisher is what you got on all of the other stations. Most of you will know Sam Cooke's work because he exploded into stardom after 'You Send Me.' He went from gospel legend to rhythm & blues crooner overnight. Sam had the beauty of a woman and the swagger of a man. He was a singer's singer. Rudy West was one of the lead singers for The 5 Keys. They were from Newport News, Virginia. All of the 5 Keys records were released in Norfolk. Sometimes they didn't make it any further. I remember how proud I was to see them on the Ed Sullivan Show when I was a kid. They were great but it was not to be. I had a number of people to listen to when I was learning to sing-I'm still learning. Donny Hathaway inspired me, Marvin Gaye and Otis Redding introduced me to new musical options and vocal techniques. I listen to James Taylor, his timing and pacing gives the music a different feeling. And for some reason Judy Collins comes to mind when I hear James Taylor sing, I like what Judy does also. Then you have The Beatles-really great storytellers with some really good stories to tell. I've been around for a minute and I've work with some really great people. I'd like to thank S. Epatha Merkerson for singing with me; Clarence Patterson for his melodies and lyrics, Tommie McKenzie for always being there when I needed him, Mel Nelson and everyone else that had a hand in my journey. Finally, Sonya Geder Diggs keeps us going, when there was no one to turn to we turned to Sonya... thank you Mrs. Diggs. Peace E. L. James.