Multi-talented S.C. musician Rick Strickland is a one-man band. To say he’s a prolific songwriter just hints at his lyrical stamina. His soulful stylings are out of this world and and – with a four-octave range – his vocals reach even further. Add to that technical savvy, masterful guitar work and a producer’s ear, and you have an inkling of what Rick brings. He can do it all, and he usually does.
That said, this new recording is a departure. It showcases the entire Rick Strickland Band. Titled
Hangin’ Out, the brand new 12-track album (released on April 20) is a collaboration of the entire group, and Rick Strickland is very much the proud papa.
“The idea was for everybody to have their fingerprints all over this. I didn’t want to get in the studio and tell them what I wanted to hear. I just gave them little acoustic guitar/voice demos and said, ‘There, do what you want with it.’ And they stepped up with ideas I would never have even thought of.
“For ‘I’d Rather Be Your Friend,’ the big ballad, my original thought was to have the band in the whole song. But Lesa suggested starting with just the guitar, then bringing her in and then the rest to build. It really makes the song.”
Lead vocalist and keyboard player Lesa Hudson, a songwriter in her own right, is also responsible for some distinctive orchestration on “I’d Rather Be Your Friend.”
Rick explains, “We’re holding these two chords and she kind of does these classical rolls through them that provide the song the tension and release that makes it interesting … Lesa has a million great moments on the CD.”
Lead vocalist and keyboard player Lesa Hudson adds, “For me, I love the harmony and Rick’s take on the harmony arrangement.”
Harmony is key to the Rick Strickland Band, both in an out of the studio. “This experience was all about the group,” Lesa continues. “At the end of the day, it wasn’t just Rick’s project, it was all about everybody.
“What sticks with me is the whole process … the talent, the people. This is my seventh CD, but the first I’ve recorded with live musicians … It really comes through in the recording.”
This is definitely a cohesive, single-minded band, but there’s room for individuals to shine, and shine they do.
Says Rick, “Don [Hamrick] really shows his butt through the whole thing, and being a drummer myself, I love it. On ‘I’d Rather Be Your Friend,’ his first entrance is the second verse, and he’s barely playing on the rim of the snare drum and just before bringing the snare in on the precourse (where 99% of dummers would do a bombastic drum fill on the toms), he instead just lightly touches on the head of the snare drum before bringing it in officially. It’s so artful and restrained.”
“Alive Til 95” is a kick-ass soul tune with lead vocals by bass player Debbie Anderson and Rick.
“I had a band called the Citizens back in ‘85. This was written for them, but I thought it was be great for Debbie to sing, and she nailed it! I had never heard her sing lead until we got into the studio … and she can nail it! To see our Cupcake sing like Mavis Staples …” Rick’s voice trails off here. He’s genuinely proud of his band mate.
That’s a running theme of our conversation, as he recounts the studio sessions, which, by the way, were executed in about three days.
“‘Gonna Come a Day’ is a sassy duet with Lesa Hudson and Rick Strickland on lead vocals.
“Lesa and I wrote that in the car on our way somewhere, to a gig, I think. We got most of it down on the way and finished the lyrics on the way back. It’s another really good example of Don’s brilliance.”
The admiration here is mutual. “It’s an honor for me to be in this band,” says drummer Don Hamrick. Words almost escape him as he tells me about the recording sessions.
“The collaboration in the studio … the intent … the chemistry … The ideas we had just meshed like a dream come true. I’ve had recordings where you spend weeks working with a click track, but this … this is real. This is us playing. What we did in the studio is exactly when we do onstage.
“Sometimes you can lose the chemistry when you try to make it too perfect … We rehearsed, but we allowed the chemistry to come through. For ‘Let’s Take Our Time,’ I was playing cajón. I thought it was a run through, but when we listened, it was right on the money.
“It’s a wonderful experience to record that quickly and still have the quality.”
Chatting with Debbie Anderson, it strikes me as ironic that the woman who can ‘sing like Mavis Staples’ is so soft spoken and shy even. She tells me that this is her first time recording instrumentation, that she’s an understated bass player; she keeps the tempo, keeps the pace. But then suddenly, she makes me laugh out loud.
“I started playing bass when my church needed a bass player,” she says. “So I put on some Lynyrd Skynyrd and taught myself.” Goes to show, you should never underestimate the shy ones.
Listen closely to “Hey What You Say.” Debbie came up with a subtle bass line that adds a lot to the song.
Keyboard player Art Benton is a session veteran. “I’ve been doing studio work sing the 60s, and it was amazing to see how this group with little studio experience ripped through everything.”
I wondered if he had a favorite tune on the Hangin’ Out CD.
“Maybe ‘Little Diva.’ Technically speaking it’s got vocals, piano part, drum track, flute, syncopated piano part all going on at once. I love it.
“It’s great to work with a drummer who can hold his meter and be colorful at the same time.”
CD credits: Rick Strickland (lead and background vocals, electric and acoustic guitars, producer, mixing); Art Benton (keyboards and accordian); Debbie Anderson (lead and background vocals); Lesa Hudson (lead and background vocals, keyboards); Don Hamrick (drums and percussion); Kevin Smith (engineer); Six+1 Studios (recording); Songwriting: All songs written by Rick Strickland except “Gonna Come a Day,” written by Rick Strickland and Lesa Hudson. CD cover design Lesa Hudson. CD cover photography Jim Allen.
Nathan Stallings, owner of Bono Productions, has announced the new firm will hold its first music showcase on Sunday, Nov. 27 at Kono Lounge in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Doors will open at 5 p.m. Music is set to begin at 6 p.m. and a complimentary filet hibachi will be served from 6 to 8 p.m.
In a telephone interview last week, Stallings said, “My main goal is to give musicians an opportunity to put their stuff out there. This Thanksgiving weekend showcase demonstrates the diversity of talent in this area. The opening set will be by Rick Strickland and Lesa Hudson. Both talented songwriters and vocalists, they perform all original music.”
A sessions player for more than 20 years, Strickland has recorded with and opened for some of the country’s top acts, including Carl Perkins, Todd Rundgren and B.B. King. He has also produced over 50 albums in a wide range of musical styles. His work has made it to the silver screen (Modern Love/1990) He has composed two productions for the Columbia City Ballet. He has performed at the Georgia Music Awards, backing Tommy Roe, Joe South and Ray Stevens. He was Billy Joe Royale’s musical director for three national tours. Rick is well-known for his four-octave vocal range as well as his considerable skills on the guitar.
Hudson is a lead vocalist and keyboard player in the Rick Strickland Band. She grew up in Darlington, S.C. as part of a musical family, with church as its centerpiece. She went on to front her own Lesa Hudson Band, a contemporary Christian group. Hudson produces and performs several Christian-based showcases, and has also performed with the classic rock band, 3 Day Funk with Keith Hamrick (formerly with Billy Joe Royal and the Atlanta Rhythm Section)
The second act will be award-winning songwriter and entertainer Jaynie Trudell. Based in Myrtle Beach, this traveling troubadour is a national recording artist and plays multiple instruments, including piano, guitar, harmonica and dulcimer. Known for her original material, she was honored with the 2010 Blues Entertainer of the Year by the Grand Strand Blues Society.
Electrifying guitarist “Kid” Drew Voivedich has the third time slot. If you frequent the Sunday night blues jams at Jay’s in Little River, S.C., you already know how he and Pops tear it up. Kid Drew’s rockin’ blues is edged with funk, country, jazz, pop and even reggae. Never a dull moment with the Kid.
Closing act will be Pops, himself, possibly the most respected blues guitarist on the Grand Strand – not to mention jazz, pop, R&B and then some.
He’s played with the Clovers, Percy Sledge, B.J. Thomas and many more. If you’re a local, you may have seen him with singer Kerry Michaels.
Playing guitar is practically in his blood. Michael Stallings got his first guitar at eight years old and his first electric guitar at ten. “I remember my mom playing ‘Ballad of Jesse James’ with a butter knife. She never did like the slide,” he laughs.
Nathan Stallings is Michael’s son, and proud papa can’t wait for the event at Kono. “We’re going to put on a great show,” says Michael. “I hope everyone stays around to jam with me.
On Facebook, look for Kono Lounge (Myrtle Beach) or Michael Stallings (Little River)
General admission tickets cost $15 each, and include the free food. VIP tickets, at $20 each, also include a free drink and access to the club’s upstairs VIP section, which features special seating and a private bar.
Kono Lounge is located at 1901 N. Kings Hwy. in Myrtle Beach, S.C. For more information, contact Nathan Stallings at 843-224-7748 or via email at BonoProductions@yahoo.com.
Is there a recording artist who makes you smile every time you hear him on the radio … or whose song you have to stay in the car and listen to even though it’s on your iPod and in the CD player?
For me, Rick Strickland is that artist. So today is another great day because I get to listen to Rick’s latest CD and then talk to him about what I’ve just heard. I have been a fan since his Something Smooth (2005) days and he never lets me down. The new 12-track solo recording is titled Rhythm + Romance (we’ll talk about the title in a minute). It’s full of Rick’s signature four-octave range vocals, perfect harmonies, simple sophisticated songwriting and luscious instrumentation.
In other words, it’s classic Rick Strickland – a mix of brand new tunes and some that have been on the back burner for 30-plus years.
The opening track, “Over and Over,” is one of the new ones, completed just a few months ago. According to Rick, it’s getting great response during club dates.
Track two is “Something’s Gotta Give,” and it features a smokin’ alto sax solo by Butch Barnes of Murrell’s Inlet-based Sea-Cruz. “I think Rick is an incredible writer, artist and performer,” says Butch. “I love everything he’s done on this CD. To me, he’s just one of the best.”
It’s always interesting to hear how a tune is born, and this one is no exception. “It was 1985, I was in a band called the Citizens and we were playing St. Croix for a week. One morning as sat at the window listening to the street sounds and steel drum bands, I saw these two Rastafarian kids in the yard, and they were going back and forth about something, not getting along. Finally, one just stops and says to the other, ‘Hey, somethin’ got to give, mon,’ and I wrote this song. It turned out funky, not reggae, but that’s where it came from.”
“Shing Yo Ling” is up next, an “out-of-the-box” hit, that uses suggestive nonsense phrases as skillfully as anyone ever has.
Jumping ahead, track five is “Just So You Know,” a ballad that really showcases Rick’s vocals, which have a sweet raw quality for this one. I think it’ll fill the dance floor.
“Two Faces,” which is track six, is my fave, at least for now. I love the lyrics and the fast-paced vocals. The song really takes someone to task (actually, two people, I’ve come to find out), first for being the ungrateful, short-memoried nouveau riche and second for back-stabbing and trouble-making. Talking to Rick on the phone about it, I could hear Lesa Hudson in the background laughing, “Moral of story: never cross a songwriter.”
Lesa’s a hoot.
Lesa and Rick fans will be happy to know there’s another duet on this album, too. “Got to Be With You” is a lively tune that puts their chemistry and showmanship right up front. It’s a lot of fun, and sounds like a tush push to me.
Throughout the recording, Rick’s lyrics tell a story, but they’re pretty simple and straightforward. “I read a quote by John Lennon a long time ago,” he explains. “It goes, ‘Just say what you’ve got to say and put it to a backbeat,’ and that’s pretty much how I feel. I don’t want to belabor a point.”
Rick gave me some backstory on “Whatever You Do” that I didn’t know.
“I owe a big debt of gratitude to Curtis Carpenter for this. It was back in 1991. Curtis wrote an article for Headliners In Review magazine. He compared my work to Brian Wilson and Hall & Oates, and went on to say that he felt it should be Song of the Year. I got lots of session work right after that.
“Another reason this song is so special to me is that it’s the first song of mine that my daughters learned all the words to. We’d sing it together at bedtime.”
Closing track is “You’re Not Alone,” a grandly orchestrated clutch-at-your-heart ballad that slows down the pace of the album, but rachets up the emotion. It’s a beautiful tune, and when I spoke to Rick about the album, he told me that he had written it back in 1986 for Pets, Inc., an animal rescue organization.
Getting back to the CD’s title, Rick tells me, “John Hook has been a long time supporter. In fact, John and Ray Scott, before anyone else, were there for my music. Anyway, John said to me one day [Rick does a super John Hook imitation, by the way],’ Rick, I’ve thought of the absolute perfect way to describe your music – rhythm and romance.’ When we got down to brass tack and started doing the album, we decided it fit.”
Not surprisingly, Rhythm + Romance was written, produced, arranged, engineered and mixed by Rick himself. In addition, he played all guitars, bass and drums; and he sang all leads and most background vocals on the recording.
If this is the first you’ve heard about Rick Strickland, visit my blog, DarielB – Flying Under the Radar. I’ve got three different posts about him, four if you count the last Lesa Hudson story: CD Review: Rick Strickland Island Soul (Sept. 9, 2008); Rick Strickland Melds Musicianship in New 7-piece Band (April 21, 2009); Rick Strickland’s Lucky Number ‘Seven’ (March 29, 2010); Lesa Hudson: Laid Back In a Driven Kind of Way (July 11, 2011).
Track list: 1. Over and Over; 2. Something’s Gotta Give (featuring Butch Barnes); 3. Shing Yo Ling; 4. Moth to a Flame; 5. Just So You Know; 6. Two Faces; 7. Got to Be With You (duet with Lesa Hudson); 8. Whatever You Do; 9. If You Don’t Want Me; 10. Mr. Heartache; 11. Experience; 12. You’re Not Alone.
Players: Rick Strickland (guitar, bass, drums, lead and background vocals); Art Benton (keyboards for all but Something’s Gotta Give and You’re Not Alone); Lesa Hudson (vocals on Got to Be With You; background vocals on Just So You Know and Mr. Heartache; keyboards on Something’s Gotta Give, Just So You Know,Two Faces, Whatever You Do, and Mr. Heartache);Jeff Poteat (keyboards on You’re Not Alone); Butch Barnes (alto sax solo on Something’s Gotta Give); Debbie Anderson (background vocals on Just So You Know).
Note to Fans of the Rick Strickland Band: On Friday, Sept. 23, the band is presenting a free Fan Appreciation Concert, 6 – 10 p.m. at the Avista Resort Ballroom, 300 N. Ocean Blvd., North Myrtle Beach, S.C. I understand there will be some great surprises. Seating is limited, so get there early! Free parking on either side or across the street!
The nonprofit Charleston Beach Music and Shag Preservation Society aka Harriett Grady will hold its sixth annual Charleston Beach Music And Shag Festival over Labor Day Weekend on Sunday, Sept. 4 and Monday, Sept. 5.
This year the fun will be taking place indoors at Plan B restaurant and nightclub in Charleston.
The Festival will feature live entertainment, multiple deejays, shag dancing and shag workshops.
The shag, which is a six-step swing dance, has been hugely popular in South Carolina for more than 60 years. The roots of the shag being danced today is generally believed to have started with black R&B bands playing the beaches but not getting radio airplay. White teenagers discovered the music and danced to the jukebox, sometimes right on the beach. In 1984, then S.C. Representative Bubber Snow introduced Act. No. 329, which named the shag as the official dance of South Carolina.
Charleston residents Jerry and Barbara Wade will be conducting shag workshops at the Festival. They’ve been shagging together since the fifties, when they learned the dance at the old Folly Beach pier. They were shagging to artists like Jimmy Reed, Hank Ballard & the Midnighters and Lloyd Price. They still love shagging today and share their love and techniques with others at their Charleston Shag Company.
Live entertainment will be provided by four of my faves. On Sunday, from the Upstate of South Carolina, Rhonda McDaniel & Friends take the stage at 4 p.m. For the past three years, our girl has been voted Female Vocalist of the Year at the Carolina Beach Music Academy (CBMA) awards. In 2008, she also earned Solo Album and Blues Song of the Year. Playing with her at the Charleston Beach Music and Shag Festival will be guitarist Ashby Stokes (Swinging Medallions); drummer Eddie Wayne (Swinging Medallions, Fabulous Expressions); Frank Wilkie (Rickey Godfrey Band, Marshall Tucker Band) on bass; saxman Tony Kennedy (Rickey Godfrey Band, and keyboard player Joey Werner (Out-of-Towners).
At 7 p.m. Charleston’s Rick Strickland Band will open their show. Singer/songwriter Rick Strickland, also a multiple CBMA award winner, is well-known for some of beach music’s most popular recent hits including “Something Smooth,” “One Step Closer,” and “So Do I.” His duo with band mate Lesa Hudson, “When You Look at Me” has been No. 1 on 94.9The Surf for the past four weeks, and shows no sign of slowing down. Delivering soulful R&B with a rock & roll kicker, Rick Strickland Band is a crowd favorite every time.
Carolina Soulband has the 2 p.m. slot on Monday, Sept. 5. This group performed for years with Bill Pinkney’s Original Drifters. Today, the nine-piece band plays their range of soul, R&B, and beach music to packed festivals and clubs throughout the southeast. Drummer Chris “Silk” Terry formed the group about two years ago. Jervey “Supreme Keys” Geddies , longtime bandleader for Bill Pinkney’s Original Drifters also serves as CSB’s bandleader and keyboard player. These two lead a high-energy ensemble of extremely talented performers to present one crowd-pleasing performance after another.
At 7 p.m. it’s Coastline time – when Jim Quick & Coastline hit the stage. I love these bad boys for both their onstage shenanigans and their monster talent. Quick is one of the best songwriters around. When I pop his 2007 album Sneakin’ Out Back into the player, it’s every bit as good as the first time I heard it. Folks outside the area are starting to take notice of Quick and Coastline, too. The band has opened for Delbert McClinton, Montgomery Gentry and Darius Rucker. Quick’s latest CD, Down South, was produced by big ole Nashville producer Gary Nicholson. There’s a new music video and a live DVD coming soon. These boys are hot!
In addition to live music, popular area deejays Gerry Scott, Mike McDaniel,Jim Bowers and Betty Brown will be spinning tunes for dancers and listeners both. The deejays, who each have their own specialty niches, pride themselves on finding and playing that most obscure old tune alongside the current hits.
According to Harriett, “Plan B is going to be a terrific venue for us. The dance floor is brand new … the bars, the deejay booth, stage, sound and lighting … it’s all new. This is going to be a great event.”
Sponsors for the 2011 Charleston Beach Music and Shag Festival include: major sponsor, 1340 The Boardwalk; Big Mamma Entertainment; Coast magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine; and DarielB – Flying Under the Radar music blog.
Tickets for the two-day event are $45/members of the Beach Music and Shag Preservation Society of S.C. and $55/nonmembers. One day tickets cost $25/members and $30/nonmembers. For tickets or more information, visit them online.
Plan B is located at 3025 Ashley Town Center Drive, #201 in Charleston. Take I526 West to Hwy. 17. Turn right on Hwy. 17, travel two blocks, and look for the Plan B sign on the right. Telephone: 843-571-2001.
(Photos Jim Allen; CD cover photo Jim Allen; CD cover design Joanie Dakai)
On my way to see the fabulous duo, Blue Mother Tupelo, at Mama Rue’s Blues Garden in Pawleys Island last week, I stopped off to visit with singer/songwriter Lesa Hudson, so we could talk about her new solo recording, her work with Rick Strickland Band and her plans for the future.
I’ve known Lesa for a couple years and have always considered her to be pretty laid back and mellow. During this visit, though, I was struck by just how driven she is.
Much like her bandmate, Rick Strickland, she’s driven to write, to create.
“I’m a songwriter first. I’m always writing. In fact, I’d like Rick to produce a
Praise and Worship album for me. I already have the songs for it.”
Hudson grew up in Darlington, S.C. as part of a musical family, with church as its centerpiece. Playing piano since the age of six, her first singing “job” was with a trio at church. N’Accord was very successful and traveled throughout South Carolina. She still sings with the group when time and opportunity allow.
She went on to front her own Lesa Hudson Band, a larger contemporary Christian group. She produces and performs several Christian-based showcases, and has also performed with the classic rock band, 3 Day Funk with Keith Hamrick (formerly with Billy Joe Royal and the Atlanta Rhythm Section).
Lesa tells me she’s been writing and composing for about 15 years. (“I still have my doodle sheets in a folder somewhere.”) Her very first completed composition was “Lukewarm Christian,” written and produced in 2003. It went to No. 8 on the Power Source 100 chart. “I was thinking about my life and where I wanted to be. I didn’t want my faith to take a back seat …” she explains.
She still leads a contemporary worship service in Darlington, but her current position as lead vocalist and keyboard player with the Rick Strickland Band takes up the bulk of her time.
“Rick Strickland is an incredible talent, and I don’t know if the world really understands that,” she tells me candidly. “From day one, he has been the person I could rely on and trust. We think the same way about music.
“When I write a song, it starts with a feeling … I’m just not passionate about singing covers,” she tries to explain.
This particular thread refers to the fact that so many deejays and booking agents prefer bands and singers who perform cover tunes.
“I’ve never really taken the easy road,” she laughs. “And I guess this is one of those times. I don’t want to offend anyone, but I’d just rather not play covers.”
Happily, the Rick Strickland Band is making a name for itself playing Strickland, and now Hudson, originals.
Tunes like “Something Smooth” (Rick Strickland/ 2004), “So Do I” (Rick Strickland/2008) and now “When You Look At Me” (Lesa Hudson/2010), the immensely popular Hudson/Strickland duet on Sweet Wonderful You, have been huge hits with fans and deejays alike.
Sweet Wonderful You is Lesa’s second solo project. According to the artist, the ten original songs each tell a story about love and being thankful for the people you love. Hudson either wrote or co-wrote eight, with the other two penned by Rick Strickland.
“The current breakaway hit,” she says, “seems to be the duet with Rick, “When You Look at Me.” I intended for this song to take people back to the moment they fell in love … when they weren’t quite sure the other person felt the same way … I shared it with Rick and he loved it. He said it had to be on the project.
“Track two, ‘Can’t Help Lovin’ On You,’ is a little different for me. I love the bluesy, laid back feel. It’s a little more romantic. It was a way to stretch my songwriting and my vocals.
“On the title track, ‘Sweet Wonderful You,’ I love the harmony vocals by Debbie Anderson … and for the whole CD … the amazing keyboards from Art Benton and incredible guitar work of Rick Strickland.”
The truth is, although I think Lesa comes alive when she’s under the Rick Strickland spell, she was making a name for herself long before they met.
A few years ago, one Chamber of Commerce prez said, “It wasn’t just fireworks that sparkled and lit up the sky at the July 4th Hartsville Family Fireworks Festival. It was also Lesa Hudson and her band who kicked off the holiday event with a bang!”
Kevin Stokes, songwriter for G3 Productions in Nashville, said, “Lesa’s sound is progressive and honest. A lot of times, artists deny their own passions creatively in order to squeeze into a marketplace that’s already crowded with artists doing the same thing. Taking a different road may seem like a harder route, but applaud Lesa for coming up with a sound that is as commercial as it is unique …”
David Wade agrees. He has recently signed both Lesa Hudson and Rick Strickland (as solo artists) to his Shanty’s Records label. Wade will be booking the two artists and promoting them on radio in some expanded markets.
“I don’t want to put myself in a box. I want to write a song, express myself and create music the way it comes to me.”
Lesa Hudson is definitely driven. In a laid back kind of way.
CD Tracks: 1. Only You (Lesa Hudson); 2. Can’t Help Lovin’ On You (Lesa Hudson); 3. Falling For You (Lesa Hudson); 4. Baby Baby (Lesa Hudson & Rick Strickland); 5. When You Look at Me (Lesa Hudson); 6. Win My Heart (Lesa Hudson & Rick Strickland); 7. Try (Rick Strickland); 8. You Make the Good Times Better (Lesa Hudson); 9.Just To Wake Up Next To You (Rick Strickland); 10. Sweet Wonderful You (Lesa Hudson).
Players on Sweet Wonderful You include Lesa Hudson (lead & background vocals, keyboards); Rick Strickland (lead & background vocals; guitar, bass & drum programming/producer); Art Benton (keyboard); Debbie Anderson (background vocals).
I love a street party and we’re about to have the granddaddy of them all, a double shot of fun right here in the Ocean Drive section of North Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Fun Sunday and Fun Monday are set for Sept. 19 – 20, and folks around here are gearing up for the kind of laughin’ and singin’ and music swingin’ that would give Martha Reeves goosebumps. This street party extraordinaire is part of the ten-day non-stop party better known as Fall Migration. Main Street in O.D. will once again be overtaken by shaggers and beach music buffs from all over the south- east … and then some. Bring your lawn chairs, your sunscreen and your booty to Ocean Drive and get ready to boogie. You gonna dance!
The Sunday schedule features two of the most innovative musicians in the area: Charleston’s Rick Strickland and Jim Quick from Wilmington, N.C.
Rick Strickland is probably best known for his mega-hit, “Something Smooth,” from the CD of the same name that earned him a Carolina Beach Music Academy (CBMA) award in 2007. “So Do I,” the ballad from his 2008 CD, Island Soul, is still requested at least once during every gig. His current CD, Seven, was released earlier this year and is continues to spit out singles.
Rick, who worked with Todd Rundgren earlier in his career, is a sought-after producer – in addition to writing, singing and performing with his own Rick Strickland Band.
He tells me he’s got two projects in the hopper right now: an album for band member Lesa Hudson and another for Miami artist, Billy Lee. Singles from both CDs are on Sisbro Records’ compilation Carolina Shag 2: “You Make the Good Times Better” and “Living For the Love of You.” The seven-piece Rick Strickland Band rocks with the best. You won’t want to miss it.
Jim Quick & Coastline are also slated for Sunday’s fun.
After opening for Montgomery Gentry last December, filling the house for Delbert McClinton at the Myrtle Beach House of Blues this past Spring and enticing Nashville producer Gary Nicholson to produce a solo effort for Jim Quick, these boys are riding a mighty big wave that shows no signs of stopping.
Quick’s new 14-track CD, titled Down South, is due out in time for Fall Migration, so I imagine the Fun Sunday show will feature some of the disc’s new tunes. Coastline is already performing the title track, and it’s a rockin’ tribute to southern life that drips with those funky bits of the swamp that we’ve come to love.
There are four acts scheduled for day two of the fun: DieDra, the Magnificents, Hip Pocket and Little Isidore & the Inquisitors with our old friend, Angel Rissoff, front and center.
I was lucky enough to see DieDra at the Spanish Galleon during Spring S.O.S. and I’m
here to tell you, this is another high-energy show. This mama rocks from the minute she hits the stage. DieDra’s five piece band is led by husband Keithen Ruff, a powerhouse on the gui- tar. Her single, “Hip-Swingin’ Blues” from the KHP compilation Let’s Dance Again … Can’t Get Enough is currently at No. 15 on the Beach Music 45 chart and her “Ready To Dance the Night Away” from KHP’s Coast To Coast: Let’s Dance the Night Away is at No. 19. Her current CD is Livin the Bluz (Ruff Pro Records).
The Magnificents will take the stage next. Originally formed back in the sixties, this incarnation came together in early 2006, and earned them- selves the 2007 CBMA award for New Artist of the Year. This classic soul group has four strong lead vocalists in Clinton Horton, Kim Todd, Jimmy Matherly and drummer Joey Barnes. The group’s single, “Never Know What’s On a Woman’s Mind” is simmerin’ on Beach Music 45.
Hip Pocket, the CBMA New Artist of the Year for 2009, is one of the best dance bands around. Their variety is their strength, so you can expect to hear soul music that will take you back to the sixties, some sizzlin’ hot country, party rock and everything in between. Their website says, “It’s like New Year’s Eve every night with the Hip Pocket Band! And they’re right!
Headlining Fun Monday this year is Little Isidore & the Inquisitors with blue-eyed soul meister Angel Rissoff featured in the show. Wowie zowie!
There’s so much to say about Little Isidore, I don’t know where to start. David Forman, as he is also known, has been in the biz since the early 70s. He’s currently working on his Off Off Broadway show called “Dollface.”
Forman began his career with Bell Records and signed with Arista Records in 1975, releasing his debut album David Forman in 1976 to inter- national acclaim. The Japanese import of this album still sells on the Internet today for about $95. His ballad from that recording, “If It Takes All Night,” has been covered by The Neville Brothers on their Fiyo On the Bayou CD and again by the Temptations’ Eddie Kendricks on his Vintage ‘78 recording.
In 1977, Forman released a second album, Bacon in the Sun/Moonlight Mayonnaise co- roduced with Jack Nitzsche. After Nitzsche introduced him to lyricist Gerry Goffin (Goffin- King), they worked together until Goffin relocated to Los Angeles.
During the 80s, our hero worked in advertising as a jin- gle writer and singer. He col- laborated with some of the best agencies in the country produc- ing work for McDonalds, Ford, Northwest Airlines, Skippy Peanut Butter and other nation- al brands.
He founded Little Isidore & the Inquisitors in the early 90s with Neil Posner (better known as bass guitarist Johnny Gale) as a classic rock group special- izing in and devoted to what he calls “the forgotten idiom of group harmony rock & roll.” (Inspiration for the name came via Damon Runyon, “Guys & Dolls,” and David’s two Uncle Isidores.)
Little Isidore & the Inquisitors have been on the beach charts since 1994 with their debut No One Gets Hurt. A follow-up album Inquisition of Love included the hit singles “All Night Long,” “You’re So Fine” and “Harlem Hit Parade.”
Speaking of which, Angel Rissoff aka Little Leopold, the original lead singer of “Harlem Hit Parade,” is joining the group for this show, as will femme fatale Kitten Kaboodle. The 12-piece ensemble is going to bring Main Street to its feet – and that’s exactly what David Forman wants.
“I expect dancing!” he told me. “I want to see people dancing in the street. Really!”
For some great insight into the man who is David Forman and Little Isidore, go to his MySpace page (MySpace.com/LittleIsidore) and read all about his me-o-myo- cardial infarction, his early experience in a documentary about Phillip Petit’s high wire stunt between the Wold Trade Center towers in 1974, his paper doll cutouts and his love of 50s rock & roll. Pony tail or no, Little Isidore is like crazy, man.
Rick Strickland is a prolific, sometimes obsessed songwriter. He tells me he writes a song most every day. In fact, when he and wife, Gail, sat down to document his total tally of tunes, it came to some 2,500.
“And some of them are pretty good,” he laughs, “so I shouldn’t ever run out of pieces to record.”
Good thing, because in August 2008, the award-winning musician decided to bring to life a long-time dream and form a totally new band. A seven-piece band.
A sessions player for more than 20 years, Strickland has recorded with and opened for some of the country’s top acts, including Carl Perkins, Todd Rundgren and B.B. King. He has also produced over 50 albums in a wide range of musical styles. His work has made it to the silver screen (Modern Love/1990) He has composed two productions for the Columbia City Ballet. He has performed at the Georgia Music Awards, backing Tommy Roe, Joe South and Ray Stevens. He was Billy Joe Royale’s musical director for three national tours.
In 2007, he received a CBMA award for Solo Album of the Year for ” Something Smooth, and in 2005, he took home Songwriter of the Year. Also in 2005, “Something Smooth,” the single was No. 1 on the beach charts for the entire year.
Rick had been so successful with his three-piece group, I wanted to know what motivated this major change.
“I had a great response to the trio,” agreed Rick, “But I started thinking about what else I could do. My attention span isn’t all that long! My wife got tired of listening to me talk about it and finally said, ‘Hey, you have access to some great players. Let’s make an A list.’ So we did. And they all said yes!”
The newly incarnated Rick Strickland Band includes Rick, of course, on lead vocals and – on occasion – guitar, bass and drums, (but he is best known for his four-octave vocal range). Lesa Hudson is on keyboards and vocals; Debbie Anderson, vocals and guitar; master of the B3, Art Benton on keyboard and vocals; Gary Bruce on guitar and vocals; Chris Grant, playing bass guitar; and Ken Lancaster on the drum kit.
The successful singer/songwriter isn’t looking to reinvent the wheel, however. His new band continues to nurture its R&B roots, building on Strickland’s 20-year history as a singer, musician, composer and producer.
“We’re really leaning toward the soul side of the genre, all of us. But what’s different for me, in particular, about the new band,” explains Strickland, “is the interaction between human beings … instead of overdubbing.
“When we perform tunes from Island Soul [Rick’s 2007 CD], there’s more air around them now. The harmonies are perfect, but there’s more ‘give.’ We’re still going to deliver my ‘signature’ vocal harmony, but we’ll be showing off a little more in instrumentation.
“I love the collaboration among the players; they’re not just executing what I say. You know, when I first heard Lesa and Debbie at a music festival, it was their vocals that struck me … and why I called them.
“Well, turns out Lesa is also a songwriter AND she’s classically trained on the piano. She’s got a solo CD out with a single that’s currently No. 15 on the Christian-Country charts. And Debbie, besides being one of the best harmony singers around is a very solid rhythm guitarist.”
What about Art Benton, I wanted to know. I knew from an earlier interview that Art played keyboard on Island Soul and I knew he had played with a group called the Pallbearers, who had two national hits on Fontana and Delphi Records.
“Art is the best keyboardist I’ve ever worked with. He’s equally at home in the studio or on stage. He is an incredibly tasteful and sensitive player who has a knack for fining the sweet spot in any arrangement.
I used to play a solo gig at Brinsen’s in Charleston, near Folly Beach,” Rick went on to tell me. “Art kept showing up and leaving me business cards. He was repairing dialysis equipment next door (We call him MacGyver, by the way). He kept giving me his card, but I was kind of cynical. When the Something Smooth CD came out, I was with 120inc and Mike Farver kept telling me we needed to do some live gigs. I needed a keyboard player. I had Art’s latest card, but before I called him, I happened to ask Steve Wiggins [five-time Grammy nominee, lyricist and lead singer for Big Tent Revival] if Art was any good. ‘Hell yeah,’ came the response. Art Benton is the B3 player from Heaven.’ Well, that was three years ago, and we’ve been working together ever since.”
Guitarist Gary Bruce is known regionally for his work in bands like Second Nature, Mama’s Home Cookin’, The Blue Chip Band and Fresh Air.
The guitarist said, “I’ve known Rick since about 1975. We always had a good chemistry going and talked about playing together, but sometimes these things don’t work out right away. Other commitments get in the way. We’ve been able to work together over the past couple years, and, when he called about the new band, the time was right. I was still playing with Fresh Air, but ready to make a move.”
Says Rick, “I was working with White Witch, fresh from playing bass on tour when I met Gary, so we’ve known each other a long time now. Gary, like Art, is great on stage and in the studio. That’s Gary doing the acoustic guitar solo for “Best Love” on Island Soul. He’s also one of the most sought after guitar teachers in the southeast. He perpetually has a waiting list of 50 to 100 potential students.”
Drummer Ken Lancaster has played with R&B group, North Tower, the Okaysions and Nashville’s Clifford Curry. Strickland says, “Ken has an incredible sense of meter, sort of like a human metronome. Playing with him and Chris [bassist Chris Grant] is like sitting down in a big easy chair.
“I first met him the year I won the solo album award. He was working with the PA company doing the awards show.”
Ken adds, “I was a stagehand. I wanted to get in with a band, so I was listening to all of them, and I gave Rick my card.
“‘You’ve got good timing,’ Rick told me. Well, a year or so went by, and I saw him again. ‘You’ve got good timing, ‘ Rick told me again, only this time I auditioned. Rick is awesome. I’ve been in the Charlotte area, but I’m moving to Charleston next month. I love what we’re doing.
“I love eighties metal and beach music.”
Did I just hear right? Isn’t that an oxymoron?
Ken is laughing on the other end of the telephone, “I can’t help it. I’ve always loved the metal stuff but I relate to beach music. It reminds me of family times at the outer Banks when I was a kid. I’m infatuated with the whole beach scene. I even shag a little”
The latest addition to the group is bass player Chris Grant, who Rick says is “smooth and solid, but has chops when the song calls for it.” Chris toured and recorded for several years with N.C. blues legend Skeeter Brandon, who passed away just over a year ago. He’s also worked with Big Bill Morgenfield, son of Muddy Waters, and blues guitarist Jimmy Thackery.
The new Rick Strickland Band is making its debut on Saturday night, April 25, at the Spanish Galleon in North Myrtle Beach during S.O.S. Spring Safari, the annual ten-day celebration of shag dancing and beach music, the regional sub-category of the R&B genre.
“We’ll be going into the studio almost immediately after that,” said Strickland. “We are excited about putting a band album out. It’s gonna be great.”
I have to agree.