Ramblin’ Rhodes: Tribute shows highlight staying power of Elvis, JB

Riley Jenkins of Clarksville, Tenn., performed as Elvis during a tribute show July 9 at the American Legion Post 71 building in North Augusta. SPECIAL

Three recent concerts in the Augusta area indicate the popularity of late music superstars Elvis Presley and James Brown will be around for decades to come.

 

At each, in addition to the usual amount of expected loyal fans, were many young people moving and grooving to the music.

Most of them had not even been born when Brown died 10 years ago in an Atlanta hospital room on Christmas Day or when Presley died one hot August night in 1977 in an upstairs bathroom of his two-story mansion in Memphis, Tenn.

And perhaps even more amazing than the fans themselves were the young artists performing the tribute shows.

Riley Jenkins of Clarksville, Tenn., is just 14 going on 15, but he amazed the audience on Sunday, July 9, at the American Legion Post 71 building in North Augusta with his perfect duplications of the ultra-fast, physical stage movements that Presley displayed in the late 1950s.

And 20-year-old Cote Deonath from Dunnellon, Fla., near Ocala, who opened the show, was equally impressive with his controlled vocals and classic Presley mid-1960s stage movements.

Deonath, just a few weeks ago in early June, won the Elvis Tribute Artist contest in Tupelo, Miss.; earning the right to represent Presley’s hometown in the annual Ultimate Elvis contest to be held in Memphis in August.

Travis Powell, raised on Southern gospel music in Shelby, N.C., is in his early 30s, but he, too, represents the younger tribute artists preserving and popularizing Presley’s musical legacy.

Powell brought his “Elvis on Tour 2017” show to the Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center in Evans, Ga., on Saturday, July 15, complete with brassy band and backup vocalists.

Meanwhile at the Augusta Museum of History on Friday evening, July 14, the James Brown Academy of Musik Pupils presented their seventh annual concert to a packed rotunda room.

Grammy Award-nominated rhythm & blues singer Shanice, whose 1991 recording “I Love Your Smile” was an international hit in 22 countries, flew in for the show that wrapped up the students’ summer studies.

She sang a bit of Minnie Riperton’s “Lovin’ You (Is Easy ’Cause You’re Beautiful)” a cappella, told the audience she would be profiled in an Unsung episode on the TV One cable network on Aug. 6 and said she was so impressed with the JB students that she would “tell the world” about their talents.

The students, ranging in age from teenage to elementary school, got a standing ovation after their enthusiastic performances of JB’s hits, including “I Got You (I Feel Good),” “Sex Machine,” “Get Up Offa That Thing” and “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” led by instructors Keith Jenkins and Daniel Sapp.

Deanna Brown-Thomas, who created the music academy to preserve her father’s musical legacy, announced that scholarships in the memory of late soul-music superstar Sharon Jones had been awarded to 11-year-old Murphy Middle School student JaMiya Collins and 10-year-old Lake Forest Elementary student Faith Berry.

And she also announced that 14-year-old Zaccavion Turk, a student at Thomson-McDuffie County Middle School, had been awarded a scholarship from the James Brown Family Foundation.

Those present at the concert certainly would agree that Turk is a star in the making based on his Brown-recreated footwork, instinctively channeled charisma and powerful soaring vocals.

Learn more about the music academy and Brown himself at http://jamesbrownfamilyfdn.org.

THE LONE RANGER AND LASSIE SHOWS: It was 60 years ago this week on Saturday, July 20, 1957, that The Lone Ranger TV western star (actor Clayton Moore) and world-famous movie stunt dog Lassie performed two shows at 2:30 and 8:15 p.m. at Jennings Stadium baseball park on Walton Way near 15th Street.

My mother, Ella Sampert Rhodes, took me on her 32nd birthday to the afternoon show when I was 11 years old.

For many years, I had this vague image in my mind that I was standing at this chicken wire fence watching Lassie performing tricks and then having The Lone Ranger ride up on his horse Silver and hand me one of his silver bullets through the octagon-shaped wire holes.

It seemed so unlikely that I was sure it was just something I had imagined from watching the black-and-white TV set in our house in then-rural Evans.

But one day in researching The Chronicle’s electronic archives, I came across the story headlined “Lone Ranger, Lassie due here Saturday.”

Admission was 75 cents for children and 90 cents for adults, with box seats being $1.50.

“Each of the children present during the shows will receive a free silver bullet from the Lone Ranger,” said the article. “These bullets will be the same type the Lone Ranger uses for his secret messages as he fights the ‘desperadoes of the West.’”

Well, in later years, I realized that the bullet was aluminum and not silver. And I never did figure out that you could take it apart to hide a secret message.

I didn’t have too many secrets to hide then, anyway. And somehow in my many family moves, the bullet got lost.

But thanks to The Chronicle’s digital files, which you, too, can access at augustaarchives.com, I can read that story of The Lone Ranger coming to Augusta and hear in my mind that TV announcer shouting at the start of every episode, “A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty ‘Hi-yo, Silver, away!’ The Lone Ranger!”

GOODBYE TO ‘PRECIOUS JEWELL’: Somehow in the busy start of this summer I missed the obituary of a wonderful friend named James Edward “Jim” Jewell of Grovetown, who died June 19. He would have been 90 on Sept. 8.

Customers knew him for 30 years as the owner of Jim’s Lawn Service, but thousands of music fans in the Augusta area knew him better for his uncountable appearances playing guitar for many years with Eryn Eubanks’ Family Fold band.

He and guitarist Mike Merritt came to be known as adopted members of the Eubanks family, performing with Eryn, Patrick and Ricie Eubanks on canal boat cruises and at music festivals, schools, churches and area restaurants and nightclubs.

There was no mistaking Jewell’s unmistakable voice singing classic numbers like “Just Because,” “Nobody’s Darlin’ But Mine” and “I Overlooked An Orchid (While Searching For a Rose)” and for his kind nature which prompted the nickname “Precious Jewell.”

John Doren of Martinez, Ga., said it well on the legacy.com site in noting, “The loss of Mr. Jewell is a loss for all of us. He was a good and decent man and an inspiration to all who met him. It was an honor to play guitar with and learn from him, an authentic and honest musical voice. In his singing and playing, he could define a song. When he performed, there was a depth and directness that seemed to convey exactly what the author of a song intended. His encyclopedic knowledge of several musical genres was a continual wonder and delight.”

BRENDA LEE SHOW CANCELED: Several local residents were planning to travel to Hiawassee this weekend to see former Augusta TV star Brenda Lee perform at the Georgia Mountain Fair at matinee and evening shows on Saturday, July 22. The word now comes that Lee had to cancel due to a broken foot and that Loretta Lynn’s sister, Crystal Gayle, has been substituted in her place.

 

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