Just a little bit over three years ago, I never knew that my life would change forever by a visit from a friend.
My Augusta Chronicle colleague Don Rhodes stopped by the Number 9 studios on that sweltering summer day in 2014.
We were deep in rehearsal for our annual Imperial Theatre shows that we’ve done since 2007. The band and I do not like visitors to our rehearsals but Don was a major exception to that rule.
Besides, Mr. Rhodes had a surprise up his sleeve. A few minutes after he arrived, he got up abruptly as his good friend Sharon Jones was walking up the driveway to see and hear … us!
When she came in, she was not in a glamorous stage outfit. No one would have ever guessed she had just finished a tour with John Legend and Prince!
ROCK AND SOUL DEPT.: My wife, Sheryl, and several of her family members stayed for almost three hours. I made sure that the band played Marvin Gaye, Percy Sledge and other soul-oriented acts … even though we had just rehearsed most of those numbers.
We could tell that Sharon was having a good time, even after I asked her to sign some vinyl and CDs. We wanted her to feel at home … and she did.
Thus began a friendship with Sharon, and it wasn’t just with me. Fellow Number 9 members Ryan Abel, Zach Swenson and our newest member Bethany Davis soon became fast friends with the super-talented Miss Jones.
LIVE! ON STAGE AT THE IMPERIAL DEPT.: As many of you now know, I asked Sharon if she would join us the next week at the Imperial. I knew from You Tube videos that she and her band The Dap-Kings encored regularly with James Brown’s It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.
Rob Foster and Laura Tomlin of Number 9 arranged the song brilliantly, even though they had less than a week to do so.
When I introduced her to the sold-out Imperial audience the place went crazy! Sure, she had played in Augusta several times, but this time out was extra-special, as our YouTube video with her performing the song indicates.
That evening, she came back on stage for encores and even blessed us with her presence again the next night, repeating her incredible performance.
She had beaten cancer at that point in her life but as we all know, she lost her courageous fight last year. I think about her most every day, as most of her friends most certainly do, too.
THE THIRD TIME IS THE CHARM DEPT.: The band and I were thrilled that our Aug. 11-12 shows sponsored by the Junior League of Augusta sold out so quickly. I told Charles Scavullo from the Imperial that we should do something special in Sharon’s memory and he and the board of directors readily agreed.
We reached an agreement that part of the proceeds from Number 9’s Aug. 19 show will go toward the naming rights of the stage at the “Incredible Imperial.”
The stage at the famed 99-year-old venue will now be known as the “Miss Sharon Jones! Stage at the Imperial Theatre.”
Of course, Sharon would not want a big fuss made over her, but the Grammy-nominated artist deserves to be recognized in a manner honoring her worldwide fame. We hope that you will join Number 9 Saturday night, Aug. 19, as we will officially make the dedication during our concert.
Tickets are available for the “Miss Sharon Jones! Stage at the Imperial” at imperialtheatre.com. It’s going to be a very special night for the North Augusta native who always talked so highly of her hometown … and left behind a legacy that will continue to live every time a musician takes the Imperial Stage … her stage!