Gospel singer calls Augusta concert 'scam'

Gospel singer Vickie Winans

The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office has received complaints about a local concert that a renowned gospel singer called “a scam.”

The concert, promoted by Dower Live, was held at the Tabernacle Baptist Church on Thursday, and it was slated to include nationally known gospel artists James Fortune, Vickie Winans and Tamela Mann. However, patrons were treated to a concert featuring local artists instead of the singers they had paid to see.

The event was originally set to take place at Bell Auditorium but was moved to Tabernacle when the promoter, Sharif King, became upset after officials with Augusta Entertainment Complex – which includes the Bell and James Brown Arena – attempted to contact the artists, according to a gospel music news Web site owner.

Bianca Woodard, who runs TokoaGospelMusicNews.com, said King asked her May 17 to cover the event for her Web site. She attended the concert Thursday, and estimates between 1,300 to 1,500 people attended.

“They even called (King) up to the stage at one point, but he never showed up,” Woodard said. “He bought advertising on all of the radio stations and was even on the news. I don’t know what happened.”

Woodard said she saw King selling tickets at the door. Tickets ranged from $20 to $40 each, she said. At some point during the concert, King left the and couldn’t be found.

Attempts to reach King on Friday were unsuccessful. King’s office number had been disconnected, and his cellphone’s voice mailbox was full.

The event’s headliner, James Fortune, tweeted Thursday that the concert had been postponed.

Winans, a Grammy-nominated singer, called the event “a scam from the start.”

“Why did (King) pick me up from the airport if the show was postponed?” Winans said.

Winans said she sat in her hotel room from about 3 p.m. until about 9:30 p.m., around the time Woodard said the concert ended.

“I was dressed in a turquoise dress like I was going to the Grammy,” she said. “Now I’m out about $600,” after flying to Augusta at her own expense. She also wasn’t paid what she was supposed to earn for performing, she said.

King is listed on LinkedIn.com as the senior executive vice president and general manager at Dower Records.

Dower Live’s Twitter page has been active since May 18, a day after the initial news release was sent out. One tweet promised a meet-and-greet with Fortune for the first 100 followers who posted pictures of their concert tickets.

Tabernacle Baptist Church spokeswoman Natasha Carter said the church’s only involvement with the concert was allowing Dower Live to use the venue.

“We weren’t responsible for booking the artists, we just lease the venue,” she said. “A concert happened, it just didn’t feature many of the artists it advertised.”

The church issued a statement Friday reiterating its role and apologized to the attendees.

“In an effort to uplift the dynamic talent of Augusta’s local gospel artists, we fell prey to fraudulent behavior on the behalf of the promoter,” the statement said. “The patrons of the concert were also victims of this unethical behavior.”

Lt. Calvin Chew said the sheriff’s office has received calls about the concert but has not received any reports that it could investigate.

King has been identified as a suspect in the theft of a handheld radio, according to an incident report. Thomas Andrews told police he was working security for the event and provided the radio. When the concert ended, King left the venue without paying Andrews for his services and took the radio with him, the report said.

Winans, who was preparing for a concert in Sacramento, Calif., said she will return to Augusta for a makeup concert.

“I’m coming back to do it for free,” she said.

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