Originally created 01/26/01

Ramblin' Rhodes: Duo make music while they help youth

The success story of former Augustans Suzanne Lawrence Geimer and her daughter Kelly Geimer-Lance sounds like a mix of the Judds bio and The Beverly Hillbillies TV series.

Mother Suzanne (just like Naomi Judd) was working as a nurse and writing country songs. Daughter Kelly was a typically rebellious teen-ager. They loved sitting on the back porches of their Port Royal and Hilton Head, S.C., homes singing Christmas carols in July for family and friends.

Then one day, they decided Californy was the place they ought be. So they loaded up the truck (OK, maybe it was a moving van) and moved to Beverly - Hills, that is. Swimmin' pools. Movie stars.

They began singing at shelters for runaway, abused and drug-addicted young people; hooked up with John Boy Walton's brother from the TV series The Waltons (Jon Walmsley, who portrayed guitar-playing Jason); wrote some catchy country songs; were befriended by Stevie Wonder's musical director (Clarence Paul) and the ex-wife of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy (Raynoma Gordy Singleton); recorded an 11-song compact disc; held a pre-Christmas album release party in a restaurant on fashionable Rodeo Drive; and were profiled in The Beverly Hills Weekly and other California newspapers.

Just your typical Augusta-Hollywood country-music success story.

From Suzanne and Kelly's musical efforts has emerged the Special Angel Project, a nonprofit organization they founded to help kids in crisis, and the duo's new album, Turn on the Radio, which was recorded in Hollywood, Beverly Hills, west Los Angeles and Nashville.

You can learn more about the organization and the album through Suzanne and Kelly's Web site (www.special-angel.com).

The CD costs $11.95 and is available from Suzanne's longtime Augusta friend Fred Powers at Powers-Baldwin Music, 2701 Washington Road, Suite O, in Augusta. Call 738-4507 if you have questions.

Suzanne co-wrote nine of the album's 11 songs. Kelly co-wrote two. Other members of the Special Angel Band who worked on the album, besides Mr. Walmsley, are Howie Anderson, Denny Croy, Todd Tatum, Ron Fin and Suzanne's guitar-playing, real-estate-selling husband, Marty Geimer.

Suzanne, a native of Columbus, Ohio, was in the fourth grade when her parents, Charles Kennedy Lawrence III and Joanne Lawrence (now Mrs. Ron Huf), moved first to North Augusta (where she lived across West Avenue from Brenda Mae Tarpley, who would become Brenda Lee) and then to Augusta.

Her father owned C.K. Lawrence Builders and co-owned Newman-Lawrence Construction Co., which built a lot of houses in the area.C.K. Lawrence Jr., her grandfather, was a prominent Augusta architect.

For the most part, growing up in Augusta was full of happy memories for Suzanne, including seeing a young James Brown with his band, the Famous Flames, at Julian Smith Casino. She began singing with her brother Carl's band, the Expressions, at the Bon Air Hotel, the Officers' Club at Fort Gordon and for dances at Aquinas, the high school that Suzanne and her brothers, Carl, Patrick and John, and sister, Lynda, would attend.

In 1969, his senior year, 19-year-old Carl was killed in a car wreck. The Aquinas yearbook that spring was dedicated to him. Thirty years later, his sister and the Augusta-born niece who never knew him have remembered him in the liner notes of their album.

NEXT WEEK: Suzanne and Kelly talk about the formation of the Special Angel band and the creation of their organization, the Special Angel Project, to help troubled youth.

Don Rhodes has written about country music for 30 years. He can be reached at (706) 823-3214 or at ramblin@morris.com.


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