On Saturday, Dec. 9, Augusta will welcome the Legends of Soul Tour, when a cavalcade of premier musicians from decades past will unite onstage in one of the nation’s hottest soul music shows.
Headlining the six-act bill is Miami-based singer Betty “Cleanup Woman” Wright. Other featured performers are Lenny Williams, Glenn Jones, Angela Winbush, Cherelle and the group Rose Royce, of Car Wash movie fame.
Showtime is 8 p.m. at Bell Auditorium. Tickets are $56.50-$68.50 at georgialinatix.com, (877) 428-4849 and the James Brown Arena box office.
For Williams and Jones – the two premier male crooners in the lineup – their Augusta appearance represents a return to the Garden City for both men.
Williams, the former lead singer of Tower of Power, performed during the 2012 KISS Family Reunion show and has had a lengthy career.
Playing in the deep South brings the Little Rock, Ark., native back to his comfort zone, his roots, Williams said. He enjoyed an early life in spiritual music. As a youth, his family moved to California to the San Francisco Bay area, where he became immersed in several styles of worship singing.
“I like to say I’m a worshipper of God, no matter what the denomination is,” Williams said. His strong faith helped him stay on a straight, narrow path while performing as lead singer of Tower of Power, during the group’s highest success in the mid-1970s, he admits.
The reason for Williams’ break from the group was unknown until the TOP story was featured in an episode of TV One’s UNSUNG documentary.
“It was ‘MeMe’ (TOP leader Emilio Castillo) who told me to tell what really happened,” he said, recalling that he saw members of the group ‘banging’ or using heroin. “And that was not my lifestyle. I had two young sons at the time, and I was married. I didn’t wanna see it all end just like that. A couple guys smuggled some drugs from Germany, and when we returned (to the states) I knew that was it for me.”
He said bandleader Castillo wasn’t happy with his decision, “but what could he (Castillo) do?” Williams said.
He opted for a solo career, started writing and publishing more songs and continued to raise his family. He has four sons and two daughters with his wife, Deborah. The couple has been married for 41 years.
“Through my work in music, I was able to send most of them (his children) to college – and they’re very successful now,” he added.
Jones, who kicked off his career as a gospel quartet singer, made several trips to Augusta as a youngster with the Bivens Singers, a quartet group from his native Jacksonville, Fla. The group often performed each October at the annual anniversary concert sponsored by the Swanee Quintet.
Jones has fond memories of Augusta and the Swanees.
“I knew ’em all, ‘Big Red’ aka group founder James Anderson, Percy Griffin, Charles Barnwell, Little Johnnie Jones. They treated me well. I was a teenager coming up in the business. And they often traveled to Jacksonville to perform too,” said Jones, whose career commenced with the support of jazz-fusion bandleader/drummer Norman Connors.
Jones’ 1984 debut album featured his signature hit “Show Me.” Throughout the 1980s until the mid-1990s Jones recorded a string of still-familiar R&B hits including, “Stay,” “We’ve Only Just Begun” and “I Been Searchin.” He has also recorded several duets with his wife of 37 years, singer Genobia Jeter-Jones.
Promoter William Davis Jr. said the Legends of Soul Tour has been a successful one. He said some artist use live bands, and some perform with recorded tracks. It’s a matter of budgeting on whether musicians’ fees can be affordable enough to be used on the live bill, Davis said.
Both Jones and Williams said they’ll perform with tracks, while Wright will bring along her own live band.
“It’s a wonderful time. Like a family reunion,” Williams said. “I’m like a fan getting to see all these wonderful, talented people,” he added.