published Thursday, April 7th, 2011

Local wedding singer makes a career out of juggling gigs

Valitus Edwards Sr. got his first taste of performing in a band in the early 1970s while a student at UTC. Marriage, children and the Vietnam War broke the band apart in 1975.

When someone proposed doing a documentary on Chattanooga musicians that once performed on Ninth Street (now M.L. King Boulevard), Edwards and a fellow charter member of the old band, Lutrell Brown, put the group back together to perform as part of the project.

That was in 1994, and the band has been together ever since as Love, Peace & Happiness.

Today, Edwards manages and sings with LPH and manages or books Broad Street Exit, Skin Deep and Phase 2. The groups play a lot of weddings and parties.

Q: How many shows a year do you guys do?

A: About 35. That’s enough — sometimes more than enough — and that is part of the reason I had to come up with another band. We sort of got into the niche of doing weddings, and we have to handle a lot of requests.

Q: So you’re saying if I come to you and I want the Commodores and “Achy Breaky Heart” and you can’t do “Achy Breaky,” you’ll go find somebody?

A: Right. I had one young lady who came to me and said, “I can’t do this song,” and I said, “The song is going to be done. The client wants it done.”

Q: Are the bands that you manage complementary? They are not identical are they?

A: Well, I will say they are complementary in the sense that with Love, Peace & Happiness, traditionally we’ve had six males. With Broad Street Exit, in some ways I’ve built a more versatile band. There are female singers and horn players. They are integrated and not just black-white but females.

With my theater background, I’ve always understood you have to have understudies. Each one of the members has played with each band. A lot of our people are professional people. Ken Parks teaches at the Baylor School and is music director at his church. He is super busy and sometimes he needs a break. We all need a break sometimes. You have to allow time for people to refresh themselves.

Q: What is the average size of these groups.

A: Six or seven people.

Q: Is there any song you won’t do.

A: No. These guys love a challenge. They get pretty bored with the regular stuff. Give us a challenge.

Q: When you perform with Love, Peace & Happiness, what do you do?

A: I’m one of the lead singers. But, one of the things I did was make sure all of the singers and performers are better than me and I have no problem with that. Most people don’t want to handle the business part of it and I do. I do play a little bass, a little keyboards and a little drums.

Q: At the end of the night, how do you know you’ve had a successful gig?

A: We know during the show, when people are up there with us dancing or on stage singing with us. We get notes from people saying, “I didn’t know my mother could dance.” That’s fun.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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