Roberts: Tribute to best local singers

Roberts: Tribute to best local singers

February 21st, 2012 by Dalton Roberts in Life Entertainment

Dalton Roberts

Dalton Roberts

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

Thanks to the newspaper's Current section on Fridays and the online listings by Bob Payne, we can know where most local entertainers are performing each night of the week.

I will put our talent up against the talent in any comparably sized city in America, even Nashville. I lived in Nashville and was surprised that the entertainment venues had fewer good bands than Chattanooga. Nashville nightclubs cannot pay the fees of the stars, and the unpredictable supplies of would-be stars "starve out" rapidly.

Even when I played regularly in local nightclubs, I was a supporter of local talent. On my off nights, I was forever going to see and hear someone I especially liked. I still support songwriters at Charles & Myrtle's Coffeehouse and other places.

I have loved so many singers that it's hard to pick a favorite -- but if I had to, I guess it would be Al Harvey. He and Jimmy Tawater are the best at running a show I have ever seen. Tawater still plays an occasional gig, and I usually go to see him when he does.

I just wrote a song for a new rock 'n' roll CD I am working on. It is titled, "Never Too Old To Rock and Roll." It fits Tawater.

Al was frontman for country legend Mel Street and head of the band at the Longhorn Ballroom in Fort Worth, Texas, when it was the biggest country nightclub in the world. He also was named "Entertainer of the Year" in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. There are so many clubs in that area it would be like being entertainer of the year in most states. He and I released a CD last year -- just us and two guitars -- with songs we played at The Galley at Bass Bay in the 1990s.

Songwriters, singers and musicians are in the business of interpreting emotions for people. Their calling is to make you feel the message of a song. Let me share with you my thoughts about those, past and present, who were particularly skilled at serving up powerful emotional messages with their music.

Roger Alan Wade can make you feel the tenderness of love and in the next song kick you out on a dance floor with a rousing rocker. I love the gentle way he interprets "When Daddy Was a Younger Man and Mama Was a Natural Blonde" then rocks you with "Mama Ain't at Home Tonight."

Laura Walker of The Dismembered Tennesseans has a similar skill at taking you from a bluegrass clogger to a blues song like "Woman Don't Advertise Your Man." I tried to tempt her into being a blues singer, but she said, "Man, I just love bluegrass too much to not sing it."

Bill McCallie has a cool way with a story song like "Navajo Rug." I also love his interpretation of "Tennessee Blues." Bill is an outstanding cowboy poet and humorist. He straddles folk music and bluegrass skillfully.

I love Pattee Wilbanks' touch on a sad folk song. Someone asked why she sung so many sad songs, and she said, "I am a sad person, and I love sad songs," proving again that we do best what we love most. She and her partner Dale Martin are Bluejohn and will be at Charles & Myrtle's Saturday.

Next week I will complete my thoughts on local song interpreters.

E-mail Dalton Roberts at