August Showcase

By Ronnie Dee

When the young lady who served as emcee for the August Songwriter Showcase announced that this was the fourth anniversary of the showcase, I was surprised. It doesn't seem that long ago that Marie Augustine led off that very first program. Paul Moffett, esteemed president of the LASC, was also on that initial show and he started off the latest edition with some thoughts and tunes from the "Post-Nuclear Spanish Opera House" era, the PNSOH being a house that Paul and fellow musician Ray Major were renting wherein they held jam sessions and sing-alongs on Monday nights in the "Pre-LASC-Rudyard Kipling" era. Ray was also on hand on this Saturday to ably accompany Paul on banjo, mouth harp and vocals.

Paul got the proceedings off to a good start by breaking a G string on his opening number, "I Can Write A Country Song." Stagehand Tim Lynch was on the ball and immediately handed Paul another guitar, courtesy of Diana Black, and the show went on.

The next number, a self-proclaimed "intellectual" song, "Dream of the Red Hotel," with a nice harmonica touch by Ray, was my wife's favorite selection of the set. Some women just have a thing for the academic types, you know.

After that came "Adrienne," followed by "Year of the Comet," "the end of the world in four verses," with Ray tearing it up on his open-back, clear-head banjo. Paul's intelligentsia label was knocked slightly askew on "Railroad Man" when he forgot the words to a verse, but that's okay, Paul, it happens to the best of us. He recovered well enough to make us all feel the train cars rocking as he wailed out the chorus.

The two amigos ended a fine set with Paul's venerable "C.J.'s Music," and the burgeoning crowd was ready for more.

Next came what is always one of my favorite portions of any showcase, i.e., a couple of rookie performers, in this case Rhonda Pierce and Diana Black. Rhonda, who usually acts as hostess at the showcases, was the first to go on, and playing guitar, sang a salute to her husband entitled "Mr. Truck Driver." Next came a poignant plea, "Just This One Prayer," followed by a gospel tune, "His Love," now sans guitar. Rhonda dedicated her last song to all those who have stood by and encouraged her: "(It's) Simply Amazing" (what your love has done for me).

Diana Black then leaped upon the stage and, accompanied by Joyce Trammell on piano, rocked into "Daydream Dresser." She swore she had not practiced her moves in front of a mirror; "just natural moves," she claimed. I believe you, Diana.

Next, having retrieved her guitar from Paul, she launched into "The Same Old Song and Dance," an oh-so-familiar happenstance. Then came "The Heart of Dixie" (get it?), a collaboration with fellow Co-oper Charlie Walls. Joyce once again hit the 88's and Ray Major added some more five-string expertise to this southern gospel-touched rocker.

Diana ended her set on guitar with "Something Gold," a touching tribute to her parents' fiftieth wedding anniversary.

Both performers appeared nervous at the beginning, but came through in fine style. If you're not a bundle of nerves for your first real live performance, you're not human. That's part of the game; to overcome the fear and come through under pressure. Kudos to Rhonda and Diana.

When the young lady emcee appeared to begin the second half of the show, I realized that it was our own Jean Metcalfe, looking quite stunning in a new hairdo and outfit replete with mini-skirt. Wow!

Laura Davis was first up after intermission, and belted out a strong version of that perennial favorite, "The Rose." Dave Troxell accompanied Laura on a red guitar and both performers sported black cowboy boots with silver ornamentation that glistened in the stage lights. Laura next sang a Troxell tune entitled "Goodbye" and then repeated a song she did on the March showcase, "Destiny."

Dave left the stage and Joyce Trammell backed Laura on the piano for the last two numbers, "Sitting Alone," a lovely ballad, and a torchy "I'll Just Keep Loving You," both written by Joyce. It was the first time I had heard Laura on the showcase and she certainly impressed me. Her voice and styling brought out the best in Dave and Joyce's writings. Keep it up, Laura!

Finally, at 10:51 p.m., Bob Maples got to take the stage and quit pacing. Waiting for a long time to go on can be nerve-wracking, but Bob and his "ensem" proved up to the task. A small glitch or two in the equipment was straightened out and off they went. Some folks gathered up front to see what the always unpredictable Mr. Maples might have up his sleeve and they weren't disappointed.

This night his group was called "Exploring the Cone" and Bob, parading around the stage in his best cut-offs, launched into "Mother's Exploring the Cone Rap," introducing members of the group as he went along. It was one of the few rap songs that I can say I have enjoyed. Next came a bit of social commentary called "Cheap Tricks and Three-Piece Suits." All the while Bob was playing either an electric or acoustic guitar or electric keyboard; Rob Smithington was making sparks fly on the piano; Fred Otto was blowing away on a pennywhistle; and Steve Dalton, Jak Son Renfro and John Paul were grinning, bopping and hammering away on an assortment of percussion instruments. There was a conga drum. Did I hear a dumbek? A guiro? Claves? I don't know -- I don't care; it all flowed and blended and sounded good. I did fear getting a boot under the chin when one of the group's fans leaped into a frenzied, high-kicking dance right in front of me on several occasions, but I came away unscathed.

Paul Moffett (who isn't really 126 years old) penned the next tune the "Cones" tore into, the redoubtable "I've Got My Doubts About You, Boy," with Fred, Rob and Jak Son vocalizing. Next on the agenda came "Hey Man" (does Bo know about that one?) and the finale fittingly carried us away to a "Jamaican Smorgasbord," inspired by a Marie Augustine (remember her?) concoction.

Paul and Ray got the midnight jam going with a couple of numbers before Bob and the boys joined them. Things were rocking anew when Donna and I departed. She said that the water had started to taste odd. Maybe there was some "stuff" in it. Anyhow, it was a diverse and entertaining evening. Fun, you could call it -- and I think I will.

And before signing off, I just have to mention: Nice legs, Jean!