Marlboro Talent Roundup

Seventy-five hundred dollars divided five ways is how much?

By Joyce Trammell

An anxious Robert Morris sat with his wife, Pat. It seemed as though a lifetime had passed since the last band had performed. The regulars at the Desert Rose Inn on Outer Loop had gone, leaving an audience of friends and families of the groups that had performed in the finals of the Marlboro Talent Roundup.

Robert Morris and the Lonely Roads Band: left to right, Ed Hamblin, Kent Houchins, Cheryl Lynn, Morris, and Bryan Spradlin.

Morris felt that his group, the Lonely Roads Band, stood a good chance to place in the money. Seventy-five-hundred dollars, the prize for first place, sounded great, but Uncle Pecos, the house band from Colonial Gardens, had brought a lot of fans with them and it had shown in the applause.

However, Morris reasoned, his band's performance had mustered just about as much reaction from the audience and, since they were so new and virtually unknown, he felt that they had won quite a few people into their camp.

At forty, Robert Morris was one of the older headliners, but his easy smile and good vocals gave a stability to the group. Cheryl Lynn's voice was wonderful. Kent Houchins, once with New Horizon, added lead guitar. Bryan Spradlen, drums, was previously with the Payne Brothers. Ed Hamblen handled the bass chores. Hamblen, a former member of the Wood Brothers, a group nominated for a Grammy in the Bluegrass category, had a grand time and he passed that feeling along to the audience.

Could it be that a band that had placed Riffle, its final member, into the group just before the contest, really stand as much of a chance as such seasoned performers as the Venturas? Terry Vincent and Sharon Beavers had terrific solo voices.

The Dakota Band had done well, and Steve Adams had a dynamite original gospel song.

Southwind brought along Steve Cooley of the Dillards, plus members of the New Horizon Band. They were all top-notch musicians.

Robert Morris was beginning to understand how "Rocky Balboa" might have felt.

"Three thousand dollars for second sounds good," he remarked to his wife.

Finally, emcees E. J. Clark of WTMT, Louisville, and Cale Tharp of WKMO, Elizabethtown approached the stage. The judges, Bo Higdon of LaBo's, Steve Spitzangell of WTMT, Brent Black of WHIC, Charmaine Brown of WHIC, songwriter Mickey Clark, Anthony Van Dollen of Arista Records, Buzz Stone of MCA Records, and Steve Campbell of Capitol Records began to trickle back from their huddle. Their score cards had been tabulated.

The emcees announced "In third place - Southwind. In second place - Uncle Pecos."

E. J. Clark's voice rose a few decibels: " . . . and the winner of the Marlboro Talent Roundup for the Louisville Area, one of only eight bands in the entire country to compete in the championship is . . . Robert Morris and the Lonely Roads Band."

Robert Morris has a new respect for that word "fate" because something brought each member of the Lonely Roads Band into place at just the right time, and the judges picked up that the group jelled into something special.

In December, Robert Morris and the Lonely Roads Band will head for the Marlboro Championship in Nashville. The winner of the first prize will get $30,000, forty hours in a recording studio with award-winning producer Barry Beckett, and performances on the Marlboro tour.