Sunday, July 28, 2013

Who's Gonna' Fill Their Shoes?

It seems like we are losing a generation of musicians too soon.

J J Cale, who passed away on Friday, is the latest. If you don’t know the musician, you probably know the music. He wrote “Cocaine” and “After Midnight” recorded by Eric Clapton. The Oklahoma native gave us the ‘Tulsa sound.’

Taylor Hicks tweeted on Saturday:

“RIP JJ Cale He was the quintessential #americana #roots-musician”

Cale’s “They Call Me The Breeze” made a hit by Lynyrd Skynyrd, has long been covered by Taylor.

We also lost country music pioneer and legend, George Jones, earlier this year. The musical competition, The Voice, was in its live competition shows. A duo from Oklahoma,  the Swan Brothers, paid tribute to Jones singing one of his songs posing the stirring question, “Who’s Gonna’ Fill Their Shoes?”

It was also a challenge for those new artists competing. It started a personal dialogue for me. I wondered beyond country music and asked myself who’s going to fill the shoes of artists like The Beatles, Elvis, Elton John, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison and now, musician/songwriters…

like J J Cale.

Will our plentiful singing competitions and hit producers of today give us singers and music that will take the place of those who molded our musical roots and genres—the unforgettable music that still plays today and will for a long time after we say goodbye to these great musicians?

What makes music and artists unforgettable? It is music and artists that we never tire of hearing, music that is never eclipsed by something on the Top 40—here today, forgotten tomorrow.

It’s music and performances that connect with people. That is the elusive link that the best musicians create—a strong connection and music so good that no other artist is associated with it.

I attended a small graduation this spring. At the socializing afterwards, a small band—just five guys who got together to play music—entertained with “House of the Rising Sun,” “Margarettaville” and then “Let It Be”—all songs that have stood the test of time. I was singing along and lost in the moment. Seldom are covers better than the original. I can’t even recall a cover of “Let It Be.”

That is the unforgettable—the purist example of the best.

And those shoes will be difficult to fill.

What new song today will be here after we are gone? What new artist will be remembered as a “quintessential” of music when they die?

And,  just as importantly, what artists today will carry on the legacy of this great generation of musicians? 

Truly, only time will tell.  Singer/songwriters who live for their music and connect with their audiences will have the lasting impact on the next generation of music.

There will be some who fill those shoes. That is the bright side of this.

Taylor Hicks covers “They Call Me the Breeze:”

Eric Clapton, J. J. Cale “After Midnight” and “They Call Me the Breeze:”

For more about J J Cale, visit:
Note: “Quintessential” is from the Latin meaning “fifth essence,” the purist example; in Medieval philosophy it suggested that after Earth, air, fire, and water, this was the Fifth Element.

I wondered, “After Earth, air, fire, and water, might MUSIC be the Fifth Element?”

Just a thought…

Sunday, July 21, 2013

On the Way to AC: Taylor Hicks Talks to Huff Post Live

Snoop Dogg, American Idol, Pantera, Las Vegas, raspy recording, ‘stand your ground’ law…

It was an eclectic list of talking points as American Idol, Taylor Hicks, stopped over in New York City on his way to a gig at Bally’s Atlantic City for a sit down interview with Mike Sacks at Huff Post Live. From light moments to serious opinions, the extroadinary conversation gave new insights from the Alabama platinum recording artist, Broadway star, and currently, headliner at Paris Las Vegas.

We looked back at some of the interesting highlights:

In music talk, surprisingly, and to Mike's delight, Taylor revealed he had been heavy into the heavy metal band, Pantera, partly because of his brother who was a huge fan. But he was more into the soulful and rootsy end.

“Pantera was an iconic and classic band.”

Recalling his associations with the likes of Willie Nelson and Snoop Dogg, Taylor told of initiating an unlikely entertainment duo—Snoop Dogg and blues harmonica. He proposed playing blues harmonica on "Gin and Juice" with the notorious rapper.

“That’s something you never think you’ll do…blow blues harp on Gin and Juice…I don’t know if that has ever been cross pollinated before—blues harmonica and rap music…It was a first for me.”

A judge on American Idol? There has been much rumor and speculation about the Season Five Idol winner returning to the show as a judge. He said  he would enjoy a stint on the show. He has said in the past that he thought that a winner should be on the judges’ panel and continues to credit the show with giving him an important platform on which to continue his career.

A highlight of the 2006 American Idol tour was visiting the White House and meeting President George Bush. Taylor candidly shared his profound impressions from the oval office and divulged that the President and Vladimir Putin had just met in the Rose Garden on the day of their visit.

“You can feel the weight of the world in that building and that’s why I have the utmost respect for any president… it is the weight of the free world and you can feel it in the White House, you can feel it in the oval office.”

Living on The Strip in a hotel, the Vegas headliner described what one might see just getting morning coffee. He expressed admiration for the Las Vegas entertainment community that comes together to support each other as they did when Vegas headliner, Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller competed in the Celebrity Apprentice Finale. Taylor appeared at a Las Vegas fundraiser—an ice cream party hosted by Jillette and was a guest at the season’s finale.

A video question brought one of the more interesting insights about Taylor’s signature raspy voice. The guest asked how you develop and control that raspiness in the voice. Surprisingly, he says that it comes and goes. When he has done a lot of press (talking) it may be raspier or that it might come from singing in so many smoky bars in the Southeast.

“Your true vocal voice, recordable voice, comes and goes…it’s nice to capture and record when it’s in that space…so, in the middle of the night you could be in that voice and you would go cut vocals for a record.”

Importantly, his thoughts on where the country is now:

“It’s in a good place.”

Although he said he did not have an opinion on the Zimmerman verdict, he did say that we need to “take a hard look at ‘stand your ground’" and that we can "...hone in on some of the laws and make them better, so that we can make sure that justice is served correctly.”

Surprises, insights, and thoughts you haven’t heard before make this an extraordinary conversation.

And there is much more in the video exchange with Huff Post Live in what Taylor calls their “killer newsroom.”

For time well spent, check out the entire interview here:

Or right here!

For some ‘supporting details’ take a look at:

Snoop Dogg and Taylor Hicks, “Gin and Juice:”

Performing “Takin’ It To The Streeets” at the Republican National Convention:
Taylor Hicks continues his contract with Ceasar’s Entertainment presenting free concerts at Bally’s Atlantic City this week Thursday through Saturday in the Blue Martini and the Bikini Beach Bar. For more information and performance times:

In August, Taylor is at The Hive in Sandpoint, Idaho, in Las Vegas at Paris Hotel and Casino and at Harrah's Laughlin.  Check out all the latest news and performance dates at: 

Follow on Twitter: @TaylorHicks

Sunday, July 7, 2013

#TaylorHicksinVegas ~ One Year and Counting!

Bally's Poster captured by Gary Hathaway

Taylor Hicks marked an anniversary last week. He tweeted:

“One year and counting! @BallysAC @ParisVegas in #Vegas #greatgig #thankful.”

On June 26, 2012, he became the first American Idol with a headlining residency in Las Vegas opening at Bally’s Indigo Lounge.

That night, a packed house welcomed the newest Las Vegas headliner. Bally’s Kelly Frey tweeted the moment:

Photo shared by Bally's-Opening Night

It was a turnaround for the long-touring musician. Taylor Hicks was in one place. Fans were now the ones making travel plans. And they did, coming from all over the world.

A new band took the Vegas stage behind Taylor, among them Jamie McLean, Brian Gallagher from his 2007 tour band, and long time music director, Brian Less. The musical talent and chemistry packed on to the small stage were as good as it gets. The energy blew the roof off, almost literally.

Photo from Bally's Martin Martinez

The music was new and old. On a set list of twists and turns, what was next was as unexpected at the nearby slots rolling up sevens. There were tracks from The Distance, his current album, classics from Elvis, and blues and soul favorites from this songwriter’s large repertoire. Las Vegas had a new mix and a new genre it coined ‘roadhouse’—raw, rockin’ and really good! From the energy-spiked, foot-stomping opener, “Country Living,” to Elvis’ classic closer, “Viva Las Vegas,” the show made you dance, grabbed your heart, and left you singing!


The stage was small. The sound, the energy, and the experience were not. In an arena, you are part of the crowd. In this small, intimate setting, sometimes referred to as Taylor’s Las Vegas living room, you were part of the moment, the music, and the show—you were all in it together. Taylor chatted between songs, thanked the military in the audience, and delivered funny lines like the best comedians in the city. He grinned and thanked those who voted for him on American Idol!  It all resonated with guests as an evening of great entertainment in a cool little corner of the Vegas Strip!

After the show in an informal meet and greet at the merchandise table, guests could meet Taylor, have items autographed and take pictures. The take-away of a personal connection with the Vegas headliner was appreciated and remembered.

Taylor’s stunning new Vegas wardrobe brought back chic jackets like those of the 2007 National Tour along with western shirts that, no doubt, had never seen a horse. And nothing had to be packed onto a tour bus.
Photo by DNJ Morton,

The little lounge show grew with every rave review and creative new moniker—‘searing soul,’ ‘rootsy rock,’ the ‘real deal.”  Shows were sold out. The Las Vegas entertainment community embraced the ‘new club kid,’ and the show was named one of the Top Ten “best of Las Vegas.” It became a vibrant part of the Las Vegas landscape. The Bally’s headliner joined the community is supporting charities, walking the Red Carpets in fine fashion, and smiling from the covers of local magazines.

It was success all wrapped up in a cool little lounge in Las Vegas!

It quickly outgrew The Indigo located just off the gaming floor at Bally’s. In January, 2013, the little lounge show that was packed to overflowing with really good musicians and people eager to hear them, moved a short step away to the larger Napoleon’s Piano Bar at Paris Las Vegas. The guitars didn’t bump into the drums.

More people came to experience what writer, Chaz Lipp, described as a backwoods ‘smoky roadhouse with a hot band.’ Napoleon’s Piano Bar that had been home to dueling pianos, champagne and cigars, now rocked with dueling guitars and smoky roadhouse.

Opening Night-Paris Las Vegas, Photo by Ashlee DeMartino

Who knew that Las Vegas would be a hotbed for ‘roadhouse,’ that the American Idol who auditioned there in 2005 would be the first to return to a long-term residency, and that new success would be waiting right where it had started?

Success is where you make it.  Taylor Hick seemed hell-bent on making this another success with hard work and musicians who love playing music. It paid off...again.  He’s winning big in the town of the elusive win.

Congratulations and Happy Anniversary to Taylor Hicks and to all those who made year one in Las Vegas memorable and successful!

Cheers! And best wishes for more success and good music in year two!

Years hence, we will say, “We saw you in Vegas!”

Viva, Las Vegas!
Tonight, Taylor wraps up a series of five shows in Reno, NV at Sammy’s Showroom at Harrah’s where he has played to packed houses.  Appearances this summer at other Ceasar’s Entertainment venues will include Harrah’s Laughlin and Bally’s Atlantic City.

Tomorrow night, he is back home at Paris Las Vegas to start year two of this little lounge show that’s making a big sound in one of the biggest entertainment meccas in the world.

Buy Tickets:

Check out all the latest news and places of other appearances this summer at the Official Taylor Hicks Website:

For more on the Las Vegas experience,  you might enjoy these blogs:

“Taylor Hicks in Las Vegas - Twists, Turns, and Tags”

"Taylor Hicks Rocks the Vegas Gig"

For our archive of everything Las Vegas and Taylor Hicks, visit Connections Anthology: -Thanks to Cath-tthc for keeping the memories!