As Barry would say, “Let the music play”

Published 3:26 pm Sunday, March 1, 2015

My honored editor said when he hit the last “Export” key on his computer last weekend it marked the end of a lengthy, but storied, “Crossroads” series for our staff for the month of February.

From the folks who submitted their “Top-10” lists to the interviewees we profiled, I especially really enjoyed the doing this series.

That’s mostly because I learned a lot.

I learned that my personal tastes in music run more toward the faith-based as it was a pleasure to honor, in some way, the many musicians who are so involved in music ministries.

Special thanks to The Golden Harmoneers, Clint Freeman and Unity, organist John Eley, and even producer-musician Johnny Ruffin.  I guess you can tell from that one-half of my interviews that someone spends quite a bit of time in a church pew on Sundays, or maybe attends more than a few gospel concerts.

But I also can’t forget to tip my toboggan to the others who were more known for secular music.  To young producer Keith Urquhart, whom I actually could have said straddles the fence, with one foot in spiritual music and the other in the spoken-word expressions of the sometimes dispossessed (Not only is the young man a writer, a rapper and a rap producer, but he comes by his music appreciation honestly because he not only is a church drummer, but he comes from a ministerial family).

Other than seeing him as a fixture at Bertie High School basketball games where he plays the national anthem on his computer before every tip-off, a “shout-out” to Bonnie Jones the DJ (that stands for ‘disc jockey’, even though discs in this line of work have probably gone the way of the 8-Track in the digital age; Jones is Mr. “More Platter and less Chatter”, as they used to say about another form of DJ – the ones who played it up on the radio, but their changing ways is another story for another time).

A very gracious thanks to Steve Owens and Summertime, not just for being the award winners they deserve to be for their efforts but because their musicianship is extra special to me, and should be to every Carolinian (I spent over 30 years at the beach and more than a good bit of that time listening to Beach Music.  Yes, I’m proud of every single grain of ‘sand in my shoes’).

Finally, thanks to Kool Daddy and the Kool Pops. They may have stopped playing full-time as a band in the seventies, but they had a style that’s hard to go out of style.  I’m a fan of old-school rhythm-and-blues whether it comes from the slick streets of your Detroits and Philadelphias, or back roads in Georgia and Alabama. Much of that’s because there’s nothing like seeing or hearing a live band playing what the Memphis musicians called “some of that ol’ soul flat” (If I lost you on that phrase, check out the Blues Brothers movies and their take on Sam & Dave).

There were so many other genres of music here in the region that could – and should – have been explored, but we only had a four-week window, and we hope from your responses that you enjoyed our efforts to expose their sacrifices to you.

We’ve got a lot of good musicians here in the Roanoke area.  So wherever you give a listen to that sound that makes you hum or tap your feet, bob and nod your head, or even sing along when no one’s listening: always know that it’s soothing and that life is always going to get better.

Speaking of efforts, three-quarters of the way into the home stretch of finishing this series with just one story left to complete, I was driving past a local entertainment emporium and noticed a cargo trailer/equipment hauler parked outside.  I’ll bet if I had to hazard a guess, it probably belonged to a band getting ready to set up their gear for a night, or weekend, of work on somebody’s stage.  Next week, that same solo, duo, or group will be, quoting Willie Nelson here, “on the road again, making music with their friends”. I smiled when I gazed at the hauler because I know that figuratively that hauler represents the toil and sweat of some group of local musicians, singers or instrumentalists, who just want to, as the late Barry White once said, ‘let the music play’.

Gene Motley is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be contacted at or 252-332-7211.