Sunday, November 11, 2007

Shout Out to the Soul Patrol

We've been following the football/academic controversy at Hoover High School, and as part of our coverage, I posted recently about some of the better athletes that have come through Hoover, either at Hoover High or its predecessor, Berry High School.

I noted that 2006 American Idol Taylor Hicks, a pretty fair basketball player in his days at Hoover High, almost certainly was the most famous ex athlete from Hoover. That prompted an outpouring of readers, and commenters, from Hicks' dedicated fan base, the "Soul Patrol."

It was a delight to have them join our Legal Schnauzer audience. We spend most of our time here dealing with judicial corruption, politically motivated prosecution, ethically challenged attorneys, and other less-than-cheery subjects.

So it was a treat to be joined by the "Soul Patrol" and their unbridled enthusiasm for a Birmingham boy made good. Actually, I already knew all about the "Soul Patrollers;" I'm married to one. My wife and one of her girlfriends can go on and on about "cute" and "sweet" Taylor is. Sometimes, I think they even talk about his music.

As for me, I hope I can do my small part to help spread the word that Hicks is an artist worthy of appreciation by a broad base of music lovers--not just his "girlyfans." (Don't get me wrong. I like the "girlyfans." I'm married to one.)

And Hicks' story really goes beyond music. Here are a few things I find interesting about "Gray Charles":

* I like his back story, the fact that he had to slug it out in bars and clubs for about 10 years before becoming known; the fact that he doesn't have the standard "rock star" look; the fact he is not from a standard rock star-producing place. It's a tale of persistence, and having the goods to back it up, when the time came.

* In numerous newspaper and magazine articles, and in his book Heart Full of Soul, Hicks has talked about repeatedly facing rejection from the mainline music business. I can identify with that. I've had numerous mainstream journalists, and quite a few lawyers, tell me my story of being victimized by corrupt judges was not worthwhile. So I decided to tell it myself, on this blog. And in recent weeks, our reporting here has been cited by the highly respected and influential Scott Horton at Harper' And it has been cited in documents filed as part of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee's investigation on selective prosecution by the Bush Justice Department. I would be the first to say that my story lacks the warm and fuzzies of the Taylor Hicks story. But having followed Hicks' rise from obscurity to American Idol, I like to think his toughness in the face of rejection rubbed off on me just a little.

* I like the fact that Hicks crosses racial boundaries. I like the fact his key musical influences are folks like Ray Charles, Otis Redding, and Sam Cooke. He sends the message that a white guy from Birmingham's suburbs can truly appreciate the talents that people of color can bring.

* I like Hicks' politics, I think. Actually, I'm not absolutely sure what his politics are. On a visit to the White House, he was gracious to George W. Bush--as he should have been. But I seem to recall reading somewhere that Hicks admires Bill Clinton. That, plus his affinity for black music, makes me think Hicks is a Democrat. Good for him.

* I like the fact that Hicks appreciates those who came before him. Three of my musical heroes are John Fogerty (Creedence Clearwater Revival), Don Henley (Eagles), and Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac). Fogerty often has spoken of his love for great blues artists, such as Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Robert Johnson. Henley grew up in east Texas, listening to country greats like George Jones and Merle Haggard and reading Henry David Thoreau. Buckingham clearly has been influenced heavily by the Kingston Trio and Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys. I think it's impossible to be really good at something if you don't appreciate those who have come before you. I think Hicks understands that.

* Finally, I just like Hicks' music. Looking back, my wife and I have major regrets that we never went to a Birmingham club to see Hicks perform in the days when he was unknown. I do recall seeing his name regularly when I would check the club schedules in The Birmingham News or in our two alternative weeklies, Birmingham Weekly and Black & White. So his name was familiar when I started seeing stories about him making the cut week after week on American Idol. We started tuning in to Idol and came to appreciate Hicks' ability to take a song by Rod Stewart or Elton John and make it his own. And after Hicks had won, we heard his two independent CDs--In Your Time and Under the Radar. Those told us that he was more than just a singer--he could play music; he could surround himself with strong musicians; and perhaps most importantly, he could write. Songs like "Son of a Carpenter," "Heart and Soul," "West Texas Sky," and "The Fall" show an artist who is serious about the writing craft.

* My wife is forcing me to write one more story about our connections to Taylor Hicks. We went to City Stages 2006, Birmingham's major annual music festival, and one of the primary attractions was our new, homegrown American Idol. We didn't see Hicks stand in with Snoop Dog one night. But we were there for his Sunday afternoon appearance with The Little Memphis Blues Orchestra. The schedule, however, presented a problem for yours truly. On at the same time were The Grass Roots, one of those blast-from-the-past acts that were a big part of my adolescence. (Herman's Hermits and the current incarnation of The Beach Boys also were on that night.) I'd wanted to see The Grass Roots for more than 30 years and never been able to catch them. So when Hicks and LIMBO were a bit late coming on, I decided to head for The Grass Roots stage while my wife stayed for the LIMBO show. I know this story sounds like I'm a fuddy dud who lives in the past. And I have only one defense to that charge: I knew I'd have plenty of opportunities to see Hicks in the near future, and I wasn't sure I'd ever have a chance to see The Grass Roots again. (Heck, lead singer Rob Grill has had hip surgery and can barely walk.) Indeed, the wife and I were fortunate to get tickets for the second of Hicks two shows at the Alabama Theater on his first nationwide tour. It was a terrific show, with the Homewood High School drum corps joining Hicks onstage for "The Runaround," followed by a solo version of "My Home's in Alabama."

Anyway, I'm going to write periodically about Hicks here at Legal Schnauzer. There are plenty of negatives about Alabama, and I write about some of them here--our corrupt state courts, our sorry and unethical politicians, our racist constitution. But there are lots of good things about Alabama, and Hicks is one of them. In fact, I have another post coming soon about his sports days at Hoover High. Hope the Soul Patrollers will stop by again to visit.


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Legal, for your kind words for Taylor Hicks, and not making your blogs about his looks or the fans looks or anything so superficial. This is a guy who is super talented,who has barely touched the surface of that talent, and deserves to be around on the national well as Birmingham. But Birmingham has him my the heart, so you won't lose him.

Anonymous said...

Excellent points, Legal ~~ and sounds like you have a VERY perceptive wife-mate! hahaha

Seriously, your points about Taylor's climb from the the gig here and there -- to the AI tour, Spring tour; Summer tour and occasional sit in appearances are right on point. I, too, enjoy Taylor's music; his joy in performing and his writing skills. I'm following his career with pleasure and look forward to enjoying his musical progress through the years. Thanks for the outstanding article.

Anonymous said...

You hit the nail on the head. Taylor is so far and away the best thing ever to come out of Idol, it's hard to put into words. It's almost like he was too good to be on that show, a show that hasn't shown any respect to him, but I understand it was a means to and end. And in the end, I think he'll have the last laugh.

tyrpentine said...

We so often read off the cuff comments about Taylor with little or no basis in fact, it sure is good to read from one who knows his subject. Hes just the best I've seen in quite a while. And Credence Clearwater and the Eagles?
We may be musical twins.

Anonymous said...

It's obvious that you know of what you speak.Word for word you have described the many reasons why Taylor is unique.His passion for music is what sets him above the rest.It's always been about the music for him.His voice,his music his performances are second to none.I am so thankful,that he decided to make that fateful trip to Las Vegas,how lucky for us that he did ! Thanks for a wonderful article Legal!

Anonymous said...

I just want to say thanks for being someone who appreciates Taylor and some of his fans for the good in them. For not being one of those people who just bash Taylor to get his fans going so that you can in turn bash them. Thanks for making it about the artistry and the music and not about "the gray haired guy who won Idol and has crazy fans"

It's nice to see Taylor getting some good press (or blog buzz) but even nicer to hear of others who truly appreciate the man and his struggle to get his voice heard.

Anonymous said...

It is always a joy to read something by someone who gets Taylor. Taylor's passion for and appreciation of all kinds of music shines through in his performances and made him stand out on American Idol, where he was clearly familiar with the work of the guest artists while other contestants were saying, "Well, I really didn't know any of his songs..." I also got a kick out of your reference to the Kingston Trio's influence on Lindsey Buckingham. I was at the Kingston Trio reunion concert in 1981 (taped fo PBS), when former Trio member John Stewart brought Buckingham onstage as a special guest. John said that he had been trying to learn to play electric guitar and it sounded terrible, and then when he heard Lindsey play the electric guitar on a Fleetwood Mac album, he realized that Lindsey was playing banjo lines. Since John could play the banjo, he started copying Lindsey's licks. Some time later, John ran into musician Walter Egan and asked him what it was like to work with Lindsey Buckingham. "You gotta meet Lindsey," Egan replied. "He learned how to play off of your Kingston Trio albums."

Anonymous said...

You've written more perceptively about Hicks (and more accurately) than most so-called music critics have. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thank you - its a pleasure to hear from someone who has actually been to a live Taylor concert! His concerts are the best I've seen in a long time! And live is truly the way to experience Taylor's music!

Anonymous said...

Hey, Legal; thanks for taking the time to know a little about the "real" Taylor Hicks before writing about him. I'm so pleased that you're letting a different audience, who might not otherwise follow-up on Taylor, know that there's a lot more to him than most of the current radio garbage that is taking up the airwaves at the present time. Those of you who may not have followed up on Taylor since the Idol days should really give a listen to what he can do; just go to YouTube, GoFish or AOL Music and search Taylor Hicks. There's hours and hours of great listening/viewing pleasure there! Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

I appreciate all that you have said about Taylor. You seem to really understand what he is all about. He stayed true to himself and continues to be a great artist, songwriter, and musician. After his audition on AI he had captured my heart. He grabs you and you can't get enough of him. Although I think he is very handsome I am mostly in it for the music. Taylor is the whole package. He has what it takes to grab an audience and make them feel they are part of his life. I saw him 5 times. One of those times at Smith's Olde Bar in Atlanta after one of the AI shows. He was just fantastic and when he started singing Georgia I was mesmorized. Thanks for writing about Taylor. He has a fan for life here.

Anonymous said...

Hey - thanks for taking the time to write an intelligent article about Taylor Hicks. He has indeed persisted through and has made his way in spike of the years of rejection.
I am a proud member of the Soul Patrol and I really love his music. I think he is great songwriter and can’t wait to see what he does for his 4th album.

Thank you for writing positive things about Taylor – he does deserve it. I have been to many of his concerts and it is something you have to experience for yourself to truly “get” it. Yes, he’s a ot of fun on stage, but my favorite thing to do it to just sit back and let his music surround you and go where it takes you. I am never disappointed.And give your wife a big Soul Patrol HUG!!!!

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for all of the wonderful comments. It's a blast to have visits from the "Soul Patrol." Did many of you follow the story a while back where Don VanCleave, a Birmingham music entrepreneur, made some comments to the effect that he didn't get Taylor? I think he said, more or less, that he received CDs like "In Your Time" and "Under the Radar" all the time. Don't mean to pile on Mr. VanCleave because I appreciate the fact that he's involved with independent music stores. But I don't see how you can listen to those two CDs and not hear something a little out of the ordinary (in a postive way). Wonder if someone in Mr. VanCleave's position hears so much music that it's possible for something good to slip by him. Anyone ever heard follow up comments from Mr. VanCleave? Wonder if he's become a fan. I guess he is one example of a person with whom Taylor was pretty persistent. By the way, I hear "Laser's Edge," the Birmingham store that I believe has exclusive rights to sales of the independent CDs, is going out of business. Will be a real loss on Bham music scene.

Anonymous said...

Just a follow-up comment on radio DJ's who didn't want to give Taylor's music a spin in the pre-Idol days. Not sure if VanCleeve was the one who made the comment but the article I read referred to Taylor's persistence in trying to get his music on the LOCAL station. Instead of giving the music a listen, the DJ was very dismissive of the album and did state that he wouldn't take calls and even stayed in the back of the office the one time Taylor came to the station to drop off an album.

I'm curious if this guy would give Taylor the same rejection now. As is the case with most things -- you don't what you're missing if you never listen! Hope that makes sense because Taylor's music is so good and so unique that you must experience the sound and visual to understand and appreciate it.

Thanks for the opportunity to add to my remarks.

Anonymous said...

I am a huge Taylor Hicks fan and I don't think that he would appreciate you assuming he is a Democrat. I believe I read that he admired Bill Clinton becuase of his musical interest, I don't recall him mentioning that he admired his political views or his moral views for that matter. Are you saying becuase he likes black singers, that all black singers are Democrats? I heard him in an interview state that one of his greatest moments since AI was when he performed at last years White House Christmas special for George Bush and the President called him by name. He may be a Democrat or a Republican, but I don't believe that he would think that it was any of your business!

Anonymous said...

Thanks from a fellow blogger/soul patroller...It's nice and very refreshing to read something intelligent about Taylor, so many have made it "cool" to bash him, without ever even knowing what he is all about. He is so talented and so inspiring and his music is such an uplift of positive energy in a world that seems to glorify angry negative music so much, especially in popular music.

legalschnauzer said...

Don't mean to get this off on a political tangent, but someone commented that they didn't think Taylor would appreciated being called a Democrat by me.

Well, he has called Bill Clinton one of his favorite presidents.(See link below.)

I don't see politics as a major issue with Taylor. I like his music and admire his tenacity, regardless of ideology.,2933,197019,00.html

Anonymous said...

Mr VanCleaves comment that he doesn't get Taylor reminds me that there were many other artists who were panned by critics only to take the music world by storm.I've said this many times and I still believe that many of Taylor's harshest critics will someday be his most vocal fans.It's just a matter of time. Legal I think you make an excellent point when you say that perhaps the good stuff slips by VanCleave,that is most certainly so in the case of Taylor Hicks.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if this is the exact "story" regarding Mr. VanCleave, but I believe it went something like this after Taylor's Idol win.

Van Cleave had completely disregarded Taylor, and wouldn't give him or his pre-Idol albums, the time of day. After Taylor won, VanCleave wrote a bit in the local media, admitting that he had blown Taylor off, and that he had been shocked to learn he had won the Idol crown. He said shortly after Taylor's win, a gorgeous, obviously expensive floral arrangement was delivered to his office. The card was simply signed: Thanks, Taylor Hicks.

Van Cleave says at first he thought it was a joke, but after a while figured it must be from Taylor, because no one he knew would spend that much money on a joke.

A few weeks (?) later, he was at the City Stages annual event. He went backstage to speak with one of the performers, and who did he run into but Taylor! Van Cleave said something to the effect of "Thanks for the flowers. I hope there's no hard feelings." He said Taylor responded, "None at all. It was the best thing that could have happened to me." Then they shook hands.

Now, this is how I remember reading the "story" - so some of it may be off a bit. But the gist of it is what happened. (I hope that someone who knows exactly how it went down, will write to you.)

It's not the first, and I'm sure it won't be the last time, that Taylor has been extremely cool in handling a situation where someone has been rude (or worse) to him. He's one classy guy!

Anonymous said...

You know, I am glad to see your writing about Tay, because he needs all the support he can get. We Soul Patrolers are not as bad as some try to make us out to be - we just know what we want and fight for it, or in this case, him.Do continue writing, about anything at all. I'm hoping to the B'Ham area soon and would love to learn more about it. Face it, darlin'. Now, you have a fan, and a Soul Patroler at that!*grins* Ever you have a need, just drop in on me.