Sharing thoughts about Taylor Hicks and concert travels and other musical musings!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Traveling Circus Bids Adieu to 2010

Another year comes to close for the Traveling Circus, and looking forward to 2011 see more traveling in the works. Before looking forward, though, a look back at the year is in order. Here are my favorite memories from my travels.

Grease hits the road for the final leg of the national tour and the Traveling Circus meets the show in St. Louis. It's the first time for my younger granddaughter to see the play, and she sat through two back-to-back performances without moving a muscle! We wore the poodle skirt I made for her mother when she was younger, so the skirt had seen a lot of years!

Spring comes with fun events, like the singing competition at Wind Creek Casino. After a flight into Pensacola and drive to Atmore in the lower part of Alabama, the Traveling Circus arrives in time to visit with friends and make new ones while waiting for competition finale to begin. Sinbad is the host, and it was fun to watch the interaction between Taylor and him. Between competition sets, Taylor Hicks performed a few of our favorites, one being "Maybe You Should".

Grease finally comes to a close, and our traveling minstrel promises to take time off, but before you can turn around, a summer tour is announced, and the Traveling Circus is packed and ready to go! First stop, the High Line Ballroom in New York City and front row seats with friends! Taylor Hicks called it his "Bad Ass Tour" and I have to agree.

Taylor would play some great places as he crossed the country. There were many shows I wouldn't get to attend because of timing, but when I could go, the bags were grabbed and planes were caught and I was transported to musical heaven. Sometimes it just plan bad karma for a corporate tax accountant with a September filing deadline and a busy summer. But week-end shows would be hard to miss and after a month-long draught of no shows, a trip to Kansas City, MO would have to get me through until another show came along.

Knuckleheads was an interesting outdoor venue so close to the railroad tracks that when a train came through I'd swear you could just reach out and touch it! As Taylor was singing "Nineteen", a train came through, blowing its whistle as Jeff Lopez was playing "Dixie" at the end. Taylor, in his usual style, never lost the beat or seemed phased by the train while we were struggling to make sure we could hear every word of the song he played as a tribute to our service men and women.

Of course, after that night, all it took was one invitation to go to the Aquarius Casino and I was there! What a show that was! Taylor Hicks was the most talkative I'd seen in quite a while, and he was having such a good time! It's hard to explain the energy and vibe of the different shows, and for certain shows, that energy and vibe is just higher than other times. The Aquarius was one of those higher times. You had to be there to see and feel it. I'd seen it before, and I'd see it again before the year would end.

Back to the land of the working stiffs for a few weeks and one all the major returns were filed and a short vacation was in order. Time for the Traveling Circus to hear north and catch the last three shows of the tour. Watch out, New York, Taylor Hicks was working his way back to you! And the Traveling Circus was back on the road too!

Bay Shore and Tarrytown would not be the same after a visit from Taylor Hicks and the Traveling Circus. Time to meet up with friends again as we made the circuit with our fearless leader. The week-end would be a trifecta of winning shows. Rutland (VT) would finish out the week-end and even being stranded at the airport for hours and missing my connecting flight would not put a damper on the trip! Some of my favorite songs had been performed over those three days, and I was on a musical high! At Bay Shore, the stool of soul made an appearance as Taylor sang "The Fall", one of the earliest songs he had pinned. Reminisce with me as we return to that evening.

Halloween would find the Traveling Circus visiting the land of Mickey and Minnie Mouse for the International Food and Wine Festival and the Eat to the Beat Concert Series. Taylor Hicks had been so well received the year before, he was invited back to perform six shows in two days. Hot sunshine and warm evenings didn't hamper our gathering under trees and the benches to catch all the shows he would offer. Fans came from all parts of the country to enjoy the music and food, fireworks and a few Disney characters, although the most interesting ones were the one in line at the outdoor theatre. Yes, the Traveling Circus spent a fair amount of time in that line as well!

Before the end of the fifth set, a new ride, 'Flying Plexiglass', had been designed and tried out of stage when the drum surround tumbled over, barely missing Taylor Hicks while he sang. Fortunately the only thing hurt was perhaps the Leif's feelings, but the smiles that erupted from the band said all was fine, including the red guitar which hit the floor as well!

The Traveling Circus is well acquainted with Taylor's charitable side. The late fall would find him doing several charitable events. The Big Oak Ranch for orphaned children near Birmingham, AL would be one of the first. The Dawn of a Dream Gala, raising funds for the Children's Cancer Research Foundation would soon follow. Both events were sell-outs and much needed funds were raised. Being in the room for these events was well worth the price of admission and the Traveling Circus was happy to help support these wonderful events.

As 2010 was coming to a close, one final show would make the end of the year bittersweet. Birmingham's Workplay would be the scene of the final gather of the Traveling Circus. Before a sell-out crowd, rules were broken and surprise guests would receive a wonderful Holiday gift from Taylor Hicks and his band. The opening act, Carson James, a 16-year old with cancer would have Taylor join him on stage for his final number, "Superstition". Carson would later join Taylor as he closed his portion of the show. Ruben Studdard, another American Idol winner, would join Taylor for a duet of "Woman's Gotta Have It". What an evening to remember!

And that folks, is the year in review for the Traveling Circus.

We look forward to what 2011 will bring, first the Jam Cruise which I won't be one because of work (time to consider retirement!) and a couple of Mississippi casino shows popping up in late February. Taylor Hicks is promising an exciting year, and the Traveling Circus will be a long for the ride whenever there's room on the bus (and work and life don't interfere!)

By the way, here's wishing each of you a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year!

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Traveling Circus Closes the Year at Workplay

How better to end a year than to travel to the city that gave forth the talent of Taylor Hicks and watch him perform on the Workplay stage! It was a night to remember for all who attended, not just in terms of Taylor Hicks, himself, but in terms of what the show was really all about – the music. It was chance to greet old friends met over the years of traveling. From opening acts to special guests, Taylor showed us his musical spirit and generosity, a rare opportunity to see him give to others their special moment to shine.

The opening act was a young man, Carson James, only 16 years old, has had struggles few of the Soul Patrol have known. While battling cancer this past summer and undergoing chemo, still managed to write music and be a typical teenager. It was his girlfriend’s 16th birthday and he dedicated a song to her as she stood near the stage among the many Taylor fans.

The highlight of the evening with Carson was Taylor Hicks taking the stage with him to sing “Superstition”. Carson wanted Taylor to play the harp, but Taylor was content to sing. I’ve seen lots of opening acts for Taylor, but seeing him perform with the opener was first. Carson was just glowing as the two of them teamed their voices to close out Carson’s performance. Here’s to recovery for Carson and long career for the talented young musician we have the opportunity to enjoy!

It was soon time for the leader of the Soul Patrol to take the stage before a sell-out crowd. Taylor Hicks came out in a dark brown shirt, jeans and dark boots. Ah, boots! Luckily, I had a table close to the action, ready to capture the evening with a tripod, video camera and trusty camera. So I think I will let the captures of the evening tell the story for you. But for me, there were highlights of the evening. The first highlight was Ruben Studdard taking the stage with Taylor to sing “Woman’s Gotta Have It”, one of my favorite songs off “The Distance”. They did a wonderful job on this number! Ruben was my favorite on Season 3, so this was definitely a treat! The second highlight was seeing Clay Connor on the red guitar during “Scarlet Begonia”. Clay, a talented musician and songwriter in his own right, works right beside Taylor as security, personal assistant and stage manager. The third highlight was seeing Carson James comes back out to sing with Taylor during “Bulletproof”, the only top 40s song Taylor performs.

Until next year, when the Traveling Circus hits the road again, have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New Year!

Pictures from the evening

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Traveling Circus Escapes to Maplewood

Most days, I really enjoy my job, but when the timing of special projects coincides with Taylor Hicks concert dates, it can be a real drag. The Maplewood show was one of those times. Taylor Hicks was playing November 5, and the tax budget was due the same day. The Traveling Circus isn’t one for waiting until the last minute to plan a trip, but this time, it would. It wasn’t until Thursday night that there was a glimmer of hope that the show would be a go.

Come Friday morning, we made our final push to get the tax numbers together. I was actually working ahead, something that generally doesn’t happen because of the nature of the work we do. A few phone calls to Minneapolis were made and Delta was checked for the availability of last minute frequent flyer flights. Test first the earlier flight. In the process, the last available seat was sold and that flight was not a possibility. OK, let’s try the next. That was good. A seat was available.

It was nearly 11:30 when the call that would be the deciding factor came in. Yes, there just happened to be a seat left at the Dawn of a Dream Gala on Saturday night. One down, two to go. A call from the boss – numbers are good, put the reporting spreadsheet together and file the budget. Next to secure the flight on Delta. The 4:00 flight was still available and would arrive in Minneapolis at 6:15 pm. For $5 and 25,000 frequent flyer miles the ticket was now mine. The Traveling Circus was going to Minneapolis.

A quick review of car rentals on Travelocity and a rental car would be ready to go. No time to make hotel reservations right now, because I have to finalize the budget workpapers. I’d just wait until after the show and see where everyone was staying. At least my camera was charged and a small bag was packed. Wait! Only enough clothes for one night! Well, a little light sink washing would make it all work, and the outfit I was planning to wear to the Friday night should could also work for Saturday night. It was settled.

The final numbers were off to corporate headquarters and I was off to the airport! Parked at my favorite car parking lot, boarded the shuttle and the next stop was the airport. Had to wait for a wheelchair attendant, but I had a little time to spare. Oh no! With a last minute ticket, would I have to go through extra security? No! Thank goodness, not this time, and I was soon at the departure gate. On-time flight departure meant on-time arrival, and I was golden!

Unfortunately, in Minneapolis, the wheelchair attendants only go between gates, but the electric carts would get me closer to ground transportation. The driver I found was the perfect gentleman – he got me closer to ground transportation than usual by taking a shortcut through the terminal. I soon had my car and with the phone GPS, was quickly on my way to the Maplewood Performing Arts Theatre.

It was now 6:45 pm and I had no idea where I was going. My GPS did, thank goodness, and before 7:15 we were parked and making our way into the theatre. The stage was set with a castle for an upcoming community play. That made a nice backdrop for Taylor Hicks to perform in front of. Right at 7:30 we were taking our seats and the theatre lights were starting to dim.

The band came out: Sam, Jeff, Brandon, Leif, and Brian. Brian announced the leader of the Soul Patrol and Taylor Hicks came out, walked up the steps and touched the top of the arch in front of the castle. The spotlight found him and then he was down on the stage!

Everyone was very casual. Not the usual men in black wardrobe. This was going to be a very relaxed show, and one I would regret missing. But here I sat, ready to be taken to church, to be mesmerized and left wanting more. The opening number, “Love the One You’re With”, had us dancing in our seats! The Maplewood theatre may be small in terms of the number of seats, but the lighting and sound system was one of the best I’ve experienced!

The theatre lights came on after the song, and Taylor says he just wants to see us! He received a thunderous applause! He liked the venue because he could actually hear us. Someone called out to Jeff, and that made Taylor laugh! “The Deal” is next. There were
small bongos set up in front of Jeff, so he played them in between horn parts”

“Dust My Broom” is fantabulous as always, and has been missed at least by the Traveling Circus! “What’s Right is Right” and “Battlefield” from “The Distance” were performed next. These are great songs and aren’t to be missed. Somewhere in these songs, maybe “Battlefield,” Sam was featured on the guitar. Brother, that man can pick with the best of them! And Taylor harp on “Back to Louisiana” was fantastic! Church, here we come! He’s taking us there!

At some point between songs, Taylor grabbed a bottle of Disanti water and told us a very cute story from his American Idol days. Seems Coca Cola delivered cases of the bottled water to the show and tour, but couldn't figure out why the contestants weren't drinking it. Taylor says it because someone told them there was gas in the water and the "kids" were leaving the stuff alone! Taylor took some of the water and put the lid back on!

“Nineteen” gets a well-deserved standing ovation, after its soulful and heartfelt message. It was that performance that brought home the loss of Matt who normally played the chimes several times during the song. He was missed, and most of the Soul Patrol who follows around made similar comments. Rest in peace, Matt, you are missed.

“Living for the City”, “Hold onto Your Love”, and “Soul Thing” continue the program. Taylor starts hopping on one leg, trying to zip his boots, when he says with the dancing he does, his boots come unzipped. Someone suggested he take them off, but he quickly came back with if he did, the room would clear quickly! I doubt it, but Taylor was taking no chances.

Jeff and Taylor were playing off each other a lot at Maplewood. Jeff would shake the tambourine and Taylor would give his the “eye” and go back to the song. Jeff would shake it again, and again Taylor gave him the “eye”. Finally, Taylor took the tambourine from Jeff. But the game wasn’t over yet.

Taylor asked if we’d ever seen someone play two horns at once as he pointed to Jeff. Jeff quipped back that he could do three at once! Well, not quite yet! Before the night was out, Jeff would demonstrate his ability to play clarinet and sax at the same time!

“Scarlet Begonias” was next. First heard performed by Taylor Hicks at EPCOT, this is becoming a show staple. Nice beat, and I’m liking it very much.

Don’t remember after which song, but Taylor placed his red guitar (the one almost ruined at EPCOT) in the stand. The stand wasn’t secure and the guitar began to slip. Taylor stepped back and tightened the stand screw. The guitar was uprighted again as Taylor pointed his figure and ordered the guitar to “stay”!!!

Most of the band headed for the shadows as Taylor and Brian remained in the forefront. “The Border Song” was coming. Not a sound could be heard. Just the two voices blending with ‘let us live in peace’. Someone had tweeted the request earlier in the week, and Taylor made someone’s night with the song. Bless their golden hearts!

“Stay With Me” and “Seven Mile Breakdown” finished the show. Near the end of “Seven Mile Breakdown”, Taylor picket up the tambourine and held it over Jeff’s head like a halo. We knew better, but it did give us a peak into Taylor’s sense of humor. There was no encore tonight but that was fine. Almost 90 non-stop song-filled minutes had passed. The audience was happy, and left satisfied.

When the show ended, many gathered to discuss just how relaxed and fun the show had been. I got instructions for going to the Mall of America and found out where everyone was staying. With the help of a couple of friends, I made my way to the Hampton Inn where they were staying, and fortunate they had a vacancy. I would change hotels the next night to be closer to those going to the gala.

Yes, Taylor Hicks and his band had delivered a great show. It was well worth the effort I’d made to get there at the last minute. As we made our way to our cars, we paused to watch Taylor greet fans for autographs and pictures. The line was long, but the smile on his face said he was happy. And that’s all that really matters in the end!

Pictures from Maplewood

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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Paying it Forward - "Nineteen"-style

Nationally, today is Veterans' Day, but it should be everyday for the service these men and women have provided and continue to provide for our great nation. As Taylor Hicks reminds us during a recent show, stop to thank a soldier. It's a small gesture on our part that means a great deal to the one receiving it, especially when they give so freely of themselves for our freedom.

On a recent flight, I had the privilege to witness a small gesture of kindness from a fellow passenger. The man had received an upgrade to first class while his friend was sitting in coach, just a row up from me. He was chatting away, when a soldier boarded the plane and headed for the seat the man was standing near. Without hesitation, the man gave the soldier his seat in first class and then proceeded to take the soldier's seat. The soldier was tall, and the extra leg space in first class was probably much needed. The soldier tried to refuse, but the passenger wouldn't take no for an answer.

The men took their seats, the flight attendant retrieved the man's newspaper, and the doors to the plane were shut. The flight attendant, in gratitude to the passenger, provided him with whatever he wanted or desired in terms of beverage and snacks.

I don't know what he had, but thought about his gesture, and wondered, "what I have been able to do the same?" Would you?

To all the men and women who serve in our military, and to their families and friends, I say thank you for a job well done. To those who have gone before, like my father, I say thank you for a job well done. To those who will provide our military protection in the future, I say you have some mighty big boots to fill, but thank you in advance.

Let every day be Veterans' Day, for every veteran has earned that honor. Thank you for your service, now and forever.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

30th Anniversary Dawn of a Dream Gala

It’s the story of “a child shall lead”. Before her death at age 13, in 1979, leukemia patient, Katie Hageboeck asked her parents to donate the money she had saved for a new bike to a group struggling to raise funds to fund cancer research. That donation would be the impetus for her parents to found the Children’s Cancer Research Fund in her memory.

Katie’s gift of $500 has grown to provide nearly $80 million dollars to provide funding for doctors and researchers at the University of Minnesota for their work in pediatric cancer research.

Their first fundraising effort in 1980 netted $50,000. This year’s event raised over $900 thousand dollars, actually going over their goal by $100 grand! The 30th Anniversary Dawn of a Dream Gala, held at The Depot in downtown Minneapolis was a “sold out” event where a thousand guests gathered to celebrate the work of the Research Fund and help raise funds for another year of its remarkable work.

Silent and live auctions were part of the pre- and post- dinner activities. The live auction raised an amazing amount of money. A couple of vacations netted $13,000 or more. A three-month Maserati lease fetched a tidy sum for the charity.

The most amazing part of the evening was observing the raising of $250 thousand dollars for a high-power microscope to be used in the research performed at the University of Minnesota. By the time the auctioneer was finished, the funds were raised, and possibly even exceeded. I couldn’t keep the addition going in my head that fast! One pledge of $20k lead to four pledges of $15k which lead to perhaps six pledges of $10k. There were even more $5k pledges and $1,000 pledges that seemed to take five minutes to be recognized. And some of these donations came from winning bidders in the live auction who had already paid substantial amounts for the live auction items.

The host for the evening, and her name escapes me, provided a couple of songs over the course of the evening, one of which was “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”. She had a beautiful voice to go with her beautiful heart.

In a surprising moment during the program, Taylor Hicks, along with Jeff Lopez and Brian Less, took the stage to sing “What’s Right is Right”. Sitting on a stool, Taylor sang the most beautiful version of the song I’ve ever heard. I’ve always thought the song was about love for one’s partner, but as I listened to the words for the thousandth time, I realized it could just as easily be about a parent’s love for a child, especially one that has a dreaded disease. While Taylor sang, pictures of Taylor with the children at the University of Minnesota were displayed. The kids loved the opportunity to meet an American Idol, and Taylor seemed to be taken by the spirit of these children.
The family that used their daughter’s death and meager savings to seed the Research Fund, Diana and Norm Hageboeck, were introduced and spoke of the work done by the University of Minnesota. Their goal is simple: eradicate childhood cancer and spare other parents from losing a child to such a devastating disease.

Our feelings were not spared. We heard of successes and losses. We were introduced to the doctors and researchers. We heard from the heads of the organization and the committee putting together the gala. In the end, hearts and wallets were opened and goals were met for the event.

To close out the anniversary gala, entertainment was provided by Taylor Hicks. Tables emptied and guests rushed towards the dance floor where guests filled the area. Some danced, others watched, but all enjoyed the music. Taylor performed such concert favorites as “Love the One You’re With”, “Back to Louisiana”, “Living for the City”, “Seven Mile Breakdown”, “Takin’ It to the Streets”, and my favorite, “Bulletproof”. All the music was perfect for dancing and working off the excitement of the evening.

The evening had been a success! The goal of the gala had been surpassed. And a powerful microscope would be purchased. It was a fun event, and I was glad to be part of a wonderful event.

To make a donation to the Children's Research Cancer Fund, please visit their site at:

I'll be back later in the week with a recap from Maplewood, and another story of paying forward, "Nineteen" style so keep checking back.

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Monday, October 25, 2010

The Traveling Circus Learns About the Big Oak Ranch

John Croyle, a football player at the University of Alabama under the leadership of Paul “Bear” Bryant, was looking at the opportunity to play professional football or start a children’s home. Croyle, along with his wife, Tee, made the decision to open a children’s home and established the Big Oak Boys’ Ranch in 1974 in Gadsden.

The Big Oak Girls’ Ranch, founded in 1988, was established in memory of a 12-year old girl who was beaten to death by her parents. Croyle tried to convince the judge to let the young girl come to the Boys’ Ranch but the judge returned to child to her parents even though she had been physically and sexually abused by her father. Three months after pleading to take the child, she was dead.

In 1990, Westbrook Christian School was acquired. It is the source of education for the Ranch children as well as children from the local community. Tuition, fundraising events and contributions fund the school.

If you are interested in learning more about the Big Oak Ranch or to make a donation, please go to for more information.

On Thursday, October 21, the Big Oak Ranch held their gala at the Birmingham Jefferson Convention Complex. Over 50 tables, each prepared for 10 guests, filled East 3 Exhibit Hall East. Following dinner, John Croyle spoke about the Ranch, introducing a young couple who spent their youth at the Ranch. These two young adults who met at the Ranch, were educated at the expense of the Ranch, and later had their marriage blessed in a wedding provided by the Ranch, were a testament to the success the Ranch has experienced over the years. The basic premise is one of family and Christian values.

Following the speakers and short videos, Taylor Hicks and his band took the stage to entertain the guests. There was plenty of applause and cheers for each song, and several songs had the guests on their feet. One of the favorites was “Nineteen”. Taylor’s set lasted about an hour and included such favorites as “What’s Right is Right”, “Maybe You Should”, “Seven Mile Breakdown”, and “Takin’ it to the Streets”.

Pictures from the event

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Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Traveling Circus Eats to the Beat at EPCOT with Taylor Hicks

For the second year, Taylor Hicks has been part of the Eat to the Beat lineup at EPCOT during the International Food & Wine Festival. For you foodies and wine lovers, it’s a great opportunity to try food and beverages from around the world. I sampled a lot of different fares, including the escargot at France. Not bad when coated with lots of butter and garlic. Last year, my favorite was the Shrimp Cheviche in Chile and this year, it was again at the top of my list. But enough about the munchies!

The advantage of seeing Taylor Hicks at EPCOT is you get three shows for the price of park admission and six shows in just a little more than twenty-four hours! Each of the shows is always different, just like they are when Taylor is touring. Taylor brought his kick-ass band with him: Jeff Lopez, Sam Gunderson, Brian Less, Matt Kimbrell, Leif Bondarenko, and Brandon Peebles. These guys are tight and follow Taylor’s leading like they’ve been together since the beginning of time!

The American Gardens Theater was packed to capacity with people sitting on the walls lining the sides of theater. Few empty seats could be seen. Aunts, uncles and nieces were adopted so they would have a place to sit (I had handicapped seating). Discussions about what Taylor had been doing since American Idol were shared while we waited between shows. Lines were long and packed, just waiting to sit down and enjoy some good music.

During each thirty-minute set, Taylor Hicks delivered his musical message while the audience danced in their seats. Songs included “Taking it to the Streets”, “Bulletproof”, “Use Me”, “Nineteen”, and “Seven-Mile Breakdown”. Taylor added a new song, “Scarlett Begonias”! At the end of various songs, people stood and applauded their appreciation for such a good performance. That’s always a good sign that Taylor is really touching and reaching his audience!

Taylor Hicks never missed a beat throughout the shows, even when the Plexiglas screen came crashing down during “Hold On to Your Love” at Sunday’s second show. The screen had been wobbling continually up until that time. As it slid to the floor, the band continued to play while Taylor appeared oblivious to what was happening. The last thing to fall was the red guitar. Taylor finished the song, turned around, and talked about “bringing down the house” and a new ride at Disney called “flying Plexiglas”! Although it didn’t make an appearance at the last show, I have it on good authority that the red guitar is just fine!

When it was all over, I left the park wishing next year to come quickly so I could do it all over again! Let’s hope Taylor Hicks becomes an annual entertainment for this EPCOT event!

Link for Saturday’s pictures

Link for Sunday’s pictures

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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Traveling Circus Wins the Trifecta! - Part 3

The Traveling Circus is always in awe of what happens at a Taylor Hicks concert, and "Nineteen" at the Boulton Center in Bay Shore, NY was just the performance this song needs and deserves. The audience loved it, including the dedication to the military who protect our freedoms.

This time, the song brought more emotion than usual. Taylor announced that he was looking forward to a USO tour in Afghanastan and flying on a C-130. Tears of pride for the young grey-haired singer formed during the announcement.

The curtain behind Leif was alight with stars. On the stage by Jeff Lopez a small American flag sat waiting to honor the song about a fallen soldier. So as you watch the attached video, watch for the end to hear Jeff's flute solo that adds a special touch to the song.

2010.9.17 Nineteen Bay Shore NY from RagsQueen on Vimeo.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

The Traveling Circus Wins the Trifecta! - Part 2

The best way to tell you about the last three shows is to show you video. I wanted to take pictures as well as just sit back and watch, so the videos are limited. But what there is, I think you will enjoy!

Bulletproof is great anytime, whether part of the main show or encore!

2010.9.16 Bulletproof Tarrytown NY from RagsQueen on Vimeo.

Back to Louisiana - both rocking and riveting!

2010.9.16 Going Back to Louisiana Tarrytown NY from RagsQueen on Vimeo.

Maybe You Should - soft and heartfelt

2010.9.16 Maybe You Should Tarrytown NY from RagsQueen on Vimeo.

If you be with the one you love, then love the one you're with! Tarrytown, NY was the place to be!

2010.9.17 Love the One You're With Bay Shore NY from RagsQueen on Vimeo.

My favorites of the three shows were the acoustic encores! Hell of a Day and The Fall, with just Taylor and his guitar and harmonica sitting on a stool. These were fabulous!

2010.9.17 The Fall Bay Shore NY from RagsQueen on Vimeo.

2010.9.18 Rutland VT Hell of a Day from RagsQueen on Vimeo.

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Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Traveling Circus Wins the Trifecta! - Part 1

When one is a corporate tax accountant with a September 15 filing deadline, taking a lot of time off in the summer, particularly during the week, it nearly impossible. So when Taylor Hicks added Tarrytown and Bay Shore to his tour list between Norwalk, CT and Rutland, VT, it was just too much for me to pass up! I had purchased a Rutland ticket when they first went on sale, as well as a ticket for the original Norfolk date, but with the changes in the dates, work and life, it didn’t seem I was destined to go. Since Taylor had withdrawn from the SOS show in Philly, and I had an airline ticket to Philly, how better to make use of it, so New England, here comes the Traveling Circus!

There were three great shows, so don’t ask me to rank them – just know it was a wonderful trifecta event! Taylor Hicks was at the top of his game, smiling and having fun on the stage. The theatres were full and the audience was appreciative of what Taylor was giving. Cheers, applause and standing ovations were observed each night.

Ages ran the gamut and there were plenty of both genders! Even the men were yelling out to Taylor, which is always great to hear! Lines were long after the show for the impromptu meet-and-greets, and I’m sure lots of merchandise was sold. Clay was working the table as hard as Taylor was working the crowd!

From “Battlefield” to “Soul Thing” to “What’s Right is Right” to “Seven Mile Breakdown” we were thrilled and entertained throughout the evening. The encores involved a stool, a black guitar and a solo with Taylor Hicks; “Hell of a Day” and “The Fall” were performed depending on the night and location. The encores were as powerful as the regular show. One of my tour favorites has been “Bulletproof”, a La Roux top 40 song. I’ve listened to both versions, and Taylor’s version is much better!

Some of the tags have been amazing: “Running on Empty” is stuck in my head right now, “Lonely Avenue” another tag, has been a surprise. The combination of “The Runaround” with “Not Fade Away” is pure musical genius – a talent that Taylor Hicks definitely possesses.

“Maybe You Should” quiets the audiences as they imagine the pain of losing one’s partner. “Nineteen” brings out the patriotic spirit and a standing ovation from many in attendance. The harmonica is top shelf, and finally in Rutland, we got more cowbell! The jeans and boots were standard, but the shirts were always in keeping with the area: a button down in New York and plaid flannel in Vermont. I know, it’s really about the music, but hey, I noticed!

Three great days, three wonderful shows: a true trifecta in my book! Now to wait until the next round of shows!

Tarrytown, NY pictures

Bay Shore, NY pictures

Rutland, VT pictures

Video will be attached in the next blog entry. One video is extra special!

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Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Traveling Circus Finds the Age of Aquarius is Taylor Hicks

As I made plans to attend Taylor Hicks' show in Laughlin, NV at the Aquarius Casino, the old song "Age of Aquarius" would run through my mind. Might even give you a clue as to my age! But regardless, it was a show I was glad I had not missed.

The Pavillion is a large room where chairs can be set up to seat up to 2,500 patrons. There weren't that many chairs there for Saturday night, maybe half that, and few were empty. The mix ranged from able to walk to able to roll around in a scooter and every where in between. Pretty even gender mix too.

When Taylor Hicks takes the stage smiling and his eyes twinkle, you know you are in for a treat - a show to remember. I still get goosebumps just thinking about it! From the first song to the last, the energy was high, the voice perfect, and grins could be seen behind the microphone. Taylor was wowwing the audience, he had them in his hands, and was toying with us - always keeping the show about the music. And the music was superb!

From "Bulletproof" to "Nineteen", from "Maybe You Should" to "What's Right is Right", from "Seven Mile Breakdown" to "Taking It to the Streets", Taylor Hicks stayed in control, directing the band as needed and giving them spotlights to shine. The guitar duel with Sam or cheering on Brian on the keyboard, playing with Jeff on the sax or Leif on the drums, and teasing us with his own harmonica proweress, it was all good!

In the end, I left satisfied - satisfied that I had just witnessed one of Taylor's best shows! The energy would keep me up late and not let me wind down to sleep. I would think about it on the way home on Sunday and wish it had lasted longer.

Taylor Hicks may be a man without a home, but his tour bus, band family and music must keep him fully charged and grounded. It showed in last night's performance. He was going from fast to slow, hands over heart, dancing and wiggling when appropriate, and never lost a beat in changing the pace of the show. I want to see it again, and again; not just tonight, but the next show I see, and the one after that!

I spoke with a band member after the show and expressed what a great show it was. And that person's response, "Yeah, it was", let me know right there that even Taylor and his band knew that had given more than 100% and that the show had been fabulous, and they were proud of the results.

Any way, enjoy the pictures from the fabulistic show (I know, it's not a word) which is totally appropriate because the show was fabulous and fantastic all rolled up into one!

Like the words to the old "Summer Love" tune, I'll see you in September!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Traveling Circus Knocks on Heads at Knuckleheads

It may have been hot temperature-wise but it didn't matter to those brave enough to sit outside to listen to Taylor Hicks perform on the outdoor stage at Kansas City's Knuckleheads. I'll be back later with more, but for now, enjoy "Nineteen" from the show.

2010-8-14 Nineteen Knuckleheads Kansas City MO from RagsQueen on Vimeo.

I took a bunch of pictures at Knuckleheads. Taylor was on top of his game, as the expression goes. I'm always amazed at how he can reel them in just by flashing a smile, touching of hand to heart, or just pumping his harmonica. Comments after the show included "had no idea", "man, he's good", and "WOW!".

What some called a biker bar, Knuckleheads made up for in ability to enjoy a close and intimate show with Taylor. The train tracks were just the other side of the stage, and the occasional train did blow his horn as it passed by. Even "Nineteen" captures the moment of the train whistle as Jeff Lopez played.

The entire show was energy packed, with Taylor never still for a second. I later heard Candye Kane, the first performer of the evening, came out to watch Taylor perform and really enjoyed him. Or maybe it was Jeff because she wanted to get her picture with him! Speaking of Ms. Kane, she gave a great blues performance with lots of upbeat music. Her guitar player, Laura Chevez would give Josh Smith a run for the money in a guitar duel!

Rather than bore you with details, have a look at the photo album attached. And if so inclined, leave a comment or two!

Knuckleheads Photos

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The Traveling Circus Enjoys the Start of the Bad Ass Summer Tour at the Highline Ballroom

When Taylor Hicks announced he was doing a Bad Ass Summer Tour, he wasn't kidding! The tour opened at the Highline Ballroom in New York City on Sunday night, July 25. What a night it was!

Here are my treats from the show, which speak for themselves!

Pictures Galore! Enjoy!

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Sunday, June 13, 2010

Taylor Hicks Announces Summer & Fall Tour Dates

If it looks like a tour - a number of concert dates spread around

If it smells like a tour - clubs, theaters, festivals

If it acts likes a tour - Taylor on a stage

Then it must be a TOUR!

Looking forward to a fun summer and fall with Taylor on the road (again!)

6/13/2010 - 31st Annual Jamesville Balloon Fest, Jamesville Beach Park, Jamesville, NY, 6:45pm EST

6/25/2010 - 7th Annual Rocky Mountain Power Jam, Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom, Denver, CO, around 11:30pm MST

7/25/2010 - Highline Ballroom, New York, NY, 8pm EST

9/18/2010 - Paramount Theatre, Rutland, VT, 8pm EST

9/29/2010 - Around the World Kickoff Concert for SOS Children's Villages, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Philadelphia, PA, 8pm EST

10/9/2010 - Eat to the Beat Concert Series, Walt Disney World, Orlando, FL , 5:15, 6:30 & 7:45 pm EST

10/10/2010 - Eat to the Beat Concert Series, Walt Disney World, Orlando, FL , 5:15, 6:30 & 7:45 pm EST

More dates are bound to follow and will be listed as available in the Schedule Section of the blog!

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Monday, May 31, 2010

Remembering Our Military

Join me in remembering our military, not just for today, but everyday, for their service and dedication to our country and freedom.

Thanks to IdolMashups

You can also help Taylor Hicks and the Proud of Our Troops Drive by sending a copy of "The Distance" to Soldier's Angels to be forwarded to active military. If you purchase from Amazon, they will ship it to them for you, saving you time and additional mailing costs.

Soldiers Angels
914 Tourmaline Drive
Newbury Park, CA 91320-1206

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sing Your Way to $100k or Where Better to See Taylor Hicks

Somewhere in LA (lower Alabama) lies a nice casino called Wind Creek that sits just off I-65 in the quaint little town of Atmore. The downtown reminded me of my hometown: older store fronts tightly spaced together, a local diner, a couple of shops and a number of empty windows. It actually borders on the Florida state line, less than 50 miles west of Pensacola.

The drive from the Pensacola airport was easy. The roads were dual lane and once on US Hwy 29, I felt like I was at home! I’ve driven that part of the US route that runs between Greensboro and Reidsville in North Carolina many times. I was surprised to find part of it here! Actually, US 29 begins in Pensacola, FL and runs northward to Baltimore, MD, covering just over a thousand miles of US country.

When I made my left on to SR 97, still in Florida, I found myself in farm country. Beautiful and lush green fields, corn standing a foot high and the occasional horse farm in between. It was peaceful. But the speed limits would require cruise control use to make sure I didn’t get stopped! Some areas were 45, other 55 and about 1,000 feet was 65! The sheriff departments could make a killing just off the tickets!

As I approached Atmore, I was greeted with “Welcome to Alabama” and “Thanks for Visiting Florida” signs. And a road number change did nothing but mess with my mind! I was on AL 21 and hadn’t made a turn. I felt lost so I called the hotel – just keep coming the way I was – it was just before I-65. I found Wind Creek Casino first, then the Holiday Express just before the interstate. Poor marking for where to turn to get to the hotel had me passing by it, but a quick turn around and I was in the parking lot in less than 60 seconds. The hotel is relatively new and you could almost smell the fresh paint and caulking.

After a quick check-in and a welcomed nose-powdering, I was back in the rental car to head to Wind Creek. First stop, valet – it was full unless you were a member or high-roller, neither of which qualified me for the service. On the highway side was parking for the amphitheater and really quite close. I found a good spot to park, set the alarm and headed to get in line with friends.

The doors opened before the appointed 7:00 which was good because my back was about to go numb from the 15 minutes I’d been standing. (Just before Christmas I learned I was born with a congenital birth defect that will require surgery to relieve the intense pain so I can just function, but that’s for another entry). I found my seat and decided to stay put until the very end – no drinks for me because the potty was a long hike and I would have to wait for the show to end.

Now mind you, this was a singing competition, down to the final two from the nearly 2,000 original contestants. Comedian Sinbad was the host for the show and the famous judge of the event was the leader of the Soul Patrol and a former singing contest winner himself, Taylor Hicks. Other judges seemed to be heavy hitters in the music industry, such as someone from CMT and I forget who the other two were.

I’m bad – I was there for Taylor Hicks who was rumored to be singing 6 songs. That was fine. Plus I was going to be entertained by Sinbad and the final two contestants, Holly and Christina.

Sinbad was a hoot, asking where in the world he was – Taylor could have told him LA just for laughs (but he didn’t)! Time to meet the contestants and have them perform a duet. It was going to be a tough night because both of these young ladies could belt a tune. Holly was into country while Christina was R&B. Finally Taylor was introduced and went right into his first two songs, “The Distance” and “What’s Right is Right”.

Taylor Hicks - The Distance - Wind Creek Casino - 5-21-2010 - RagsQueen

Taylor Hicks - What's Right is Right - Wind Creek Casino - RagsQueen

The contestants then came out to each sing a song in their genre. Couldn’t tell you what they sang, but I wasn’t about to envy the judges. I figured they ended the first round even. After that round, the sixth through third place contestants each sang a song. I don’t know how the judges managed to narrow down the field because these were excellent performers, especially the guy who played the keyboard and sang an original tune about his brother. The CMT judge later told him to see him after the show! Woo Hoo! Someone had made a score!

Taylor Hicks did two more songs, “Battlefield” and “Maybe You Should”. Taylor and Sinbad played quite well off each other. Taylor suggested he be the next American Idol judge and Sinbad said he could replace Randy Jackson, giving quite an impression of Randy! Sinbad hinted at Taylor to do a variety show or something like that. Comments flew about being ADD and off meds – we know that one quite well!

Taylor Hicks - Battlefield - Wind Creek Casino - 2010-5-21 - RagsQueen

Taylor Hick - Maybe You Should - Wind Creek Casino - 5-21-2010 - RagsQueen

Before the final round, Sinbad gave a couple of people from the audience a chance to perform. Not bad – they had been cut earlier in the completion. Finally the two young ladies came back to out to sing their final songs of the event. Taylor made a good judge, giving careful thought to what he had to say. I was proud of how he handled himself in that role. With Christina, he commented on watching her toes and noting that she felt the music all the way down to them! Taylor should know – he’s the same way!

Taylor Hicks did his last two songs: “Nineteen” and “Seven-Mile Breakdown”. I was sitting just behind Christina’s support group, and when Taylor began to belt out “Seven-Mile Breakdown”, those supporters were on their feet and dancing to the music! It was hard to see Taylor, but I have to admit I was enjoying their enthusiasm!

Taylor Hicks - Nineteen - Wind Creek Casino - 5-21-2010 - RagsQueen

Taylor Hicks - Seven Mile Breakdown - Wind Creek Casino - 5 -21-2010 - RagsQueen

The votes were tallied, and we’d been warned before the show that in the event of a tie, there would be a text-voting to decide the winner. I was glad that wouldn’t happen – Holly’s supporters took up an entire second while Christina’s took up just over two rows. It was a tight score: 127 to 129. Christina was crowned the winner! She and Holly hugged for a long time – they had become friends and family. Tears were flowing as well as relief. I figured it was the last song that pushed Christina ahead.

Of course Sinbad had to have the final word – cash your big check on Monday! And it was big in size as well as dollars. And well deserved – for either young woman! I’m sure we’ll hear more from both of them in the future. The lights went down and the crowd dispersed over towards Taylor’s merchandise table. It looked like a mob scene from where I was sitting, and hopefully it would be a profitable night for Taylor from the sales of “The Distance”. He’s seen my old mug enough, and I was in need of sustenance from sitting there for three hours, so I went in search of dinner and friends, and some time with those thieving one-armed bandits!

A few pictures to go with the video

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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Poodle Skirts Revisited (or Seeing "Grease" in St. Louis)

It really started thirty years ago when John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John hit the big screen as Danny Zuko and Sandy Dumbrowski in the movie, “Grease”. Something about that movie caught my daughter’s attention, and every chance she had, she watched it -sometimes several times back-to-back. Back then, Blockbuster was into rentals only and getting your own copy was hard to come by, but we managed. By the time she outgrew the movie, the VHS tape was practically bare (Yes, that was way before CD & DVDs!).

Back then, I enjoyed sewing for my daughter and myself. Today, I know where the alteration shops are – the idea of doing anything with needle and thread sends me into total panic. My daughter wanted her very own poodle skirt. So the good mama that I was, we went to the fabric shop and picked out the fabric, gray wool, and the fleece needed to make the poodle. Knowing how I worked back then, I’m sure the skirt was completed before I went to bed and ready for her to wear the next day.

As the years passed and we made several moves including the big move from North Carolina to Tennessee, the poodle skirt was always gently packed to make the move with us. For years it hung in her closet and survived many spring cleanings, even after she had married and moved out of our home into her own. Two children later, it still hung in the closet just waiting for the day it would be revived and worn again.

Fast forward to the summer of 2008 when Taylor Hicks joined the Broadway cast of “Grease” as Teen Angel. About the same time, my younger granddaughter discovered the “skirt” and began to want to wear it. It was about six inches too loose in the waist and down to her ankles. She didn’t care – she admired that skirt with all her little heart.

Then when Taylor Hicks joined the national touring company of “Grease” as Teen Angel, I’m sure the younger one was sure she’d get to go. Not so fast, little one. The older one got to go first, just before Christmas to Durham to see the musical. She enjoyed it, so why not take a trip down memory lane with the younger one.

After much thought about it, my daughter gave her blessing to take the little one to see “Grease” in St. Louis, provided she got treated to the show as well. Now I can’t just take mama and baby without taking the older granddaughter, so it was going to be a girls’ week-end. We were all going to go to St. Louis to see “Grease”. The poodle skirt was about to get packed again!

As we prepared for our trip, I thought long and hard about the “skirt”. It was just hanging on the closet door, ready to make its way into my suitcase. I knew it was still too big for the younger one, but I also knew how much it meant to her to have the opportunity to wear it. And maybe for me to have the chance to relive those “Grease” days of my daughter again. It was carefully folded and placed on top of everything else. I would surprise her Saturday morning with it.

While the younger one was showing us her week-end choices to wear, it was obvious she really didn’t have the right top to wear with the skirt. Not yet fashion-conscious, she put the skirt on over her long top and tights, slipped into her boots and announced she was ready to go. The skirt was quickly sliding down her hips. Quick thinking (I knew I would probably need safety pins) and with three safety pins, the skirt’s waistband was now in the proper place. There would be no convincing, bribery or anything else to get her to leave the skirt behind.

Anyone who stopped to speak to her found out the skirt had been her mother’s many years ago. She was as proud of that skirt as her mother had been when it was first made. And I couldn’t help but feel pride in the way she wore it and made me feel about her wanting to wear it and tell its story.

For anyone who has seen “Grease”, you know the story quite well. I’m not going to confess how many times I’ve seen the musical, but let’s just say this was a magical week-end to see it.

In December, Ace Young, another alumni of Season Five of American Idol, joined the cast as Danny. He did such a good job as Kenickie in the fall of 2008 that he was asked to come on the road as Danny!

From his first scene to his last as Danny, I would have sworn John Travolta was back on the stage. Ace’s voice, being a bit higher in pitch, sounded so much like Travolta that it was eerie! I was as taken by Ace’s performance as I have been by Taylor’s Teen Angel. After the matinee my daughter asked me if Ace was playing Danny – she thought it sounded like him and it also reminded her of Travolta. She told me I was a bad mama – I had failed to tell her Ace was in the cast! I had told her, but she wasn’t paying me attention!

As the musical continued, both granddaughters were glued to the stage. The older one would later describe the show as “beast” (I think that means good in teen terms today). For a kid who talks a blue streak on any topic without taking a breath, it was hard to get anything more than one-word descriptions of the musical out of her. She liked it, Ace was ‘beast’ and her favorite scene was with Taylor and Frenchy when she was all over him. After that, she went back to taking about anything and everything else non-“Grease”.

The younger one, now she was the real critic. During the drive-in scene when Danny is trying to kiss Sandy, all I heard was “gross, yuck, too much kissing, stop…..” OK, so she’s only eight! She laughed when Danny was trying hard not to “touch” Sandy’s chest, but I don’t know if she really understood what was going on. But then, at her age, she thinks kissing is sex (don’t tell Bill Clinton).

On the ride home, we were discussing the musical. The younger one summed it up quite nicely. We were laughing about what Frenchy has said as she saddled up to Taylor in their scene. You know the part – she makes different comments, like “nice butt, hot damn, cute tush…” The younger one laughed and said “she said ‘hot man’”! We left it alone at that!

St. Louis was a good stop for the show. When we came out after the matinee and evening performances, the crowd to see Taylor Hicks was six or seven deep and the line for getting their CD signed was so far back in the lobby that I couldn’t see the end. It seems like we waited for thirty minutes or more before we could get close enough to see or snap a picture or two.

If you haven’t seen “Grease”, especially since Ace Young joined the cast, please go. He is terrific as Danny. I’m delighted he has been given the opportunity because he deserves it. Of course, Taylor Hicks is wonderful as Teen Angel with that blue sequined suit with the wings studded on the back of the jacket. Don’t leave before the curtain call – you don’t want to miss Taylor singing “Seven Mile Breakdown”.

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Whomp at the Warfield Now Available for Purchase

The much anticipated and long awaited for "Whomp at the Warfield" Concert DVD is now available for purchase! Recorded May 9, 2007 at the Warfield Theatre in San Francisco, the DVD contains a mix of favorites performed by Taylor Hicks and his tour band from 2007. Sure to please the most avid "Soul Patrol", the DVD can be ordered from Barnes & Noble, Best Buy and Amazon or found at your local Best Buy and other stores with DVD are sold.

For a sneak preview of the DVD:

Be sure to get your copy today!

Some of My Favorite Pictures