The Bob – The Temps, The Tommy, and The Twins

Most of the last two weeks has been spent un-writing this column. I know that sounds dumb, but it is an accurate description of the process.

I find that when I am passionate about something, excited to distraction, chomping at the bit to share my Joy of Discovery with any and all who will listen, I tend to go off like a 6 year old with a wagon full of water balloons and a neighborhood full of targets. …and that seems to lessen the impact, the joy, the pleasure, and turns delight into a chore. The solution is to pare it down, hit the highlights, and not bore you, Dear Readers, and in so doing, whet your appetite and get you as excited as I am without belabouring my point. Even so, I KNOW I have gone on too long again….

…and my Point? There is Greatness afoot….

AIN’T TOO PROUD TO BEG – THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TEMPTATIONS

Normally, Broadway musicals are cause for me to hide under my bed until the threat passes, and I can exit into the kitchen to make a sandwich or sit down in front of the flatscreen and watch any number of Marvel Suprheroes save the world and pound the snot out of the Bad Guys, cracking wise all the while, complete with lingering (and lovingly) framed tracking shots focusing on Black Widow’s leather-clad rear end as she walks away while Tony (Iron Man) Stark sarcastically goes on and on about science, carnage, Pepper, and Captain America’s stoic and old fashioned Grandmotherly reminders to wear your galoshes and watch your language.

As a child, I was smitten with Show Biz Musicals, an avid fan of Annie Get Your Gun, Singin’ in the Rain, and anything that featured Ethel Merman, Fred Astaire, or Gene Kelly plying the boards, straw hat and cane optional, tap shoes at the ready, and voices that could reach the cheap seats without the aid of a microphone.

I was mesmerized by James Cagney’s portrayal of George M. Cohan, Ethel’s “There’s No Business Like Show Business, Donald O Connor’s “Make ‘Em Laugh”, and Stubby Kaye’s rousing “Can Do” from Guys and Dolls.

Being a tap/dancing/aspiring singer/forced accordionist, my love of musical shows and Hollywood’s accompanying Technicolour extraveganzes continued apace until Hair.

Hair.

A ‘Musical’ which, bragged the writers of the book and songs, only took 4 days to write!

Did no one have the courage to tell them that’s what it sounded like?

No disrespect for my friends who were IN the original production of Hair, or the millions who loved it, bought the resulting ‘hit’ recordings, and could listen to “Good Morning Starshine” by Oliver(?) escape from a car radio without kicking it into pieces with repeated blows of their Beatle Boots until the tubes dimmed and shattered, the speakers fell silent, and the wires hung out of the dashboard like the intestines of a guttted fish.

Something I was powerless to refrain from.

Twice.

Through Rent and Cats and all the CatClones (Just how many times can you rewrite “Memories?) orchestrated by (my pet name for him) Andrew Dice Weber and his singing protege, What’s-er-name, my distaste for “Broadway Musicals” grew like Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, to the point that I could only describe them as “Musical entertainment for people who hate music”. (I liked LSoH, by the way.)

Then came Jersey Boys.

Jersey Boys, which still had problems and you risked taking a nap between ‘medleys’, did bring something back that perked my ears up and piqued my interest.

It was FULL of great songs and the cache of an era of sidewalk serenades and music as a way to get out of your neighborhood and see the world. …and if your sportsball skills were lacking, MUSIC could effect your life just as much as being 7 feet tall and able to no rim the net from centre court.

Sidewalk Singing Still Happens

The Four Seasons had done that for me, along with the Doo-Wop groups who inspired them from the mid to late ’50s. Maybe the musical as legitimate entertainment for music LOVERS could make a comeback.

These shows, nicknamed Jukebox Musicals, started to appear regularly after the success of Jersey Boys, the Brill Building driven hat tips and others found a niche off Broadway and on, and the next quantum leap was sitting in a plush seat with a drink in my hand and being lit up by an effort called Rock of Ages, followed by the Canadacentric Oh, Canada, and the wonderfully nostalgic Motown tribute.

But none of these shows, NONE of them, prepared me for Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.

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A night out at the theatre is not complete without dinner at a fine establishment to sup on perfectly prepared food to sustain you for the evening, in a place both intimate and exciting.

We dined with friends at the Kit Kat, a restaurant perfect for the evening in every aspect.

It is tiny, with colourful owner (Nice to meet you, Al) and manager (Nice to meet you, Johnny) always on premises, celebrities known to be spotted when they’re in town (we were regaled with Keith Richards anecdotes and spotted a well known politician while we were there), and realized this place is the perfect gateway to a Broadway (bound) Show.

The Kit Kat might as well be in New York, so BIG APPLE is the vibe in this eatery. Packed to the rafters with knowledgeable entertainment district habitués equally at home here as they are in their own dining rooms, the conversations intertwining and bouncing off the walls, blending into what Walter Winchell would have called a Hubbub, and ramping up the excitement of a night on the town, red paint and brushes at the ready, and a tummy full of nap-worthy delights and a well poured gin and tonic.

We will be back to the Kit Kat as soon as the budget allows, though reasonably priced, I am not reasonably budgeted. Have a look at the menu.

It is impossible to make a wrong selection.

http://www.kitkattoronto.com/

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Ain’t to Proud is mean and lean like the men and women it portrays. It does not linger on the smarmy, the negative, or the tragedy inherent in this many lives, but it doesn’t gloss them over either. Those moments are addressed honestly and emotionally on stage and in the brilliant, heart felt narration delivered by Derrick Baskin (R) as Otis Williams (L), founder, and last surviving member of The Temps, while the other cast members play both lead subjects and Greek Chorus to this powerful and engaging true life story. While Otis breaks the fourth wall without taking us out of the story, the acting, singing, and dancing of the principals is nothing short of jaw dropping. I had seen the acts brought to life here, onstage in clubs in L.A and San Francisco back in the 1960s…paying 2.50 at the door at places like The Whisky, Crescendo, and Interlude in L.A, and the Fillmore and other venues in The City.

I was transported.

These performances are no parroted tribute, no musical afterthought, no shoddy recreation.

These performances…every one of them…ARE why these musical icons, these GIANTS will never be forgotten.

The casting, risking a pun…of this cast is almost eerie in its perfection.

Why else would I have blurted out DAVID RUFFIN when his character strode out on the stage? And the same thing happened more than once, immediately recognizing Jawan M. Jackson as Melvin Franklin early in the play.

Ephraim Sykes as David Ruffin

And how could VooDoo and magic NOT been used to cast this wondrous play based on the acting, singing and dancing skills pouring out of every soul on that stage.

And that Stage!

The art, set, and lighting direction was almost Our Town minimalist, but created a wealth of detail and illusion that allowed you to focus on the players, yet helped bring each scene to life, no crashed helicopter, chandelier or other zillion dollar effect necessary to enhance your experience.

The movable parts of the stage floor, coupled with the choreographed movements of the players, created dream-like sequences and, at times, dramatic exclamation points to already emotionally charged moments.

There were laughs.

There were tears.

There were moments of joy and sorrow expressed perfectly and beautifully throughout.

A reading of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” that will rip your heart out, and sooo many musical highlights, that ascribing Holland, Dozier, Holland, Smokey Robinson, and others to the same hallowed halls as Berlin, Mercer, Gershwin and their ilk, will not be a stretch in the least.

There is so much more to say, but I’m not going to say it. YOU need to go to The Princess of Wales and see this for yourselves.

The Most Beautiful Theatre.

The most wonderful of musicals.

This show is the show, cast and crew that opens on Broadway at The Imperial next Spring.

Here, it is fresh, ready, young, and undeniable.

…and I’m NOT going to spoil the surprise about all that wonderful music being played under the singing.

You’ve got until November 17th.

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TOMMY (THE GUNN) GRASLEY

With the lanky, almost gangly grace of a young James Taylor or high school basketball hero, Tommy Grasley enters a room full of people like a Rockstar who is humbly trying not to take attention away from anyone else in the room he is about to favour with his company.

It is a practiced and assured gait, but tempered by years of experience in crowded rooms, both aware of his ability to intimidate, but more interested in appearing less central, be more accessible, make everyone around him feel comfortable and welcome to engage him in conversation.

It is a refreshing change from those who crave the constant spotlight, the focus of others, the sort of entertainer that opens the fridge door and does 10 minutes when the light goes on.

Tommy is a mensch.

A good guy.

A regular fella.

Except he is much more than that.

Tommy Grasley is The Real Deal.

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Gracious is not a word usually used to describe a burgeoning Rock Star but it applies to Tommy. It was though he were raised by a wild pack of Grandmothers…taught to kill and forage with the best of the hunter/gatherers, yet be civil and mannered enough to open doors for the lady folk and stand when they sit down at the table.

Tommy displays his graciousness on the world stage.

He Kills on the stages where he performs, including the stage called a recording studio.

We are gathered on this warm summer night in a beautiful private home that is large enough to double as a hotel, to enjoy the hospitality of our host, an actual well-loved Dragon, and the company of a hundred or so of Tommy’s closest friends.

The reason for this pleasurable excursion is Tommy’s desire to share his latest musical project with us.

It is a “CD Release Party”, but looks and feels more like the reception after a wedding. There are no bowls of Doritos or a single beer ticket. No tawdry bar with overpriced drinks and sticky floors. No…this is how you do it. This harkens back to the days when people were committed to their music and proud of their work, and willing to go the distance to accommodate and entertain their guests. Tommy, and our host, and all who contributed to this well organized evening should teach classes so that others may do as well.

All of the planning and care that went into the presentation of the food, the drink, and, ultimately, the music, reflected back on our Dragon and Our Rock Star and their co-conspirators like an Art Gallery Sconce.

A picture perfect evening.

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Jeff Woods Doug Thompson Bob and Al Joynes – pic by Jaimie Vernon

And what was the purpose of this splendid setting the table laden with edible delights, the free pouring wine and beer, the amiable and conversationally endowed participants?

To sell CDs? T Shirts? Tickets?

Nope.

Not at all.

And here is where Tommy earns my undying respect and friendship….

It is simply his desire to share his Labour of Love with family and friends.

You heard me.

The big, underlying reason for what turned out to be one of the best parties I have been to in decades was simply to play a collection of songs that won’t even be available to the public until next year. A collection of songs our young Mr. Gunn is rightfully proud of. A collection of songs inspired by some of the very people in this room, among them his lovely wife, Amy, and his father, and others…friends…who have stood by him all these years of dreaming and playing, writing and creating.

And therein lies the art, talent, and humanity of Tommy The Gunn Grasley.

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As I mentioned at the beginning of this column, I have spent a couple of weeks unwriting a great deal of prose.

The more I wrote about IT, the more I felt I should wait to review the album when it becomes available, not months before it is.

I want to tell you all about it when you can listen to it yourself, so we can enjoy the moment together, so it doesn’t drift off your radar prematurely like so many things do these days.

Tommy Grasley deserves your attention.

His MUSIC deserves your attention.

…and I mean to make sure you pay that attention when it is most pertinent.

No, this the time to tell you about Tommy. Tell you about his passion and hard work and commitment. This is the time to introduce you to a man who loves his wife, respects and admires his father, Sonny del Rio, a musician himself who plied the boards with King Biscuit Boy and Kelly Jay and other legendary Hamilton and Toronto musical legends. Who played in Crowbar and backed the brightest and best, who does a solo turn on son Tommy’s CD, an instrumental that bears listening to again and again, much like the rest of the album.

I will say this about the album.

Tommy has written some fine songs here and sings every word with heart and imbues the whole CD with meaning and sincerity. He name checks family and friends, he tells stories, and he is surrounded in the exercise by great players, brilliant engineering, and production that serves his vision.

The song’s influences blended into a unique sound all his own, and one of the most textured recordings I have ever heard.

The guitars alone are artfully laid upon each other like oil paint on canvas, the textures building and falling away, bring aural light and darkness to the songs like layers of paint to a canvas.

The album has depth.

So now you know.

Tommy Grasley.

Remember that name. And when the time is right…

…you will definitely remember the music.

There are a couple of iconic musicians from The Hammer in this video. Maybe more.

Enjoy.

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THE TWINS – COURAGE MY LOVE

More on Mercedes and Phoenix and bass player Brandon and former bass player David in a column soon, this is just a quick shout out.

I have been following this double rainbow of talent since they were 15 or 16, and watching them grow into a force of nature has been and continues to be a joy.

Again, they are the Real Thing, and their family, friends, and fans, are a big part of their ongoing success. Fine musicians, singers, and writers, they have accomplished much with their long standing team and continue to make the climb to the top slowly, through hard work, determination, and sheer breadth and depth of talent.

This is their latest. and if you are new to CML, I suggest you track down their back catalogue via You Tube and Spotify and educate yourself.

Take it to the Limit CML …the world is yours if you want it.

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Segarini’s regular columns appear here and there ain’t nuthin’ youcan do about it

dbawis-button7giphyBob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

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