October 2023 VOCAL Songwriters Showcase


The October 2023 showcase had an intimate and attentive audience who gathered at O’Toole’s to hear three fine VOCAL talents, Rona Sullivan and Gene and Gayla Mills. Rona was a member several years ago and is back in the area performing her original tunes. Gene and Gayla have been members for several years and are back following the Covid/Plague hiatus. Welcome back to the fold!

Rona Sullivan

Rona opened the show with a few of her bluesy/folky heartfelt tunes. You Could Have Had Me asks why he would go to California or other places when he could be here with her in Virginia with all the beauty it has to offer (Blue Ridge Parkway, Chesapeake Bay, etc.) Her “short-marriage divorce song” described the give-and-take relationship they endured, but she finally just told him to keep the house and give her the truck! Three Forks is a tale about a really scary place in rural Virginia that involves snake handlers and other creepy things – don’t even think of taking me there again! Beside This River conjures up some very picturesque images along a peaceful river as we trod the mossy ground taking in beautiful sunrises and sunsets. Wild Weed describes a fast-growing child who’s “got the fever and hears the thunder”. Expert is an attitudinal song about a former attorney client who tried to tell her how to sing (e.g “you can’t sing the blues because you don’t have enough wrinkles on your face”). She tells him she’ll sing anything she wants and may even sing a song about him! Wherever I Am won’t let her get far enough away from her! Great job, Rona!

Gene and Gayla Mills

Gene and Gayla then took the stage with Gayla on upright bass and Gene on his vintage Martin. They brought us several homey/folky heartfelt songs with awesome harmonies and great cross-picking. Don’t Wait ‘Til You’re Talking to Stone conveys a great message about living in the moment, telling folks how you feel about them while you/they are here to do it. Waiting for Rain describes the plight of many in the same boat (pun intended) who really need the rain (farmers, fisherman, etc.) Gene delivered some fancy guitar picking in New Used Heart, the tale about two lovers-to-be on their second time around, tired of experiencing that “shade of blue”. Earl Thomas Johnson was inspired by a homeless man who lived under a bridge near their house. They befriended him, helped him out a bit, and learned about his past, including that he had to move out of his family home because of rising rents. Here We Are (where we said we’d be) is an autobiographical tune about the two of them, married for 37 years (congrats!) Gayla sang lead on this one with Gene joining on backup vocal and guitar. The Last Lullaby is a sad but beautiful song they wrote about a dog that was near death, but the song has apparently taken on a life of its own with other people requesting it be played for someone special in their lives. The next tune was inspired by people having great eyesight, wanting to see stars in the daytime sky and crows in the darkest night. They ended the evening with a really cool song called Fiddle in the Wall, a story about old-timers in the Blue Ridge Mountains who had to hide their fiddle in the wall because it was thought the instrument only played the Devil’s music. When the Blue Ridge Parkway was being built in the 1930’s a lot of old cabins were torn down and the fiddles were discovered. Great set, Gene and Gayla!

Showcase Photos

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