On January 5, 2009, Robert “Cham” Laughlin passed away. Cham is an important part of VOCAL history and I would like to take this opportunity to honor his memory with reflections on the place Cham held in my life and in the history of VOCAL.
In 1972 I graduated Colonial Heights High School. During those years I was aware of Cham as being a respected musician though I cannot recall the bands he played in.
I played in several bands in those years. One of my early band mates was Chuck Page, a wonderful, hard working drummer with whom I developed many an original piece of music.
Later, during my college years I got to meet Cham and his brother Tommy when Chuck introduced me at a rehearsal for their band Aaron.
The band’s lineup was Cham: guitar/vocals, Tommy: bass/vocals, Chuck on drums, and another CHHS alum, Mark Pond, filled out the lineup on Hammond organ. Aaron was actually a bit of a Supergroup from that area having merged together from several different styles and backgrounds. And they were great! The sound and music I heard that night was as good as many professional concerts I had seen.
During the next years I became a friend of Cham’s sister Susan. Actually I did not know he was her brother until after a few months of knowing her. She remains a good friend and I am sorry for her loss.
I don’t recall seeing Cham again until I attended a VOCAL meeting at Manchester High School. I believe this was 1991. Robbin Thompson was set to be a guest speaker and I was aware of VOCAL, but had never attended.
Somehow I ended up going to that meeting with Robbin. We road together and I received my first impression of VOCAL. It was a collection of excited people working with their talents and looking for a means to have their music heard and improved. Gary Shaver was the president. It was evident though; Cham was making sure a lot of the work of VOCAL got done.
I always said Cham was the “battery” of the group. It was his enthusiasm and organization that kept things going. His commitment and belief in VOCAL was astounding. He would host VOCAL events at his Studio. He gave freely of his knowledge about the music industry. He published the Newsletter every month and would distribute copies to not only the Music Stores in the Petersburg and Chester areas, but always to the stores in Richmond as well.
Like many songwriters I had been writing in a vacuum with a few people but no real understanding of what it took to get my songs “out there.” Sure, once a year or two I would buy “Songwriter’s Market” but never really understood what I was supposed to do with it.
Cham’s knowledge and desire to de-mystify the craft and business of songwriting helped me to understand so much more about the business and to respect my own vision f the craft. The value of good demos, the proper way of labeling & packaging and the way to target who you were to send to were all tasks that Cham shared his insight on. Anyone who ever had time with him would tell you he was a talented man and would bring some knowledge or inspiration to the relationship.
As I became more and more involved, Cham and Gary and I would manage a lot of things together. Cham was always there with the PA for Showcases and the TV show. The three of us would meet after events and share meals and always discuss the changes we were seeing and the next steps for VOCAL. It was an exciting time.
Cham’s contributions to VOCAL were immense. VOCAL is a proud part of his legacy. A legacy I hope many will recall when they remember Cham.
I’m sure there are many valuable contributions by Cham I have not acknowledged. It is not intentional so, please, accept my apologies.
Please, add to this post with your comments and memories. If you would like to make a main post. let us know.