Cham was my best friend, my best man. I cannot imagine life without him there for me. He had the sweetest spirit and biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever known. I will miss our times together, the fun, the work, the laughter, the tears….and the long talks we had across the miles which often separated us. I love you, my brother, and will see you on the other side. Steve Roberts
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.
VOCAL songwriters, performers and the public gathered together at Richbrau’s TapHouse to start off the holidays with live, original music. A selection of VOCAL’s membership turned out to perform their material for a lively, attentive audience. The showcase counter flipped to 210 as we kicked off the event on December 15, 2008. You can find more information about the upcoming showcase at www.vocalsongwriter.org/showcase.html.
For over two years now, Richbrau’s TapHouse has hosted the VOCAL Showcase every third Monday of the month. VOCAL’s original music is complimented by original, home crafted beverages and fine cuisine. Join us at 1212 East Cary Street for the best in original songwriting from Virginia artists.
James Lester kicked off the night with his own style of instrumental blues. Much of James’ music was finger-style picking on a sweet sounding, hollow body electric that rang out with a cool, jazzy feel. The eight song set included ‘Bucky’s Blues’ as well as ‘Bernie and the D Blues’, written in honor of two cats. James conveyed a rich, bluesy feel as he moved his hands about the fretboard, demonstrating dexterity and creativity. We look forward to James’ return to the showcase in February 2009.
Gary Shaver and Jim Uzel joined forces for the next round of music as they took turns featuring their own material in an in-the-round format. Gary’s songs included ‘Somewhere Between Her and You’, ‘Right Through My Mind’, ‘Calling You Back Home’, ‘Take Me Back’ and ‘I Stand Amazed’. This sampling of Gary’s music reflected the ballads and love songs that he is known for. ‘Calling You Back Home’ was written on Thanksgiving weekend a few years ago – the song title reminds me of someone reflecting on a loved one during the holiday season. ‘I Stand Amazed’ is Gary’s self-described ‘happy song’, which he dedicated to a friend in the audience.
Jim Uzel’s portion of the set included songs with a seasonal theme. Jim’s songs ‘Spirits in the Rain’, ‘Christmas Love’ and ‘Gifts of a Child’ were accompanied by his resonator acoustic guitar, which sometimes provided a haunting feel to the melody. It was good to have Jim on stage again.
Darryl Ellyson stepped up to the microphone next with some great time tested songs as well as one song written since his November showcase performance. ‘I’m Not Afraid’ is a favorite of mine, with a powerful, moving melody, strong vocals and intense lyrics. The rest of the set included ‘You and Me Baby’, ‘I Don’t Know’ and Darryl’s new song ‘Pushin’ Against My Heart’.
Gerry Laverty closed out the evening with some of his most popular songs. ‘Details of Castrophe’ started the short set, followed by the song ‘Lonesome Blue Eyes’ which is a fanatastic song that is an instant favorite with the first listening. ‘I am a House’ was inspired by the sudden death of a friend. ‘Zion Crossroads’ is another crowd favorite and sample of Gerry’s ablilities with creative, poetic songwriting.
Thanks to our performers for making the holiday season ever more enjoyable with their talents on the showcase stage. The showcase event and coverage was made possible by a team of VOCAL volunteers made up of Larry Cody (tent cards), Matthew Costello (web updates), Gerry Laverty (photography) and John Ellis (sound services). We thank all those who come out in support of live, original music and we hope that everyone can join us again next month for the longest running, original music showcase in Central Virginia!
It was a cold, windy night in Richmond, Virginia as the showcase stage was set up and the equipment turned on to warm up. Our performers were ready to go to keep the pre-holiday spirits up and present some of the best original music that VOCAL has to offer. The showcase counter flipped to 209 and the performers tuned up for a night of great music. It was November 17, 2008.
As always, we like to take a moment to thank Richbrau’s TapHouse Grill for hosting the showcase every 3rd monday of the month. Join us at 1212 East Cary Street in historic Shockoe Slip for great food, home brewed beverages and live entertainment from Virginia’s songwriters.
The evening’s first performer was Justin Brown. This was Justin’s first Showcase appearance, but he is not a stranger to the stage having performed in his former band Plaid Rose. Justin also enjoys recording his own material in his home studio. Joining Justin on stage was a great local harmonica player from the band Barrelhouse, Tom Mayer. Justin and Tom are both members of the River City Blues Society www.wegotblues.com where they work to ensure that the blues tradition is kept alive in Virginia.
Justin kicked off the evening with a Beatle-esque tune ‘Lead Me On’ followed up by ‘Whiskey Towne’. The song ‘Footsteps’ was written by Justin right after graduating High School and moving out into his own home. ‘Mississippi Railroad’ is a tune penned just six months prior to the showcase and a song with a steady, driving rhythm that reminded me of a train chugging down the line. The next two songs were written by Tom Mayer and they were heavy on the blues! ‘All My Wife’s Relations’ was a somewhat humorous and lyrically interesting song with the line ‘…of all my wife’s relations, I like my self the best…’. The song ‘Blue Eyes’ was an upbeat number with a theme that things are not always as they seem. Tom’s harmonica work filled the TapHouse with the spirit of the blues, ringing out sweet riffs just dripping with feeling and grit. Justin and Tom closed out the set with ‘Shake the Dew’ and ‘Turn Your Damper Down’. Thanks to Justin for getting the evening off to an inspiring, blues driven beggining!
VOCAL was pleased to welcome back a Showcase regular and a great local song writer. Darryl Ellyson has a songwriting and performing history going back at least twenty years including performances in different local bands. Since becoming part of VOCAL, Darryl’s songwriting has been quite impressive with the ability to turn out many catchy, well written songs of many styles sometimes completing songs in a single day.
Darryl started off his set with ‘Raindrops Fallin” and ‘Final Hour’. The second song highlighted Darryl’s ability to convey an emotional, soulful feel. ‘I’m Gone’ is a new song written two weeks before the showcase. ‘Teardrops Cover my Pillow’ has a lyrical meter and melodic structure that really allows Darryl to show the power of his voice – it’s a light-hearted, blues inspired song. The country-blues song ‘That’s Just the Way Love Goes’ uses the lower ranges of Darryl’s voice and demonstrates his songwriting talents with the line “…remember the good times, forget the bad, that’s just the way love goes…”.
Darryl continued the set with a second new song ‘It’s So Hard’ followed up by ‘I’ve Got to Walk On’ and the rocking blues number ‘Been Out Travelin”, where Darryl’s vocals were strong and powerful. The set wrapped up with ‘Tell Me Baby’, ‘I’m Not Afraid’, ‘I Don’t Know’, ‘Broken Dreams’, and ‘When I Get Home’.
We must thank the volunteers that make the showcase happen each month. Larry Cody provides the table tent cards to inform the audience, John Ellis provided sound services and we thank Matthew Costello for keeping the showcase information on the website. And, of course, thanks to each performer who made the showcase a great musical affair. And thanks to all who support the performers. Join us again the third Monday of next month for the best in original songwriting and performing on the VOCAL Showcase!
VOCAL MEETING November 10, 2008
We had a great panel discussion on the songwriter and the Internet. Jeanine Guidry, Craig Evans and Gerry Laverty led us through their experiences and provided great resources. Look for their contributions below.
In the interest of catching up with meeting activities and having an opportunity for members to add resources and experiences, we are launching the VOCAL Blog.
The goal is to open up on avenue for our members to share their knowledge and professional opinions. We hope you’ll offer some insight into the craft and business of songwriting.
To register as a contributor, click on “Register” under Meta in the column on the right.
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