Tag Archives: Gary Shaver

VOCAL Showcase February 2011

-by Matt Manion

Collaboration between VOCAL members was on display February 21, 2011 at February’s VOCAL Showcase at O’Tooles Restaurant. Headliner Steve Nuckolls was joined on stage by fellow VOCAL members John Ellis and Larry Cody. Gary Shaver, who opened the evening, brought up Norman Roscher and friend Alan Cole, and surprised a few songwriters in attendance by performing their songs. Bill Kaffenberger, who was originally scheduled to perform, was unable to make it, but hopefully Bill will join us for a future showcase.

Gary, at his keyboard, opened his set with two of his own love songs. The first contained the refrain “my love is somewhere between her and you”. Gary’s performance caused one member of the audience to comment that Gary sounded like Floyd Cramer, the American Hall of Fame pianist who was one of the architects of the “Nashville Sound”. Gary followed it with a song about lovers who look back on their affair, the only thing left being “words on a page, yellow with age.”

The wood and brick interior of O’Tooles came alive for the next number when Gary invited Norman Roscher up to the keyboard to perform a rollicking Norman song called “Roamin’ Eye”. Gary blew alto sax as Alan Cole added tenor sax, and Norman sang in his distinctive, rich, gravely voice “…can’t put a leash on them dog-gone roamin’ eyes.”

Gary then announced that he was going to play a composition written by his friend Frank Lucas, who was in the audience. Alan added sax over Gary’s keyboards and showed how lovely and complete just two instruments can sound. Frank seemed pleased at the unexpected surprise.

Falling scales and deft fingerwork highlighted Gary’s next song, which he said sat unfinished for 10 years at the end of his piano bench. Expressing the struggle of human communications, he entoned “we’re just lost at sea, if you won’t talk to me.” And later…”let’s not sink too deep, just believe in me.”

Gary had another surprise up his sleeve. This time he honored Jim Uzel, another VOCAL member in the audience, by performing a Uzel composition. A sad, last song to a once lover, the lyrics tell the story: “…now that our love is gone, all that’s left is a sweet, sweet love song.” The song ends with a beautiful chord change.

Gary dedicated his last song, a Shaver original, to Marg, who was enjoying the music at a nearby table. A heartfelt love song, Gary sang “…and I stand amazed by your love”, and “…I thank you, my darling, for lifting me up”.

John Ellis served as MC for the evening and announced that Steve Nuckolls would be up shortly. After a brief interlude, Gary introduced Steve, who introduced his first song: Simunye.

Steve explained that the inspiration for Simunye came from a trip Steve and his wife Janice took to Africa. They had ridden an hour on horseback to a Zulu village which had no water or electricity. A reunification effort was going on at that time after a civil war, and “Simunye” can be translated as “we are one” or “we are one with this land”. John added guitar to this moving song, and member Larry Cody added harmony from the audience during the chorus.

Next was one of Steve’s newer songs, the genesis of which came this past New Year’s Eve as he was out running. “My Prayer of Thanks” is an expression of appreciation of each day, with the recognition that it could be our last. Steve dedicated his next song, “Grayson Lady”, to Ethel. It was an uptempo song with images of forests and hills.

John added guitar, and Larry plucked the bass, for Steve’s next song, “Making My Getaway”. The three musicians fell right in together and their instruments and vocals blended as if they had just come off the road after a long tour. During “When the Flag’s Half-Mast” that followed, a member of the audience commented “That Larry Cody can keep some time. He’s just got a good ear.”

Next up was “Sunrise” featuring Steve’s high, clear tenor sailing over the guitars. John’s lead was perfect, sounding almost like a banjo. A hopeful, gorgeous, song with lyrics “…you know there’s always a sunrise”.

“There’s something about your love that keeps me on the ground…” sang Steve for his next tune, followed by a song he described as a “true story told second hand”.  One audience member commented that Steve hits those high notes like Dan Fogelberg. Coincidentally, Steve joked from the stage “I think I’ll do one with my high voice.”  Steve ended his set with his “At Home on the Back Roads” and “Living Out This Love” rounding out a great set for the appreciative audience.

A fine evening of original music, made finer by the collaboration between our members and friends. Please join us for the next VOCAL showcase April 21 and watch for our newsletter for details.

VOCAL Showcase August 2010

The “curtain” opened on the August 16th, 2010 Showcase precisely at 8:05 p.m. Jeff and Stephanie Boarman, a husband and wife musical team and long-time VOCAL members, set about to entertain the good-sized crowd with an eight-song set. Describing their music as “Americana”, they opened with a gentle tempo train song entitled “Bittersweet”, with pleasing vocals by Stephanie. A tongue-in-cheek honky-tonk tune followed: “I’ll Toast to Your Sobriety” which featured the lyrics “I ain’t here to think, I’m here to drink, I’m right where I’m supposed to be!” Jeff’s delivery of this tune had the audience grinning and chuckling, and featured expert mandolin work by Barry Lawson.

A minor sonority framed the song “Miner’s Prayer”, telling of a father’s hope that his infant son not have to live the life of a miner. “Cappuccino Cowboy”, the set’s only waltz, told of a cowboy’s new life (and diet!)r his son to not follow in his footsteps. chucklinged to be!”. g vocals by Stephanie. a toungue-in-cheek honky as a married man. Stephanie sang of a man “broke and branded” and how “she did it single-handed”. Clever concept and writing!

More minor sounds from the duo in “Don’t Take My Baby Away”, a lover’s lament, followed by a switch to major in the witty “Baby, How About You?” This duet, a male-female discourse, speaks of the man’s practicality and the woman’s seductive approach. The audience responded with generous applause to yet more of Jeff and Stephanie’s fine writing.

“My Kentucky Flower” was given an up-tempo bluegrass treatment, speaking of “hillbilly justice” and included the warning “don’t mess with Daddy’s little girl!” Jeff mentioned this song was once pitched to superstar Ricky Skaggs. “He swung…and missed!” said Jeff, drawing laughs from the songwriters in the crowd. Once again, Barry Lawson’s fine mandolin work greatly added to the song.

“Bury Me in Kentucky” painted a picture of a beautiful rural area and closed the first half of the show. After a warm round of applause showing their appreciation for this trio, the audience responded with even more as the Boarmans were presented with the
Co-Songwriters of the Year Award from VOCAL.

Doug Patrick, the evening’s featured act, left no time for the crowd to even fasten their seat belts, instead launching into his first song with nary an introduction! The familiar “Make It Work” opened his nine-song set and featured backup from the Boarmans, Barry Lawson on mandolin, and long-time ‘Vocalonian’ Larry Cody on bass guitar. Larry would be on stage for the entire performance, as others would come and go throughout the evening.

“Full Time Love” featured the same lineup laying down a good backbeat, and told of a fickle woman trying to get a relationship into high gear. Sharing the spotlight, Doug brought up his good friend Eddy Kitchen to sing a self-penned song titled “Good Loves Can Die”. This tune captured the essence of what many call “pure country music”.

One of my favorites followed: “Put Him in the Lineup” tells the story of a young “Tee Ball terror” from the viewpoint of a proud grandfather. This tyke is a switch-hitter like Pete Rose, a slick fielder a la Brooks Robinson, “can run those bases like Willie Mays”, and “can hit the tater for a country mile”. A pure bit of genius from the pen of Doug Patrick!

Louis Millhouse and Gary Shaver grabbed trumpet and clarinet respectively and lent a hand on the song “New Orleans Nights”, another well-known and well-loved song from Doug’s catalogue. A highlight of the evening followed: Kelly Kennedy’s lead vocal of Doug’s new song “Till the Boys Come Home Again”. Her delivery mesmerized the crowd as she sang of two families connected by marriage, each with men fighting on opposite sides of the Civil War. Andy Cleveland’s fiddle tenderly underscored the song’s message.

Continuing with the Civil War theme, Doug offered “One Lone Georgia Pine”, a moving story of a soldier’s exploits on the battlefield and his final resting place. The war cycle was completed with “Molly”, a quick waltz describing a soldier’s love for his wife. One lyric was especially powerful: “when the fighting gets heavy, you can hear grown men cry”.

The closer was Doug’s ode to the famous Virginia racehorse, Secretariat. “Watch That Red Horse Run” told of Big Red’s feats at Churchill Downs and beyond. While the rest of the field was “hotter than a Maytag range”, Secretariat was “cool as ice” and set a record clocking in at “one fifty-nine and change”. Doug did justice to the horse’s great career with this well-written song. Many who lent musical support during the evening squeezed on to the stage for this final tune.

The VOCAL Showcase has been a mainstay of our group and the Richmond music scene since July 1991. We are proud of its longevity and the many talented members and appreciative fans who make it possible. Here’s to songwriting and VOCAL’s upcoming 25th Anniversary in July 2011!

– Gary Shaver

VOCAL Showcase December 2009

VOCAL’s holiday showcase was number 221 in the longest running continuous showcase in Central Virginia! It was much more than a typical showcase with 10 performers, a standing room only crowd and a festive atmosphere.  The festivities were almost brought to a halt by a surprisingly large winter snow storm two days earlier, but with passable roads, the showcase went on without a hitch!

While the music is the reason for having a showcase, the December showcase was much more than a musical exhibition.  The night came together because of the generosity of our supporters, the hard work of our performers, the spirit of our audience!

We were all glad to be back at O’Tooles restaurant at 4800 Forest Hill Avenue in Richmond for the second showcase at this great location.  It’s a wonderful venue for music, food and to celebrate a festive time of the year.  

Part of the evening’s festivities were giveaways for the audience.  CD’s were donated by The Taters, Marna Bales, Dave Pollard, Norman Roscher, Cy Taggart, Gerry Laverty and Pops Walker.  We cannot thank these folks enough for their generosity, wich added a lot to the evening’s excitement.  During short intermissions spread across the evening, drawings were held for the audience members who received boxed sets of the donated CD’s.  We also must pass along a huge thanks to Gary Shaver for bringing along the tickets for the drawing and generally helping with the giveaways.  Matt Manion was invaluable in his assistance with the giveaways for the VOCAL members in attendance.

The music was the main point of the evening, but there was so much packed into this one evening, it would be impossible to fit it all into one article.  Gary Shaver was on hand to play with fellow songwriters such as Bill Wellons and John Ellis as well as performing some of his own work.  Rose Ann Robbins did a spoken word performance of one of her poems, adding a unique touch to the evening.  Other performing songwriters included Steve Nuckolls, Norman Roscher, Matthew Costello, James Lester and Don Pinkleton with son Robbie.

The Taters wrapped the night up in a great big bow for the holidays, with a thirty minute set that included tried and true, tasty Tater tunes, as well as some cover songs including a grand jam of Feliz Navidad that included most of the performers from the night!  It was such a great time.  The night just flew by and everyone was in great spirits heading up to Christmas.

Thanks to Larry Cody for producing the evening’s flyers, to Matt Manion for his continued assistance with anything that is needed and to all the fans, listeners, members of the public and anyone within listening distance!  We’ll see you in 2010!

VOCAL Showcase November 2009

Showcase 220 was a new adventure for all of VOCAL as we crossed the mighty James River to bring original songwriting to a favorite Richmond spot, O’Tooles Restaurant & Pub. Jim Uzel, Gerry Laverty and Louie Millhouse christened the new location and kept a full house entertained with a fantastic selection of original material. The showcase was on November 16, 2009.

We couldn’t be more thankful at this time of year than to have a wonderful new room for the showcase.  We are now presenting our original songwriters in a wonderful room at O’Tooles Restaurant & Pub. With a tasty menu, a friendly staff, and a large, open room for the performance, VOCAL couldn’t ask for more from a host.  Join us next month at 4800 Forest Hill Avenue in Richmond for another musical, and culinary adventure!

Jim Uzel took the first performance spot and gave the enthusiastic crowd a nice sampling of his extensive songwriting catalog.  Jim has self produced a lot of material over the years as well as participating in songwriting with friends such as Gary Shaver and even produced a boxed-set a few years ago that has original art work on the cover.  Jim’s set list included ‘The Drifter’, ‘Deep in the Night’, ‘My Summer Dream’ and ‘Spirits in the Rain’.  The subject matter for his songs often touches on the spiritual and the emotional as with this set.  His nice, inspired guitar work is paced and carefully crafted to match the mood of the song.  Thanks to Jim for a great start to the evening.

Next on the bill was Gerry Laverty.  Without a doubt, Gerry has shown over the years that poetry and songwriting often go hand-in-hand, and along the way he has earned fans among his peers.  In the November Showcase, Gerry had a set list that included many of the favorites from his years of songwriting.  He kicked off the set with ‘Bad Seed’, then followed up with a classic ‘Jerusalem’, which searches for peace in the ancient city.  Gerry then showed his ability to cross genre with his wonderfully bluesy guitar work in ‘Blues in the Nite’.  The bending of the guitar string in the ‘Blues in the Nite’ riff is so sweet, it keeps your ear longing for more.  Gerry kept the mood mellow, but focused on the longing that comes when you’re separated from someone you miss so much, in the song ‘Lonesome Blue Eyes’.  This song is a favorite of many fellow songwriters and is a wonderful blend of melody, lyrical fluidity and inspired poetry.  The set closed with ‘I’ve Been Worried so Long’ and another classic Laverty composition about a mysterious woman ‘Zion Crossroads’.

 The featured performer for the evening was Louie Millhouse.  Louie brought in a great line-up of guest performers including Gary Shaver, who played piano for most of the set, and Louie’s daughter Nancy, who represented the rhythm section on bass guitar.  The set list included compositions from both Louie and Gary Shaver and the musical styles included jazz, ballads, pop and rock.  The first song, ‘Marauder’ has a very latin or Spanish feel to the guitar rhythm and is a wonderful addition to the many styles we hear on the showcase.  ‘The Stone’ is a Gary Shaver composition and a fantastic representation of Gary’s songwriting abilities.  The night was full of surprises including the song ‘And I Always Will’ where Louie performed a duet with guest singer Robyn Kim.  Robyn’s smooth, light voice was a nice counterpoint to Louie’s male lead.  After the duet, Louie brought out his flugelhorn for another Gary Shaver composition ‘Tutti’ which is a nicely done jazz instrumental. 

Louie then turned the mood to a cool, jazzy, funky thing with ‘Lonely Waters’ featuring daughter Nancy on a funky bass line, Louie on some nice jazzy electric guitar chords, and Gary Shaver on flute.  Louie’s vocals were smooth, low and smokey as the band rolled through the song.  From the jazzy to the near impossible, Louie took the crowd on a humorous, outlandish ride, with more syllables than you could believe would fit in one song titled ‘Doctor McBoogie’.  The good doc is a proctologist by day and a hot trombone player by night, whose best cure is packaged in a musical note!  You have to hear it to truly appreciate it.  The mood was taken back to an easy, mellow tone on ‘Now That We’ve Said Our Goodbyes’, by Gary Shaver.  ‘We’d Better Leave it Alone’ is a country-pop sounding song, starting with an a-cappella including Robyn Kim, the song also featured Gary on lead vocal.  Louie then gave us another glimpse of his sense of humor and revealed who has a nice looking mom, with ‘Kara’s Mom is Hot’.  This unique dedication, based loosely on a true story from a family trip, has a calypso or island rhythm and won’t let you go without singing along or at least tapping a toe.  Then Louie let us go with the beautiful imagery of Key West with his song  ‘Marathon’.

 The evening was a great success thanks to so many volunteers and performers.  Special thanks to Jim Uzel for sound services and once again to Dave Pollard for his assistance in setting up the showcase at our new location.  Larry Cody produces the table tent cards for the showcase and Matthew Costello handles web services for VOCAL.  Extra special thanks to Bud Brinkley, photographer for being on the scene to provide photography services.  See you next month!

VOCAL Showcase July 2009

It was a hot summer night when we kicked off Showcase #216, but inside the TapHouse, there was a cool blast of sound waves emanating from the stage!  The crowd filled the better part of the venue, and as some of the dinner crowd left, more folks filed in to see what was cookin’ on the stage.  James Lester with special guest Tom Mayer (from Barrelhouse) gave a harmonica infused dose of sweet blues, then Matt Manion gave a great set of folk and rock.  And to keeping it all rolling along, VOCAL’s guest MC for the evening, Louis Millhouse, kicked off the music and introduced our artists.

What would great music be, without a great venue to set the atmosphere?  Join VOCAL at Richbrau’s TapHouse each month for the perfect environment to experience freshly prepared meals, fine crafted micro-brew beverages and well crafted songwriting.  You’ll find us at 1212 East Cary Street in Shockoe Slip every third Monday of the month.

Louis’s song ‘Marathon’ was a great way to begin the evening and a sampling from his showcase appearance scheduled for later this year.  With a sweet acoustic rhythm and the warm, sandy imagery of living in the Keys with a drink in hand, Louis had the crowd swinging in the breeze of his tropical rhythm.  After warming up the crowd with this tropical excursion, Louis introduced the first performer.

James Lester wasted no time getting the crowd worked up as he kicked off his set with ‘I Like Your Love’, a bluesy number that gets feet to stompin’ and heads-a-boppin’.  Alternating between his own songs and the songs of his guest, Tom Mayer, James turned the microphone over for the next song ‘Home Cooking’, a tune featuring Tom’s vocals and harmonica.  Throughout the set, Tom’s harmonica was present on each song and what a treat it was for the ears!  Whether on James’ songs such as ‘Lame Pony Blues’ and ‘Where’s My Baby’ or Tom’s songs ‘The Night is Closing In’ and ‘All My Wife’s Relations’ the duo put on quite a fine sampling of guitar based blues, spiced up with a heavy dose of hot harmonica licks.  James gave quite a performance on the fretboard alternating between strumming and finger-style playing, with each song leaving your ears begging for more.  Tom really let it rip on ‘Lame Pony Blues’ where he laid down a harmonica solo that nearly set the roof on fire!  Lyrically, the duo served some low-down blues such as ‘The Night is Closing In’ as well as some comic relief with the songs ‘All My Wife’s Relations’ and ‘Where’s My Baby’.  VOCAL thanks James and Tom for bringing their blues skills to the showcase stage.  Look out for the next showcase performance from this duo.  You can also keep up with them on the web at www.myspace.com/jameslesterblue and www.myspace.com/barrelhouserva .

When the first set was over, it seemed a shame for the music to end, but there was no reason to worry about that with the evening’s featured performer Matt Manion.  Sharing his style of acoustic music, Matt carried the audience through an evening of folk and rock songs that used many themes including the difficulties of work life and the thoughts of personal reflection, wrapped up in lyrics that were sometimes somber, sometimes humorous and sometimes poetic, but always thoughtful.  Starting off with a blend of humor and maybe horror, ‘The Royal Roach Hotel’ was Matt’s telling of a not-so-wonderful stay while working in the oil fields of Louisianna.  Keeping on the theme of rough work experiences, ‘Power Play’, had a bit of a Punk feel to the rhythm, which served the lyrics well as the song addresses the frustration that can exist in some work environments.  ‘Forget Yourself’ was a very reflective song with an easy, calming melody.

Matt had surprises in store for the audience as he called John Ellis to the stage to accompany with lead electric guitar on ‘Losin’ My Hair’, a humorous, but somewhat introspective song about one of life’s struggles.  Next Matt brought Gary Shaver to the stage on clarinet and Norman Roscher on keyboard along with John Ellis on lead guitar to add ambience to his poetic and inspiring ‘O Rolling Sea’.  Norman’s keyboard work added a nice ambience to the song, which evoked images of the ocean waves that Matt used in his recorded version.  With Gary on the clarinet, the song had more depth thanks to the wonderful tone of his instrument and the delicate, swelling runs he used to accentuate the mood of the song.  Thanks to Matt and his guest performers for providing a unique interpretation of a very unique song.

Matt finished up his set with a few more songs including one that has a 50’s Doo-Wop feel to my ears, with lyrics about strength in love ‘Man’s Man’, and a great song for any Matt Manion performance ‘Don’t Need to Be Perfect’.  Thanks to Matt for a great set of creative, original musical variety.

VOCAL would not be the great organization that it is without a great group of volunteers helping out.  Thanks to Matt Manion for providing the sound system for the evening and to John Ellis and Matthew Costello for sharing soundman duties.  Larry Cody is kind enough to provide table tent-cards for each performance to inform our listeners about the evening’s performers.  Matthew Costello also keeps our website up to date and handles most of our photography work.  But it would all be for naught, without an audience to perform for, so thanks to all who show up or otherwise support our songwriters.  We’ll see you next month! 

VOCAL Showcase April 2009

Showcase number 213, was the annual cover night for VOCAL.  Performers covered at least one song from a fellow VOCAL songwriter.  The night was full of surprises and anticipation as the weather kept performers at home and the night turned into a review of some of VOCAL’s outstanding long-time members.

The showcase is hosted each month by Richbrau’s TapHouse.  Come join us at 1212 East Cary Street in Richmond’s historic Shockoe Slip for fine food and great beverages from this local brew-pub.  Enjoy the company of our songwriters as you enjoy your meals in a great venue.

Steve Nuckolls kicked off the night with his brand of thoughtful narratives drawing on many life experiences to craft songs of deep meaning.  The set started off with ‘Making My Getaway’ an original of Steve’s with good feeling and a nice easy rhythm.  Steve then presented his cover song ‘Sundown in a Coal Town’ which was penned by VOCAL’s John Carter.  The song is about miners expressing their passions and hopes on a Saturday night through their own music.  The set then turned reflective with Steve’s song ‘When the Flag’s Halfmast’, which is about the memories conjured up when we see this reminder of those no longer with us.  The first set concluded with the hopeful and spiritual song inspired by a trip to an African village ‘Simunye’.  Thanks to Steve for a great start to the evening.

Gary Shaver took to the stage next for his first of two sets.  Gary’s ‘Your Sweet Love’ was a great way to get started.  Gary’s cover songs inlcuded a number written by the team of Nancy Walker and Cham Laughlin as well as a number from Chris Craig.

A short intermission was allowed for the attending songwriters to determine the next guest up to the stage.  It seems that the weather kept many of our songwriters at home for the evening and we wanted to keep the spirit of the open call alive.  About the time we were ready to pick straws to see who would play next, someone asked ‘Where’s Norman’?  No sooner were these words uttered, than Norman Roscher appeared – as if Huddini had conjured him up with a magic word and a puff of smoke zapping Norman from his peaceful home to Shockoe slip.  He was immediately drafted into the showcase line-up!

Norman used an acoustic guitar loaned by our first performer Steve Nuckolls and Gary Shaver’s keyboard to put on an impromptu, and incredibly entertaining show!  Sampling his song catalogue, Norman played songs that were sometimes sweet and sometimes just wild and fun!  One of my favorites ‘Keep on Droolin’ was a humorous reminder that no matter how alone we feel at times, there’s someone droolin’ for you somewhere (even if it’s someone you’d be more inclined to run from than embrace).  Songs like ‘Mr. Sleepy Head’ and ‘Butterflies’ had a good bit of the sweetness I mentioned earlier, while ‘Bart the Pirate’ (a Glen Hobles song) and ‘Hey Baby You’re Beautiful’ were just great fun to listen to and sing along with.  We can’t thank Norman enough for volunteering his talents to keep the showcase rolling along!

Gary Shaver stepped back up on the showcase stage to present his second set of the evening.  ‘Tell Me You Love Me One More Time’, written by Nancy Walker and Jeff Long was the first song of the set and a fantastic ballad with a great melody.  The set was rounded out with ‘Make Everything Alright’, ‘If I Could Go Back Home’ and ‘As All Things Pass’.

Thanks to our volunteers for making the showcase a great event.  Larry Cody provides table tent cards to advertise the showcase, Matthew Costello handles photography and web development and John Ellis handles sound services.  Thanks as well to the performers and all who show up to the showcases each month!

Remembering Cham Laughlin

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.

Matthew Costello

VOCAL Showcase December 2008

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!