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The 9-11 American Challenge: Ride Shotgun!

Meet Vann Schaffner.  We’d like to adopt him, and we hope you’ll agree to co-parent.

Here’s the good news: He’s already finished college, has a job, and a roof over his head.  He’s in training and favors a healthy diet and outdoor exercise.  There will be no educational, basic living, or entertainment expenses.

Parental responsibilities will be limited to helping this father, grandfather, Navy veteran, and cyclist meet his goal of participating in a special 2011 edition of Ride 2 Recovery.

The 9-11 American Challenge will commemorate the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks upon the United States.  The ride will begin within view of the World Trade Center and travel to the United 93 Memorial in Shanksville, PA, before concluding at the Pentagon Memorial.  It’s an eight day, 530 mile bicycle ride that starts on September 11, 2011.

Participants will include survivors, family members, and first responders from 9-11, as well as wounded veterans from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the general public.  Injured veterans ride free.  Remaining cyclists are asked to actively fundraise, and will each donate at minimum $2998 to Ride 2 Recovery; that’s $1 for every victim of the 9-11 attacks.  Vann’s personal goal is a $5000 donation.

Ride 2 Recovery is a non-profit organization that is making a difference in the lives of injured soldiers through cycling.  In a few short years, Ride 2 Recovery has already shown that cycling can play a significant role in the rehabilitation of both physical and mental injuries, ranging from loss of limb(s) to post traumatic stress disorder.  Again this year, cycles will be purchased and custom-fit to the needs of the rider.  Seven challenge events are planned across the United States and abroad, including the 9-11 event.

Vann Schaffner first came to our attention in March of this year when we were introduced to Ride 2 Recovery by the involvement of musician Taylor Hicks.  Taylor performed at a kick-off benefit concert for the Texas Challenge on March 28; Vann was an active advocate for the Texas event.  Since that time we’ve watched Vann’s consistent promotion of the U.S. military and Ride 2 Recovery via his social media sites and blog.  We’ve decided that now is the time to stop watching and start helping.

Vann has invited fans of Taylor Hicks to ride shotgun during the American Challenge.  If, as a group, we are able to raise a $500 donation for Ride 2 Recovery, Vann will add a badge to the back of his cycling jersey during the 9-11 ride.  The badge will read “Taylor Hicks – Soul Patrol”.  This is our opportunity to help a fine organization that supports our active duty military and veterans.  It’s also our opportunity to ride 530 miles with Vann, all without pedaling.

Please consider making a directed donation to Ride 2 Recovery.  Follow this link: and then “Sponsor a Rider” by entering the first (Vann) and last (Schaffner) names of the rider.  Donations are accepted via PayPal, bank account, or credit card.  Donations in any amount are tax deductible.  No amount is too small (or too large!).  If 50 fans donate $10 each, or 25 give $20, we will have met goal.

To ensure that donations are credited to the group, please leave a note in the comments here OR email us at taylorhicksnews at gmail dot com to let us know you’re coming along for the ride.  No need to specify the amount donated in your email; Vann will let us know when we’ve met goal.

In the meantime, we will periodically provide training and fundraising updates from Vann through THN on twitter.  We are very excited to cycle in tandem with Ride 2 Recovery and look forward to sharing the experience with Vann and all of you.

Put Vann on his bike for 9-11!


For more on Ride 2 Recovery:

For more from Vann Schaffner:

More on Ride 2 Recovery and Taylor Hicks at the Texas Challenge from the archives:

Taylor Hicks to Perform at Bama Rising Concert


Country music stars will convene in Birmingham to support those affected by the powerful tornadoes that recently tore through the south.  Bama Rising is a June 14 benefit concert organized by music supergroup Alabama on behalf of the state of Alabama.

A number of well known artists have generously donated their time and talent to the event, including Alabama native Taylor Hicks.  While the majority of tickets to the event were sold soon after posting, some VIP tickets remain.  For those who are unable to attend, but would like to support recovery efforts, donations are also accepted here:

For the artists who make their home in Alabama, the tornado aftermath is both real and personal.  At a May 20 concert, Taylor Hicks briefly discussed the storms’ impact and dedicated a song to his home state.



We hope that those who can will give generously to relief efforts.  Governor Robert Bentley has declared Alabama a Level 1 disaster area, with damage comparable to post Katrina Louisiana and the World Trade Center after September 11.




Web poster for Bama Rising event by Richard Uznanski & Louise Uznanski; Live concert video by Louise Uznanski

Taylor Hicks: Five years later, still a maverick

Photo by Louise Uznanski 
He broke the rules.  He brandished a harmonica when contestants weren’t allowed instruments.  He refused to dye his hair or change his performance style.  He sang funky; he danced funky.  If the camera moved left, he moved right.  He attempted (but failed) to organize the American Idol finalists as a bargaining unit.  He declined his American Idol coronation song, and was given another. 
He brought millions to their living rooms, glued to the television every Tuesday and Wednesday evening for months.  He brought passion to his performances.  He was politely but defiantly different, and on May 24, 2006 Taylor Hicks was named the 5th season winner of American Idol after a nationwide poll that tallied more than 63 million votes.
Five years later the Idol winner continues to plot an independent course, defying expectations and building his own brand based on a model of diversification and consistent touring.
Touring began early after the Idol win as the top 10 contestants took to the bus.  The finalists performed 59 dates across the country during the summer of 2006, filling seats and grossing $35.2 million dollars on the most successful American Idol Live tour to date.
Photo by DeeDee56 
Those 59 concert dates weren’t enough for the season five winner.  In select cities, Hicks went from the arenas to small clubs where he performed late into the evening with his own band for fans of his original music and soulful style.  Idol rules would not allow the “shadow tour” to use his name to sell tickets, but the possibility of a special guest appearance still drew 900 fans on a late night in Wilkes Barre, PA on the final stop of the American Idol Live tour.
 Photo of Taylor Hicks in Wilkes Barre, PA by Louise Uznanski
Release of the eponymous debut album “Taylor Hicks” in December 2006 was quickly followed by two national concert tours.  The shows were organized and operated by Taylor’s own independent touring company, and pulled the 27th largest gross of the 2007 concert year. 
Photo by didnotexpectthat.
During the summer of 2008 Taylor Hicks debuted on Broadway as Teen Angel in GREASE, the musical.  Following a successful run in New York, the show went on the road in December 2008, traveling the country for the next 18 months.
Taylor at the Planet Hollywood handprint ceremony following his debut performance as Teen Angel, June 2008 
Taylor’s sophomore album “The Distance” was released in March 2009 while the Broadway national tour was in progress.  In a novel and creative arrangement with the show’s producers, each performance of GREASE was followed by an encore.  After the stage had been cleared, Taylor Hicks was announced and returned to perform one of two lead singles from his new album, What’s Right Is Right or Seven Mile Breakdown.  “The Distance” was available for purchase in the lobby of the Broadway show.
The Broadway national tour was supplemented by a second independent shadow tour.  In select cities along the road and on his “day off”, Taylor Hicks and band performed music from the new album to delighted audiences in small clubs and theaters across the U.S.
Photo by Dan Swalec
The Broadway tour came to an end in May 2010.  Taylor was back on the road with his band that summer, offering a mix of original and classic rock/blues songs on a tour that crossed the United States from east to west.
 Photo captured  by MacPolski
In 2011 Taylor Hicks continues to move; the tour expanded  into international waters on Jam Cruise 9 in early January, then back to land and several sold out venues for a spring tour of the United States.
Photo by Louise Uznanski at Broadway Theatre of Pitman, NJ
A full five years following his win, it’s a rare article on American Idol that does not include Taylor Hicks.  Among the show’s winners, some have sold more albums.  Others have sold fewer.  Some have had a more visible presence on the radio and television.  Others less.  Yet, Taylor Hicks comes immediately to mind when American Idol is the subject of conversation.  Why?  This singer/songwriter is decidedly and deliciously different.  He’s different from the show’s intended pop music mold.  He takes a creative, independent, and determined approach to his music and his career, a career sustained and advanced through consistent touring.
Vive la difference!!  Congratulations to Taylor Hicks on the 5th anniversary of his American Idol win.

Taylor Hicks in Greensburg: What Makes a Show Truly Great?

Text and photos contributed by Louise Uznanski who attended the Taylor Hicks show at the Palace Theater in Greensburg, PA on May 14th.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Taylor at the Hammond

Attending a string of shows in a short time span makes me wonder what makes a show a truly great show?  In the case of Taylor Hicks, who is on tour throughout the month of May, I have come to realize it is many of the things I see on stage that make a show great.  It is also the little things that make a show truly great and I hope to display them here in words and photos.

One contributor to a great show is the set list.  That list of songs that we see taped to the floor at each venue where Taylor performs.  The Greensburg show, held in the Palace Theater, was the second show in a line up of shows where change was the order of the week. From the time the band entered and Taylor took the cowbell out for Compared to What until the last note of Seven Mile Breakdown and every song in between, the audience did all they could do to keep up with the changes in songs, the tags and the dancing of the star on stage.  Tagging Tightrope and Back in the High Life into What’s Right is Right brought the old classics back to mix with the new country rock original tune from The Distance.

Compared to What.

The Maze, re-introduced at the Pitman, New Jersey show was tagged with Get Your Gloves and Hat. Cool jazz in a hot number was followed by the crowd favorite Soul Thing.  Not one to rest on laurels of a good song choice, Taylor tagged Soul Thing with Eastbound and Down.

The Maze

Soul Thing

My City was Gone brought tears to the eyes of the audience.  Such heartbreaking devastation in Taylor’s home stage of Alabama that the back and forth of Taylor and Jeff Lopez on sax made Taylor smile through the whole song.  It was breathtaking.

Taylor Lights up the stage with a smile

The set list mixed harp, piano solos, sax solos and lots of guitar from Sam Gunderson.

Hot harp

What makes this show great?  Part of the answer lies in the set list and the way it is performed.  With feeling. With passion.  With the heart.

Perhaps what makes a show great is the individual contributions of the band and the headliner.

Brian Less

Maybe it’s Brian Less who plays the dual role of keyboardist and musical director. Always calm on the outside and whirling around on the inside with a million details that must all strike in the right manner to make each show unforgettable.

Taylor and Brian Less

Perhaps it’s the knowledge that your long time friend always is there and has your back.  Taylor is being mentored by Brian on the organ and that combination has made the headliner more versatile and in turn, this makes the show even better.

Could it be the lasting friendships from the Iron City where these musicians have played together off and on for many years that makes a show great?  Jeff Lopez uses the moniker ‘spiritual sax.’ Spiritual he is and lends an almost karma-like feeling to the lead up to the opening number.  Being spiritual has to be a good thing because it has made the shows something to look forward to.

Spiritual sax Jeff Lopez

Guitars make a show great, right?  Yes, if they come in the form of Sam Gunderson. Last year’s tour found Sam on lead guitar with solos each night.  Growing into the lead guitar role on the tour made him many fans. Sam does not dance around the stage or play two guitars at once so his solos, especially on Battlefield, have been distinctive and memorable.

Sam Gunderson

Percussion makes your heart go thump in the night.  Leif Bondarenko makes a lot of hearts go thump.  So strong and persuasive on the skins, Leif is never forgotten as he plies his trade in the center rear of the stage. What would a band be without drums?  It would not be a band.  What would Taylor Hicks’ band be without Leif? Not something I care to think about.  Leif is the real deal and that’s what makes the thumping heart of the band work.

Leif Bondarenko

Losing a band member like Taylor’s band did with the loss of Matt Kimbrall shakes men to the core.  Matt was a seasoned, well-regarded conga player whose time with the band was too short.  Enter David Keith.  If immediate impact on a tight knit unit is any indication of what makes a band great, then David Keith has made his presence known.  Constantly in tune with Taylor and Leif, David mixes the sound like he was born with the band.

David Keith with Taylor

Brandon Peeples

Can a bass player make a show more interesting, more entertaining? With Brandon Peeples, these things are possible.  It makes the audience feel they have a whole variety of sounds to listen to especially when Brandon branches out and plays the upright bass. Versatility can make a show better. Blending that versatility into a seasoned group of veteran musicians is one cylinder that makes the engine hum.

No show, no band gets on the stage alone.  Behind every successful show is a dedicated person who does what is needed to make sure the show goes on.  Clay Connor is such a person.  The following photo made my heart sing to see Taylor put his hand on Clay’s back and say ‘we’ve been working together for 15 years and he’s my friend’ as Clay set up the acoustic set. What a moment captured in time.

Clay Connor

The headliner has a lot resting on his shoulders.  He or she can make a show just so-so or they can make it monumental.  Taylor Hicks has to be seen live and on stage.  Turning a cover into his own is what makes Taylor’s shows great.  Tagging his own original songs with Running on Empty and Valley Road makes his shows truly great. An old soul who can mix the old with the new whether it is band members or songs makes the show experience so great it makes the fans committed to not missing a show.

What would it take for any fan to repeatedly go to see a band and it’s leader over and over?  Because truly great shows start with the music, the band members and the headliner and end with the joy of entertainment we find in each of every man in the band.

And this brings me to the ‘headliner’ and leader of the band, Taylor Hicks.  A passionate man, funny and talented who appreciates his friends and bandmates and his fans.  What is it about him that makes a show great?

Is it the dancing??

Standing straight at the mic?

Getting into the music??

Playing the guitar on 19??

Expressing deeply during Maybe You Should??

Or lost in the music with his two best friends??

Taylor alone?

Or, is it just a man, alone on a stage with no guitar, no harp who wanted his voice heard and brought his friends and his fans with him every night to make his show a truly great show each and every night?

Taylor Hicks Takes ‘Broadway’ By Storm

Taylor Hicks performed at the Broadway Theatre in Pitman, New Jersey on May 12th. Concert perspective and photos by Louise/4Tay with additional photos graciously contributed by macpolski.  More later as the weekend shows are performed.

Click on the photo to enlarge.  

Live at the Broadway Theater


I’ve been to a ‘few’ shows lately and Taylor definitely used his 3 days off to pump new life into the tour.  Never have I seen such musical focus from this band.  It was a sight to behold for all of those in attendance.
The Broadway Theatre is an outstanding venue.  Taylor knew it when he did sound check.  We learned it when the show started.  It’s historic without being dated.  The facilities for a live concert rival the casino shows I’ve seen. What a great theater. The lights were just a little too much before the intermission but they were toned down after that.  Magical.

It was a perfect balance of blues, soul, ACOUSTIC!! This whole set grabbed us all by the heart because it was unexpected and so FINE!! He sat right in front of us and riffed with Jeff so much I couldn’t get enough.

I brought 2 newbies with me. The woman was crying during 19. The man is a musician and couldn’t take his eyes off of all of the instruments and the quality of music. They were amazed at Taylor’s voice, harp playing and his collection of guitars on stage. The upright bass Brandon played was a treat.

Tagging Sinatra??? Twice!!! Darn, that was cool.  There were so many ‘moments’ in this show it is difficult to remember them all.

Taylor had an intermission, which was new. Always keeps us on our toes. Cool to me, though.  All band members were introduced and each got a bit of a solo all during the night. Brandon sported a beautiful upright bass that he performed on in the second half of the show. Another new thing to love and look forward to from the Taylor Hicks band. Sam played a deep, intense solo on Battlefield I’ve never heard him do before.  It was amazing!

Jeff’s been making smooth music lately with new saxes from Dominic’s Music and they were beautiful. He’s really adapted well in playing them on this tour.  

All I can say is, as I busily get ready for the weekend shows, this was a perfectly balanced performance. The audience LOVED him. They loved the band. Each song he introduced was met with loud applause and standing ovations at the end on many. I cried when I saw the stool come out during the intermission.  I stayed that way until the acoustic set was finished. What an entertainer.

The Van Morrison song Rough God Goes Riding will forever stay in my memory as the most exciting moment of the tour. Last year when Taylor introduced Bulletproof and Ain’t Gonna Hurt Nobody, we had nothing but those songs in our heads for weeks.  This song is so poignant, I am sure it will be remembered long after May 12th’s performance. Van the Man would be proud.  I am so glad I was there to see another Taylor Hicks first.

Taylor quipped about winning ‘that show’ and how AI is similar to politics.  Politicians go out and ask for your vote.  AI contestants do the same thing.  He thanked everyone for voting for him and acted like he was a glad-hander, kissing up to his constituents.  Funny. Someone called him Mr. President!

A long, long line of people after the show waited patiently to meet him. All with CDs and T-shirts! Nice. Women were heard screaming into cellphones to someone unsuspected soul on the other end that they had just met AI winner Taylor Hicks. Taylor was genuinely happy to return their love.

Taylor stayed and met each person until the long line was through. A lot of people I work with went to the show. Now they know what I go so many times to see.

AND, yes, it was a 2 hour show. For quality of the show, this was the best I’ve seen in many shows lately. Beau Rivage was fantastic as was Snoqualmie but this show focused on the highest quality performance and no matter how long the set list was or the time spent on stage, Taylor made the most of every note, beat and move. Taylor’s Smart. And he looks just wonderful to this fan.

The band hit the road after the show and headed to Akron, Ohio.  They are in for a real treat in Ohio!

The tour that never ends has only just begun, again.  See him if you can.  I hope that it’s possible for everyone to do because a new chapter has started for our Soul Man. We’re on the ride and for as long as the month lasts and/or the summer of touring, Taylor will come through with new things that make us want more.

I’m glad so many from the Soul Patrol attended this show.  And I’m happy for the many new fans made last night.  This show’s great news will deservedly spread through twitter, facebook and myspace.  It already has. I know the band likes to see familiar faces in new towns so now there will be more of them after this performance.  I was asked more than once when he’s going to be back in New Jersey.

Thanks Taylor for a great show and for coming to my neck of the woods. Pitman’s theatre stage is just one more Broadway stage Taylor has taken by storm.

Singing in the blues


The harp was H.O.T

Acoustic moments reigned the night.

By macpolski

The lights are bright on Broadway

Blue light for the blues

No light outshines Taylor on Broadway

Taylor Hicks on Tour: Taylor Hicks is the Maine Man on Mother’s Day

Recap of Taylor Hicks’ Mother’s Day show in Ogunquit, Me and photos contributed by Louise Uznanski.

Jonathon's Restaurant, May 8, 2011

The theater ticket said ‘Taylor Hicks Mother’s’ on the front. Not Mother’s Day Special show. Taylor Hicks Mother’s. With that in mind, mothers, daughters, husbands and grandmothers gathered at the superb Jonathan’s Restaurant in Ogunquit, Maine, for a full day of food, festivities and a repeat performance by the ‘soul man’ of his kick ass blues and moves. The occasional lobster added to the joy of being in one of the quaintest New England towns Taylor’s fans have ever seen.

The day started at Jonathan’s with a Mother’s Day brunch and ended with a show that was everything the audience had expected from the soulful, handsome man.  Many at dinner spoke of how they had seen him or just missed him the last time he was at Jonathan’s.  All were looking forward to an evening of amazing music from Taylor and his stellar band of musicians.  Taylor, to them, is the BEST and his band members rank right up there with the best of the best.

Traveling the country roads and highways to get to the venue, there were no signs leading the way to this show.  In the town of Ogunquit, Taylor Hicks posters were plastered in every store.  Once again the hotel clerks and car rental agents in town knew that Taylor was appearing! At first we answered the question posed by many, ‘Why are you here?’ with ‘We’re here to see Taylor Hicks in Ogunquit.’  Soon we realized that everyone knew who was playing Jonathan’s on Mother’s Day. We stopped saying ‘We’re here to see the sights and Taylor Hicks.’ Now it was just ‘We’re here to see Taylor!’

The band consisted of Brian Less, Sam Gunderson, Jeff Lopez, Leif Bondarenko, David Keith and Brandon Peeples.  Ably assisting the band in every way possible was the hard working and amiable Clay Connor. The band entered through a rear door of the concert hall dressed in neat black attire and took their places on the tiny stage.  Last year the band seemed to be spilling off the stage and onto the front tables.  This year the tables were configured differently and the whole room seemed to be less cramped.  A capacity crowd waited for Taylor to appear up the aisle leading to the stage.

New England Soul Patrol was in attendance and spread throughout the venue. Cheering and dancing at their seats, they made the night a dance concert. Taylor appeared dressed in a blue shirt, blue jeans and blue boots and danced up the aisle as the band played the opening chords to Compared to What. Finding the cowbell and the drum stick on the stage, Taylor beat the bell till it couldn’t take any more and then the voice started.  The voice was well used the week before, and the body language might have started out a little worse for wear, but as soon as the VOICE rang out through the venue, the blues took over and smoothed the edges for this all-ages crowd.

Exchanging banter with the crowd, there came a point in the performance when Taylor hinted at taking requests.  Just a hint. Little did he know that this would prompt someone in the crowd to call out ‘Sing Beauty School Dropout!’ from the back right side of the venue.  Taylor said ‘no’ and then sang the opening lines.  Just a brief playback of a time and place far, far away from Maine’s lobster pounds and quaint ancient towns.  He said he had performed that song 585 times and would not sing it again for another 15 years until he sang it to his kids. Had us wondering if his kids will be fans of Broadway musicals?

Taylor was animated, funny, joking and pleasant.  He exchanged pleasantries with the men at the front tables.  He sang The Maze, a song not heard in many a month.  Just to Feel That Way did not have the usual ‘Clive made me do it’ intro, only a comment that this was the first single from his national record release after winning Idol.  Had Taylor mellowed to Clive’s decision to release JTFTW instead of The Runaround?  I’m not certain we’ll ever know.

Making his way through the setlist, Taylor’s voice moved the crowd to applaud each song with happy anticipation.  This was a seasoned crowd made up of veterans of Taylor’s tours and their loved ones who had heard so much about this man during the five years he has been touring.  Maybe You Should was sweet and intense at the same time.  19 found Taylor standing, facing Jeff Lopez as Jeff made the flute linger on each note of his Dixie solo. There was a standing ovation once again for Taylor and his dedication at each show for our military men and women.  This audience was old enough and young enough to appreciate this kind gesture.

Taylor came to near the end of his set and instead of leaving the stage and returning for the encore, he wrapped the encore into the set.  This was a different approach that meant he would not be back on stage after the last song.  As much as we wanted to see him for just one more tune, we knew there were mothers, daughters, grandmothers and sisters there who wanted to meet him and then wanted to be with their family before the night was over and another Mother’s Day came to an end. This night we were all ‘Taylor Hicks Mother’s.’  He would make any mother proud.

The venue and the restaurant at Jonathan’s is top notch.  The entertainment provided by Taylor and his band surpassed expectations.  Many left surprised at his musical talent and showmanship.  If Taylor comes back to Jonathan’s, I’ll be there.  For Taylor.  For the lobster. For a chance to see this band so up close and personal once again.

Photos from the event.  Click to enlarge and enjoy!

Taylor gettin' down

A heartfelt moment


High energy man!

No, I won't sing BSD!

I can play this here guitar.

And the harp....

Guitar love...

Hot blues on a red guitar!

Black and blue....

This feels good...

David Keith and Taylor

Taylor Hicks on College, Cussing, and Chocolate Yoo-hoo

by Caryl Zimmerman

While browsing in a cute little Asian store last week, the checkout girl pointed to some bracelets and said, “Real jade. Brings good fortune.” I don’t believe in that stuff but there was something in her eyes and mystery in the air. I can’t explain it, but I had to have a bracelet. I wore it home.

When I got to the apartment there was a message from Taylor Hicks’ publicist, telling me she wanted to get with me to schedule an interview. Don’t get me wrong- I asked for an interview for the fans the last time I saw Taylor but thought it was a long shot. I mean, who am I?

But see, that’s Taylor Hicks for you. There’s no way this interview would have happened if he didn’t want to do it. I’m thinking he wanted to give a little bit back to the fans as thanks for all the hard work done in an effort to promote him. Maybe the fact that we have an easy rapport played a hand, but I doubt it. I don’t believe any one fan is more important to Taylor than another. He agrees to this kind of interview for ALL of us. He knows a fan will ask the kinds of questions other established fans would ask.

Or maybe the interview came about thanks to the jade bracelet. *cue the Twilight Zone music*

You don’t care. You just want to hear what Taylor had to say. OK, then, let’s get on with it-

Taylor: Hi, Caryl!

Caryl: Hi, Taylor! Good to hear from you. We’re doing this interview for the fans, but I also write for Yoohoo, so we’ll repost it there.

Taylor: I didn’t know they had a column.

Caryl: Yahoo?

Taylor: You said Yoo-hoo.

Caryl: Oh! *laugh* I meant Yahoo.

Taylor: You know what Yoohoo is, right?

Caryl: Well, it’s a drink

Taylor: It’s a chocolate drink. I didn’t know they had a column. Listen, you can drink Yoohoo, you can get on Yahoo.

Caryl: Got it. So I write for Yoohoo. Dammit! Why do I keep saying that? *laugh*

Taylor: Cuz it’s catchy and fun to say.

Caryl: Yahoo, dammit! Let’s move on…I saw your tweet about a benefit concert. Can you tell us anything about that?

Taylor: No. *laugh*

Caryl: I figured. *laugh*

Taylor: I just got some information today on it. It’s not announced cuz they’re still figuring out all the names and stuff. I’m excited about it. I hope it comes together.

Caryl: Your family’s OK as far as the tornadoes..?

Taylor: Everyone’s either been affected directly or indirectly by it. In Alabama you either know somebody or hear about somebody. Whether it’s a family member or a friend of a friend…it’s just really sad.

Caryl: Yes, I agree. You must be exhausted. You’ve had such a busy schedule lately. A lot going on.

Taylor: A lot of good stuff. It‘s great to get out on the bus and tour and it’s also nice to do a golf tournament for your hometown. It’s also nice to go to New Orleans and play with a bunch of great musicians. It’s all fun. I really am very blessed.

Caryl: Yes, that’s for sure. And now you’re back on the road. I know you’ve said in the past that it’s impossible to write music on the bus. Are you trying anyway?

Taylor: With the schedule that I’ve had in the past six or seven days it’s been impossible to find a really good groove…it’s hard, but you know, the writing process will happen. It’s already started to happen and it’s going to keep happening.

Caryl: What’s your writing process like? Do you write lyrics and then hand it off to somebody or do you all just sit in a room together and work together…?

Taylor: It depends upon the person…I’ve done all kinds of co-writing, from people sending me parts of a songs… to sitting in a room with people…to just writing…I’m very active in it.

Caryl: Do you think you’ll be trying out any new songs during this tour?

Taylor: Probably. I think there might be a possibility of that.

Caryl: That would be great! I find it interesting that you’re singing “Just to Feel That Way” again. I remember you saying that Clive Davis had to pretty much talk you into recording it. So what’s going on? Did you have a change of heart about it?

Taylor: I don’t think it was…he didn’t have to make me do it, he had to make me redo it. I think the song is great.

Caryl: Oh, ok. I always thought you didn’t like it.

Taylor: I wouldn’t play it if I didn’t like it.

Caryl: Well, I’ve always liked that song. Is “Maybe You Should” still on hold for somebody?

Taylor: It is. It gets passed around a lot in Nashville. Once you know you have a song that’s good, it just needs to find a home.

Caryl: Speaking of good songs, “The Fall” may be my favorite song of yours. Is there a story behind it?

Taylor: You know…I think…being vulnerable emotionally is good for your writing. *silence*

Caryl: You know so much about music, I’ve often wondered why you didn’t study music in college. Did you ever think about doing that?

Taylor: I loved it so much, I had to play it, the last thing I wanted to do was study it. I’d like to now. I think that’s a great question. My studying know..performing.

Caryl: Speaking of those college days, I can’t imagine your Dad NOT encouraging you to pursue music. What if you had a child who wanted to be an entertainer, what would you tell them?

Taylor: Get a degree. *laugh*

Caryl: Really? *laugh*

Taylor: I mean, that’s a tough one. You need to have a backup plan. If I had a kid who wanted to be a musician, it’d be kinda hard to argue with them. It’d be like, ‘Right, Dad, like YOU really had a backup plan.’

Caryl: ha!

Taylor: It depends on the talent. I guess we’ll cross those many bridges when we get there.

Caryl: It almost sounds like you regret not getting a degree. Do you feel that way?

Taylor: No! No, I don’t. I think I really knew deep down inside that I needed to learn how to perform live music. But now, my attention span is getting better. My attention span due to ADHD was pretty short. The older you get, the more you can corral it. Ya know, so with that being said, now would be a good time…*YAWN*

Caryl: You’re exhausted, I can tell.

Taylor: It’s been a long six or seven days, that’s for sure. But it’s all good. Tomorrow I’m gonna relax. Never fear. I’ll find energy somewhere.

Caryl: Just one more heavy question and then I have a few questions from your fans. Is fame what you thought it would be?

Taylor: Yeah, kinda.

Caryl: Maybe you didn’t set out to be famous, maybe you just wanted to perform music. I don’t know.

Taylor: I think there was a determination to be successful.

Caryl: From the outside looking in, fame seems to be sort of a pain in the ass.

Taylor: It beats the alternative.

Caryl: Well, that’s true.

Taylor: I mean, I couldn’t do a lot of things that I get to do.

Caryl: True. I’ll ask you the fan questions.

Taylor: Cool.

Caryl: If you could have any super power what would it be?

Taylor: The power to fly.

Caryl: Oh, to get around. OK, that makes sense.

Caryl: You said recently that you never keep your New Years’ resolutions. What kind of resolutions do you make?

Taylor: Obviously, not any good ones. Um…to stop swearing. Real practical stuff that I can never keep. It’s almost like you just feel like you’re supposed to. It’s like…oh, OK, here’s a New Year’s Resolution- I WON’T CUSS and seven days later…SHIT.

I guess we were running long, because Taylor’s publicist jumped in here to say we needed to wrap it up. I was told before Taylor ever got on the phone that I had twenty minutes. I thought that would be enough time to cover all of my questions, but I had gone off script a couple of times and then there was the whole Yoohoo discussion at the beginning that I didn’t anticipate. (Yahoo!)

I thanked Taylor for his time and wished him luck with the upcoming shows. If you don’t have tickets yet, make sure you check for his tour schedule!

Now on to other matters. Gotta run out and buy some lottery tickets before I misplace this bracelet.

Taylor Hicks Tour Takes Manhattan on May 15

On Sunday, May 15, American Idol winner Taylor Hicks will bring his national concert tour to Manhattan.  The occasion marks a rare opportunity for fans to enjoy the musician’s energetic live show in a unique and intimate setting.  Located in trendy Soho, City Winery will offer fine dining and a world-class wine selection to complement the musical menu.

The show is expected to draw heavily from Mr. Hicks’ most recent album, “The Distance”.  Released in 2009, the album is a reflection of the diverse influences that define the singer’s writing and performance styles.  Country, rock, blues, and soul are melded to create a sound that blurs the margins of traditional music genres.  It’s music that draws from Hicks’ roots,  ranging from the heartfelt country ballad “Maybe You Should” to the rocking “Seven Mile Breakdown”.  American Idol viewers may remember that it was Taylor’s live on-air performance of “Seven Mile Breakdown” that brought the acerbic Simon Cowell to his feet for a standing ovation.

The season 5 winner is true to his musical heritage and southern home.  In the wake of tornadoes that last week devastated entire towns in the state of Alabama, Hicks has been an active participant in disaster relief efforts.  At the City Winery show, he’ll invite ticket holders to share their compassion as well.  A special, limited edition Taylor Hicks cabernet sauvignon will be offered for sale.  For each bottle of wine sold, $15 will be donated to the American Red Cross.  The bottle label, pictured here, acknowledges the donation.

There is more.  All concert-goers will be entered into a special drawing that will take place at City Winery on the evening of the show.  Four names will be drawn at random, and those ticket holders will enjoy a VIP meet and greet with Taylor Hicks after the show.  For a lucky few, it’s not over when it’s over! 

For more information about City Winery, and to purchase tickets to the 8 p.m. show on May 15, click here:  For more information on American Idol winner Taylor Hicks, and for music samples, go here:




Web announcement for the May 15 show designed by Richard Uznanski from a photograph by Louise Uznanski

Image of the limited edition Taylor Hicks wine label courtesy of City Winery

Taylor Hicks on Tour: Pt. 2, A Tale of Two Cities

Pt. 2 of Taylor’s tour stops in Washington contributed by Louise Uznanski.  Click on the photo to enlarge.  

Taylor Hicks at Snoqualmie Casino

If Mount Vernon, Washington and the Lincoln Theater contributed a warm and comfy feeling on April 27th when Taylor and his band performed there, Snoqualmie Casino Ballroom’s show on April 28th  provided a Parisian-like atmosphere with lights, sounds and green surroundings found only in the ‘City of Lights’.  A Tale of Two Cities chronicles the Paris of the revolution.  Since that time, light has made it a magical place. A musical revolution hit the casino and the uprising can only be blamed on Taylor and his stellar band.

The casino is surrounded by mountains where two feet of snow fell the morning of the show.  The casino itself is like a log cabin structure until you walk inside.  It’s sleek, modern and very hip on the inside where the ballroom and the restaurants are set at opposite ends of the casino gambling floor.  We were not there to gamble; not on a slot machine, roulette table or on a show by the American Idol, Taylor Hicks. We knew he would deliver and it was with the support of nearly 1,000 fans and a professional staff and facilities that the show was a winner. Except for the ringing machines and the slot attendant coming to the stage, the winningest Idol delivered a show that made the  tables on the floor look like playground games.

The hour before the show while we waited for the band to come out was spent looking at tall trees where eagles had made a nest year after year. We also gazed out of the foyer windows at the mountain range covered with snow. Dreams of moving to Washington floated through our heads at that time because the collective beauty was most impressive.

Taylor came out on stage with wings spread wide. ‘When they ask me to perform in the Northwest, I say YES!  It’s the one place where my allergies take a vacation!”  Mentions of his hometown and the surrounding area hit hard by tornadoes were a backdrop for Seven Mile Breakdown and Taking It To The Streets. Seated near the stage and fortunate to have access to the  stage for photos, I felt drunk bathing in all of that light. Add to that the music, the dancing, the fans cheering and a sound system to die for and it was a recipe that would make a travel journalist envious. The lights were hypnotic and the music was the chaser.

In photos, trying to capture an eagle is not so hard.  They are larger, graceful and soar.  Trying to capture a hummingbird on the stage bathed in lights that covered the spectrum of color was a tall order. Taylor’s like a blur always moving and changing facial expressions.  The show was so enjoyable we didn’t want to leave.  Did we just see this?  Was it really better than the estimable Beau Rivage shows?  I’ve seen both and to tell you the truth, it does not really matter.  Put ‘the Casino of Lights’ on stage with Taylor Hicks and capturing the moment in your mind’s eye is all that is important.

When the show ended too quickly, Taylor signed and smiled and greeted each guest.  The line was snaked to the end of the foyer and wrapped around itself but in 40 minutes Taylor had met each person in line and then had to dash to catch a plane for home. All of those fans waiting to see him for weeks and days finally got to see him live and meet him.  They didn’t know they had been to ‘Paris’ that night but they did know that they had a sure winner in Taylor and as they proceeded to pass the slot machines on their way out of the ballroom, a feeling of having already hit the jackpot in the past hour made it unnecessary to stop at their favorite machine.

Taylor enters

On stage with the band

Starry, blue night

Taylor at the Hammond

Sam and Taylor

Blue turns to red

A quiet moment

Purple comes out to play

At the mic

Tuning up

Chartreuse and blue

Guitarist Sam and Taylor

The light has Taylor's back


The passion of Taylor Hicks

Get it, Taylor

New rockband?

Taylor dances off the stage

Taylor Hicks LIVE at Snoqualmie: Video

Video of Taylor Hicks at Snoqualmie Casino courtesy of Bonnie Cheung

The show opener: Compared to What – First recorded by Les McCann & Eddie Harris on the 1969 album “Swiss Movement”, songwriter Gene McDaniels


What’s Right Is Right – Recorded by Taylor Hicks on the 2009 album “The Distance”, songwriters Dennis Morgan & Simon Climie


Nineteen – Recorded by Taylor Hicks on the 2009 album “The Distance”, songwriters Tom Hambridge, Jeffrey Steele, Gary Nicholson


Seven Mile Breakdown – Recorded by Taylor Hicks on the 2009 album “The Distance”, songwriters Wynn Christian & Taylor Hicks


Taylor Hicks and band are currently on tour with several scheduled dates in the northeast and midwest during May.  Locations, dates, and ticket links are available via the tour page (accessed from the blog header) or at