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Photo Focus: Taylor Hicks at WorkPlay:: Five Years Later

Words/Photos/Video by Louise Uznanski for OnTapBlog

© 2014 Ontapblog All Rights Reserved

TaylorHicksBandWP09

The lights, the smoke, the incredibly talented band. The long lines of fans patiently waiting to secure a spot at the stage. And, the excitement of being at the hometown release party of Taylor’s new CD, ‘The Distance’. This was the scene in Birmingham five years ago today as Taylor Hicks took the WorkPlay Theatre stage on September 25th and 26th to capacity crowds. The fans and friends gathered in Birmingham found Taylor to be inexhaustible as he performed a full week as Teen Angel in the Broadway touring company of GREASE before stepping onto the WorkPlay stage.

The band was bound together by the piano play and musical direction of Brian Less and the smooth, blues-filled strings of guitarist Josh Smith. Keeping the beat was Leif Bondarenko on drums, Jay Smith on bongos and Jason Parker on bass. Jeff Lopez filled the air with his spiritual and soulful sax. Clay Connor directed the backstage details that made the shows run according to plan.

WorkPlay was a celebration of family, friends and fans. Family in the audience and high school and college friends in attendance made the atmosphere like a reunion. The fans traveled from all over the country. Charles Barkley from the NBA and Auburn was spotted in the crowd as were old friends of the band Bill Will and Zippy Dietrich. Making the night feel even more like a reunion was special guest and college mentor Billy Earl McClelland, trading riffs on the classic tune Dust My Broom; Ona Watson and his smooth duet on Woman’s Gotta Have It; the UAB Gospel Choir striding onto the stage singing behind a rousing New Found Freedom; and Wet Willie’s Donna Hall Foster finishing an encore with Taylor in his ‘Magic City’ commemorative t-shirt.

Maybe You Should was sung stripped down and spare while Once Upon A Lover and The Runaround and Seven Mile Breakdown were successful in getting the joint jumping. The Distance, the title song from the new CD, was performed as tight and solid as a title song could be. What’s Right Is Right was performed with the polish and intensity of the video version Taylor released with the new CD six months earlier.

After the shows were over, word spread fast about the set lists, the guests and the performances of extraordinary music and showmanship in Birmingham’s legendary music hall. The shows created a musical atmosphere of friends, family and fans so much so that when the word WorkPlay is mentioned, it still evokes such strong memories of the music and the performances that were seen and heard five years ago on those two nights in Birmingham.

 

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Taylor Hicks sings New Found Freedom with UAB Gospel Choir. Video credit: lh1100

Taylor Hicks & Billy Earl McClelland WorkPlay Dust My Broom (partial video).

Taylor Hicks and guitarist Josh Smith duel it out with that chicken pickin’.

Maybe You Should

27 Comments Post a comment
  1. I was there!! Great show!! June bug

    September 25, 2014
    • ontapblog #

      Thanks, June! It was great, wasn’t it? Have any favorite moments from those two days you would like to share? Thanks again.

      September 25, 2014
  2. Pattiebelle #

    Wow, Five years ago….what a fantastic trip, to the Mecca of our Soulman!!! I fell in love with Birmingham and would go back in a heartbeat…even getting lost we found ourselves always laughing and having a ball…getting to Marty’s and meeting him was so much fun and that same night we spent hours talking to Ona, who was an absolute joy. Fun Fun Fun, we need more of that!!!

    September 25, 2014
    • Thank you, Pattie. All of the little fun things that happen on the way to and from a Taylor show does expand the enjoyment of the journey. 5 years. Hard to believe.

      September 25, 2014
  3. rayvis #

    A memories-I remember this because I had just gotten my first camcorder and was using it for the first time-what an incredible night-Thanks for the memories-

    September 25, 2014
    • Thanks so much for the walk down memory lane. For 5 years you have been using that camcorder to record Taylor to share with us. Thanks again.

      September 26, 2014
  4. Hard to believe it’s been 5 years. Amazing shows! Nothing like seeing Taylor in Birmingham. Was fun to meet up with so many fans from around the country. Everyone was there. (well almost) Would love to see him there again one day.

    September 25, 2014
    • ontapblog #

      Agreed. Lots of friends getting together and being in Birmingham made it that much more special. Thanks for reading!

      September 25, 2014
  5. I can’t believe it’s been 5 years! What a magical weekend of friendship and amazing music.

    September 25, 2014
    • I really can’t believe it either. So much has happened for Taylor since then. Another 5 years of fun and music to come and more!

      September 26, 2014
  6. Every time I hear Taylor sing Maybe You Should I’m reminded of what a fabulous song it is and what a fantastic delivery he gives it. I hope he always keeps that one in his set and always sings it with such passion. Love it!

    September 25, 2014
    • ontapblog #

      No one could do justice to Maybe You Should like Taylor. Hopefully we will all continue to hear it sung by the best in the years to come. Thanks for reading!

      September 25, 2014
  7. Judy Morton #

    Louise, What a wonderful memory to share. You all were very lucky to actually see this show live and in person. Just reading about it, seeing the photos and videos means a lot of those of us who were not there. Thank you. Hope to see you at a Taylor show before too long.
    Judy

    September 25, 2014
    • Thank you, Judy. It was all good memories of friends and music. So glad to have been able to see Taylor in his hometown right after The Distance was released.

      September 26, 2014
      • ontapblog #

        And hopefully we’ll meet again if I come west or you come east!

        September 26, 2014
  8. MN Sue #

    There will never be a Taylor experience that will top those two nights in Birmingham. The pride Taylor had performing for his hometown friends and so many of his loyal fans was electric. Taylor’s delivery of “Maybe You Should” is my go to version on my ipod. So passionate! I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention his “Tupelo Honey” tag. Classic. To cap off the experience, the friends I made that weekend I hold dear to my heart. Taylor fans are special people!
    Like Pattie, I would return to Birmingham in a heartbeat.

    September 25, 2014
    • Thanks, Sue. You’re making me look up the video with the Tupelo Honey tag now! It’s good to remember how much love and support Taylor has from his family and friends and of course, his fans.

      September 26, 2014
    • Oh, the Tupelo Honey tag. Priceless!!

      September 26, 2014
      • ontapblog #

        Ah, yes. The most famous of tags. There was even a little Running on Empty, too!

        September 26, 2014
  9. The stand out memories for me are the duet on Woman’s Gotta Have It with Ona Watson, Billy Earl McClellan sitting in on Dust My Broom and Taylor’s full-out performance of New Found Freedom with the UAB Gospel Choir. The picture of Taylor at the end of that song with his arms out stretched really captures the love that was felt those 2 days between Taylor, the musicians and the fans. I still remember the story Billy Earl told about Taylor’s dad asking if Taylor “had what it takes” to make in the music business. He said he told Taylor’s dad, “I’m sorry, but he does”! I still feel so lucky to have been able to see Billy Earl play with Taylor before he passed away. They had a special bond, just as Taylor and Ona Watson have. Taylor had some wonderful mentors growing up in Birmingham and I think that’s part of what makes him such a special artist and person today.

    September 26, 2014
    • Thanks, Tish. Such great memories to recall. Dust My Broom and New Found Freedom are some of my best memories, too. So glad we were all there to witness so much great music and performances.

      September 26, 2014
  10. Anne #

    WOW?..this is a treasure…thank you so much…what a great weekend of music and friendship…God willing we will all have more great weekends…we need a Taylor/Soul Patrol reunion

    September 26, 2014
    • ontapblog #

      Thank you, Anne. Couldn’t agree more on both counts: great weekend of friends and we need a reunion show! Thanks again.

      September 27, 2014
  11. jonibug #

    Finally got a chance to see/read this! What an incredible and memorable weekend that was!! Wish we could do it all over again! Thanks for the memories!

    September 29, 2014
    • ontapblog #

      Thank you, jonibug. We’re looking forward to making more memories when the new CD is released! Get your traveling shoes ready!

      September 29, 2014
  12. Vicki Minger #

    Well I was not lucky enough to be there but have come to know many of you very well through fb SP…and will always be a top TH fan…Ty for being such a great photographer

    September 29, 2014
    • ontapblog #

      Thanks, Vicki. Such great fans make being a follower of Taylor’s all the better. Hope you get to see him soon. Thanks again!

      September 29, 2014

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