The Commodores are no strangers to Fayetteville. Before the band ever produced a record, they were entertaining locals. “We used to play at the Utopia Lounge in Fayetteville,” said Commodore Walter “Clyde” Orange. “We played Fayetteville two to three times a year back then because we had a following there before we even made a record.” Community Concerts is bringing the band to the Crown April 14, along with special guest Landau Eugene Murphy.
Founded in 1968 when the original members were attending Tuskegee University in Alabama, the Commodores have sold more than 60 million records. Orange said the band’s staying power stems from several factors, one of them being their ability to adapt. “We went through hard rock – we played all kinds of things. We played all kinds of clubs. Then when Motown was looking for an opening act for the Jackson 5, they picked us because we were well-rounded. Michael Jackson was just 9 years old then.”
Orange joined the group in 1969, replacing James Ingram when Ingram left the band to serve in Vietnam.
The fact that the band still has fun together plays a big part in its success, too. “When we played with the Jackson 5, we were just as playful and devilish as they were in terms of having fun,” Orange said. “We made sure to have a good time everywhere we went. We still do.”
Instead falling into the habits that destroyed many of their peers, the Commodores chose to focus on their music as many performers succumbed to drugs and other vices.
“The hip thing to do is create music,” said Orange. “We wanted to create songs that would last forever. Thank the Lord, we are still here today, doing what he blessed us to be able to do. We were able to weather the storms, stay together and continue to work – and people like what we are doing. Sure, we are older, but we are just as playful as we were when we started.”
With an impressive play list that includes hits like “Easy,” “Three Times a Lady,” “Brick House,” “Fancy Dancer” and more, the band was awarded its first Grammy in 1986 for “Night Shift.”
Orange said the band is looking forward to the April 14 concert, promising a high-energy performance with a lot of soul – even with the ballads. “They are going to get a chance to listen to songs like ‘Three Times a Lady.’ And while it may not be of your generation, when JD finishes the song, you will be in love with the person next to you. When I sing ‘Still,’ you will feel the mood and the flavor. We strive for perfection.”
Community Concerts shares the Commodores’ philosophy of only offering the best entertainment possible. With its 82nd season winding down, the passion for first-class shows and love for community that inspired the founding of Community Concerts is strong as ever.
“Commodores is an unbelievable show,” said Community Concerts Attractions Director Michael Fleishman. “It’s got a really interesting opening act. We are bringing in Landau Eugene Murphy. He won ‘America’s Got Talent’ four or five years ago. Frank Sinatra is no longer with us, but his voice is back with Murphy.”
This is a special concert because it is the night that someone new will be inducted into The Fayetteville Music Hall of Fame. In 2008, Community Concerts founded The Fayetteville Music Hall of Fame to honor those who have brought musical distinction to the community. “This program has done nothing but grow in stature and prominence since we created it,” said Fleishman. “The new members will be inducted before the Commodores show. Two people will be inducted this year.”
The next show this season is The Illusionists: Live from Broadway, which is set for May 10.
“This was going to be our final show, but it looks like the Charlie Daniels Band and The Marshall Tucker Band will wrap this year up with a concert on June 1.” Fleishman said. “The Illusionists was one of the top 10 shows in this country this last year and is the No. 1 magic show on planet today. It is not one, but five magicians onstage. They are not only fabulous magicians, they are funny. We try to keep it fresh, and there hasn’t been a magic show like this in Fayetteville in, I think, 25 years. The audience will love it.”
Community Concerts also supports local artists of all ages by providing opportunities to perform. In recent years, teen Christian group Voices of the Heart performed with Gladys Knight onstage at the Crown, and The Linda Kinlaw School of Dance performed with Tina McBride. Local musician Trae Edwards sang with Ricky Skaggs at the Crown as well.
The all-volunteer organization also offers college scholarships to local high school graduates. The program was initiated in 2004. Since then it has awarded about 30 scholarships.
For Community Concerts, access to top-notch musical performances is a quality of life issue. So, the group looks for opportunities to bring people to its concerts who might not get to experience them otherwise. Community Concerts has invited several groups to its concerts for free. These include the Vision Resource Center, Fayetteville Urban Ministry, The Sunshine Center as well as local fire and police departments, high school theater and art classes and members of the military.
Earlier in the season ZZ Top canceled a performance and later, a concert featuring the Charlie Daniels Band and The Marshall Tucker Band was postponed. “This season has had some ups and downs and things we could not control,” Fleishman said. “We hate that this has been a problematic season, but artists are people, too. They get sick and there is nothing you can do except roll with the punches. We really appreciate how people have been so understanding. We want to say thank you to the community for their support and to Jim Grafstrom and the Crown. We are working hard to come up with an extra special season for next year.”
To find out more about Community Concerts, or to purchase tickets, visit www.communityconcerts. com.