The rock-and-roll Gods have been very good to me,
and they're good to me in this part too
~ Taylor Hicks ~
The above quote was taken from Taylor Hicks' recent interview with Kathy Henderson of Broadway.com.
It is a fabulous interview, filled with great questions and many insightful answers from Mr. Hicks.
(interview in full below, in case you've missed it)
When Taylor talks about Rock and Roll Heaven, I'm reminded of the original song by the Righteous Brothers.
click here for lyrics
I ran across this video tribute a while back, it is a spine tinglin' tribute, aptly titled Rock and Roll Heaven.
A music video tribute to the rock music heroes who have passed away.
The soundtrack is "Rock and Roll Heaven" (Stevenson/O'Day) a (2006) demo recording, sung by Ronnie Kimball, with reworked lyrics from the 1970's Righteous Brothers hit.
Taylor Hicks Finds Broadway Heavenly in GREASE
by Kathy Henderson
Frenchy's got a new muse at Grease, and this time around, her guardian angel is a silver-haired crooner with rhinestone wings sewn into the pattern of his midnight blue suit.
When a giant ice cream cone descends from the heavens at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, Taylor Hicks emerges to sing "Beauty School Dropout" in his Broadway debut.
By now, audiences have gotten used to reality show winners turning up in musicals (Grease alone has four, with leads Max Crumm and Laura Osnes, Step It Up and Dance champ Cody Green and now Hicks, the season five victor on American Idol) and Hicks' loyal fans, known as the Soul Patrol, are avidly cheering him on.
Director Kathleen Marshall plays to his strengths by showcasing Hicks' bluesy harmonica playing and brings him back to sing a verse of the title song (and gamely do the hand jive) during the curtain call.
In conversation, the Birmingham native is friendly, down to earth and grateful for the opportunities that have come his way since winning Idol just before he turned 30, after years of struggle.
Above all, Hicks seems delighted with his summer gig on Broadway.
How are you enjoying your first experience on Broadway?
I love it!
I think the part suits me perfectly, and it allows me to get a toe wet on Broadway. It's a great way for me to start exploring the idea of an acting career and learn what Broadway is all about.
How did this opportunity come about?
I was in Birmingham, Alabama, eating a barbecue sandwich and playing golf and writing music for my next album, and my agent called me and asked me if I wanted to do the gig.
Basically, I had until I finished my sandwich to decide whether or not I wanted to do it [laughs].
It was a really quick decision, and honestly, I'm having the time of my life.
[Broadway] is a wonderful, extremely talented community that deserves all kinds of respect and praise.
To go out there and be spot-on every night for eight shows a week—that's live performing at its utmost, and I'm very excited to be a part of it.
Were you familiar with the part, and with Grease?
I knew the Frankie Avalon part from the movie, but I thought I could add a Taylor flavor to it—kind of Taylorize the part, no pun intended.
I'm able to play some harmonica, and I like the whole rock-and-roll heaven idea.
The rock-and-roll gods have been very good to me, and they're good to me in this part too.
What was it like to work with director Kathleen Marshall?
She is a force to be reckoned with! I was excited when she started directing me. I thought, "This is very similar to producing an album; it's just theatrical."
I've been produced musically, but I've never been directed theatrically.
It was a really cool first experience.
Kathleen was so accommodating and made it easy for me.
She guided Harry Connick Jr. to a Tony nomination, so you were in great hands.
What did she say about Teen Angel's function in the show?
She said that my purpose was to lead Frenchy to go back to high school and put down the teasing comb [laughs].
I'm more or less the voice of reason and the voice of reckoning for this young girl.
Were you nervous before your first performance?
I don't think I've ever been so nervous in my whole life! [Laughs.]
I've been lucky enough to experience a lot of things—the American Idol stage, singing at the Orange Bowl—but I never would have thought in a million years that I would be as nervous as I was.
It's easy to walk out on stage to sing, but when you're coming down 40 feet in an ice cream cone to debut on Broadway, it's a different story.
Did you ever do plays in high school?
I was Santa Claus in the second grade and Santa Claus in the eighth grade.
I've always come bearing gifts [laughs].
It was always the jolly jester, the entertainer—they always put me in that kind of role, which is perfect.
Had you seen many musicals?
I saw Rent probably 10 years ago, and growing up, I always went to the Summerfest shows in Birmingham.
When you saw Rent, did you think, "I should do this"?
You know, I was so entrenched then in learning instruments, harmonica and guitar, and writing music that I never really thought about the idea of doing it.
But now, having the opportunity to explore a particular part, the idea has come to life.
Your costume is quite different from the all-white suit that was used before.
How did that come about?
I just thought about the part and the time period.
A rock-and-roll angel in the '50s made me think of the Nudie suits [flamboyant, rhinestone-studded cowboy suits created by Nashville tailor Nudie Cohen] that country-and-western stars like Bob Wills and Porter Wagoner used to wear.
I thought: Nudie suit leads to Gram Parsons leads to Teen Angel.
And I thought it would be a cool idea to incorporate the angel wings in rhinestones.
Martin Pakledinaz, the costume designer for the show, was exceptional in talking with me about the outfit, and his creativity just took off.
It's a beautiful suit, and I think it looks great for me and the part I'm playing, especially with the embroidered rhinestone angel wings on the back.
Why do you think so many American Idol alums have come to Broadway?
In a way, the Idol experience is similar to the Broadway experience.
We'd do the group numbers every week [on Idol], and the rigorous schedule is very similar to the Broadway schedule.
And it's live!
You really have to be on your best game every night, but I've lived in a live setting musically since I was 16 or 17 years old.
That's where I thrive.
I would think that nothing could be as challenging as surviving a season on American Idol, not to mention actually winning!
It's a gut-check and a soul-check.
It definitely teaches you a lot about who you are as a person.
Some Idol alums, such as Clay Aiken, express mixed feelings now about constantly being identified with the show.
It doesn't bother me.
Once you become an American Idol, it will always stay with you.
You have to work as hard as you can to be as successful as you can—and be glad you're able to perform and grateful you had American Idol to give you that platform.
Is there extra pressure that comes with Idol in terms of who sells the most records?
Yes, there is pressure.
But the measuring stick for American Idol winners is everybody's measuring stick.
Each of us has our own identity and our own path.
For me as a performer, it's about the marathon, not the sprint.
I'm in this for the long haul, whether it be Broadway or acting or music.
It's using everything I've learned.
You never struck me as a top-40 singer.
You have to be who you are, and find and write great songs.
Great music will stand the test of time.
It will also cross over—radio will come find a great song.
And that's what it's about: playing great music and finding great songs and letting those songs speak for themselves.
You're working on a new record, right?
Yes, I've got a record coming out in the fall.
I've written half of it, and I'm going to be recording it while I'm here on Broadway.
[Just after Hicks' Broadway.com interview, an announcement came that Vanguard Records, known for jazz, blues and folk recordings, has agreed to distribute the singer's next album, which he will cut on his own label.]
Your fans seem to be turning out to see you in Grease.
The Soul Patrol is definitely invading Broadway!
Is having such fervent fans ever a mixed blessing?
How do you make sure that the attention doesn't intrude on your life?
I'm just excited to have fans.
For a long time, it was a struggle for me—one night I might play for nobody and the next night I would play for 50 people.
It was a grind.
For me to be able to catch a break and have the opportunity to perform in front of a lot of people?
You never take it for granted.
And as long as you don't let [fan attention] be intrusive, it won't be.
It's out there and you're aware of it, but I'm a private person by nature.
I try to keep as much normalcy as I can in my daily life, in my social life, in my private life.
Are you enjoying living in New York?
I love it.
I just spent about four hours in Central Park.
When I've come to New York in the past, it's like I leave my hotel room and then I get out of a sedan and then I'm lighting the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center and then I'm stuffed into a sedan again and then I'm in Virginia somewhere.
It's been nice because I've been able to enjoy the city as opposed to doing a show or doing a press tour.
I'm excited about being here because I know [New York] is where it all starts.
Being on Broadway is a big honor for me.
I hadn't realized that you wrote a book [Heart Full of Soul, subtitled "an inspirational memoir"].
What message did want to convey?
The importance of self-determination and a deep inner belief that you're going to succeed; not letting anything get in the way of your vision, whether it be music or theater or running a Fortune 500 company.
I am the American Dream.
In four months, I went from playing at a Steak and Ale to performing for 37 million people!
The book also allowed me to connect with fans in my own words and show them the prelude to what they see [now].
People talk about overnight success—it's been a 13-year "overnight success" for me. But I really believe that when people become successful, 99.9% of the time it's because they have dedication and don't see anything but the bull's-eye.
That's what I wanted to show in the book.
You can overcome things if you're good to people and you work hard.
You're living proof of that, for sure.
I remember standing outside in Las Vegas at American Idol [auditions], and kids were coming up to me asking me where my kid was that was auditioning.
If that doesn't make you want to walk away, I don't know what does.
But I never walked away.
I knew I had a vision, and that was to entertain people—and here I am.
Is Alabama still your home base?
I was in Birmingham for a few weeks visiting my family, but I don't have a permanent residence.
I've been living out of four suitcases for about two years.
I went down to two suitcases, but I had to fill two more up and move to New York.
I toured Asia in December—I went to Jakarta, I went to the Philippines.
I went out on tour in February of last year and basically stayed out for eight months.
That sounds lonely!
You know, I've always made the people I perform with my family.
And it's so interesting—the theatrical experience is very similar to what I see with musicians on the road.
Broadway really is a family atmosphere, and I'm thankful for that.
I love working with the cast of Grease.
Would you like to try a more substantial part in the future?
Yeah, I definitely would.
We'll see what happens, but hopefully there's some more stuff in store for me.
I'm having a ball.
In the twilight of his years, a man asked God what it would be like when he went to heaven.
This man was a child of the 50’s.
He had a strong sense of the past, especially his, as he was fortunate to be a teenager when times were simpler.
Those were the days when girls were flirty but virtuous; boys were devilish, but gentlemanly.
As their lives were molded by the traits of honesty, integrity and hard work, they endeavored to live their lives accordingly.
So God told this man, “Your eternal life in heaven will reflect the most innocent times of your particular generation.”
The man did not totally understand, but he accepted God’s explanation.
Several years passed, and this old man was finally sent to Heaven’s door.
As he arrived at the front gate, he could hear music from inside.
The sounds were soothing to his ear, and he felt a wave of nostalgia come over him. As he knocked on the gate, he heard a voice, “I Hear You Knocking, must be an Earth Angel arriving.”
A really cool male angel opened the gate, and asked, “Well RollOver Beethoven, Great Balls Of Fire, who are you?”
“I’ll bet you think you’re Sleep Walking or this is Just A Dream.”
The man said, “Some call me Speedo, but my real name is Mr. Earl.
I passed away In The Still Of The Night, and I Cried A Tear as I recited My Prayer that God would embrace me in a Sea Of Love.”
The man continued, “My wife died a few years ago; I called her Susie-Q.
As I leaned over her bed sobbing, she said very softly, Honey Hush.
I cried, Wake Up Little Suzy, but she had moved on.
There Goes My Baby, Goodnight Sweetheart.”
The angel said:
“Well my friend, you’re not Stranded In The Jungle.
You need to know a Story Untold.
Your Little Darlin has abided by the Ten Commandments Of Love
and the Book Of Love says Save The Last Dance For Me.”
“Don't You Just Know It, your Angel Baby is waiting for
you This Magic Moment!”
The man said, “Well I'll Be John Brown, you mean My Babe is
here in My Blue Heaven?
Lawdy Miss Clawdy, Let The Good Times Roll.
Hallelujah, I Love Her So.
Could This Be Magic or Just A Dream?
Take me to my Little Bitty Pretty One!”
The angel admonished:
“You will see your Honey Love soon.
But first I need to hear your story.”
The man described his last days:
“Well sir, I was on a Sea Cruise and met this Long Tall Sally from Ko Ko Mo.
Her real name was Peggy Sue and she was a real Party Doll.
One night after One Mint Julip, I touched her Tutti Frutti, she touched my Ling, Ting, Tong, then one thing led to another.
I told her, I’m Your Sixty Minute Man.
After that, I called her Tweedlee Dee and she called me Speedo.
We’d start to Flip Flop & Fly, and we both were Breathless.
Then one night I got this Fever which I thought was Poison Ivy.
I felt this Ting-A-Ling after One Scotch, One Bourbon, One Beer.
Then I went into this Endless Sleep and Sh-Boom, I’m Over The Mountain, A Thousand Miles Away and here I am.”
The angel said,
“Ain'T That A Shame.
Sounds like you were the All American Boy.
Love Is Strange.”
The angel beckoned,
“Didn’t know if you were a Devil Or Angel.
But you’re OK.
Come Go With Me, I Want To Walk You Home.”
As they entered the gates of heaven, they passed this old Hound Dog.
The angel said, “He belongs to this long haired dude who likes to
wear fancy clothes and drive Cadillacs.”
The angel pointed to a man, “His name is Carl.
He loves wearing those Blue Suede Shoes.”
Then they saw a sharp lady drive by in her Rocket "88".
Her license plate read “Maybellene”.
Another man passed by and waved.
The angel said, “He’s the The Great Pretender who thinks he’s the Duke Of Earl.”
When a huge crowd of people making all this Yakety Yak passed by, the man asked, “Where are they going?
The angel said, “They’re going to Shake Rattle & Roll down at Smokey Joe's Cafe.”
This Jim Dandy of a woman went by carrying a cake with Sixteen Candles.
The angel advised, “She’s headed to her School Days when she was Sweet Little Sixteen but she knows Its Only Make Believe.”
The angel advised, “You should know that here in heaven we Rock Around The Clock. Every day we go up on Blueberry Hill where we Rip It Up with a Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On.
And there will be some Good Rockin Tonight as we Honky Tonk and do the Night Train. You’ll see Short Fat Fannie, Johnny B. Goode, Be-Bop-A-Lula, Rock'N Robin, Good Golly Miss Molly, Mr. Lee, C.C. Rider, Stagger Lee, Charlie Brown and lot’s more all dancing to Wooly Bully and the Chicken Shack Boogie.”
As they walked further into heaven, the man saw a dazzling lighted entrance to a huge theatre.
The angel pointed and said, “That’s the GRRHOF building.”
“What?” the man asked.
The angel replied, “ God’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
It’s the place where you can meet all your favorite singers and bands.”
The angel continued, “It’s growing everyday.
When a new singer or group arrives, we play When the Saints Go Marchin In.
Let’s go inside and see who’s there today.”
As they entered the theater, you could hear the sounds of rhythm, boogie and beat, strumming guitars, doowop-de-wop and a thunderous background noise of cheers and applause.
There was one group doing a rock-a-billy song with Buddy Holly and Carl Perkins. Another group singing some love songs consisted of Roy Orbison, Ritchie Valens, Jimmy Clanton and Ruth Brown.
Doing some heavy
blues tunes were Joe Turner, Hank Ballard, Smiley Lewis and Faye Adams.
And perfect harmony in doo-wop style was coming from the Five Keys, the Five Royales and Frankie Lyman.
In the rear of the theater there was a brightly colored door in the shape of a guitar with the initial “E” painted in the center.
On either side of the door there were replicas of a grill from a 1956 Cadillac.
The man asked, “What’s in that room?”
The angel replied, “It’s not what’s in the room, but who!
And you can believe he’s here.”
As they walked outside, suddenly, as if out of A Thousand Stars, this Little Star appeared.
It was Susie-Q!
Oh What A Dream!
Susie-Q said “No more Tears On My Pillow.
My Treasure Of Love has returned to me.
The Glory Of Love has brought us together once again.
Come Softly To Me, My Love.
Eddie My Love!”
And Eddie said, “There are many Moments To Remember Since I Met You Baby
but now that I’ve Got You Babe, I have but one.
Do You Wanna Dance?”
The angel then left Eddie and Susie-Q to their Good Lovin.
As the angel walked away, he said, “See You Later, Alligator.”
~ S. Gray Steifel, Jr. ~
"Music can be all things to all persons.
It is like a great dynamic sun in the center of a solar system which sends out its rays and inspiration in every direction.
Music makes us feel that the heavens open and a divine voice calls.
Something in our souls responds and understands."
~ Leopold Stokowski ~