In looking for a new sound for a community festival, New Era Booking and Management promoter Paul Franklin is opting to go Old School for this Saturday’s new Brazos Blues Festival — Old School as in the ageless sound of Southern soul music.
That’s why he has Georgia-based Southern soul star Sir Charles Jones — Sir Charles to his fans — as headliner for an event that also features TK Soul and Cupid., with local acts Classie Ballou and the Smooth Jazz Generation rounding out the music.
Franklin, 42, found the popularity of rap and hip-hop had led many of those performers to price themselves out of the markets where the Dallas-based Franklin worked. Language and subject matter for some, too, were issues when trying to find performers that would appeal to several generations.
What Franklin turned to was soul and blues music, genres that don’t dominate music charts or record sales, but which have sustained appeal over the years. “We stepped out on faith. We wanted something pleasing to the people,” he said.
Southern soul music with its emphasis on musicality and emotion does that, he said, adding that its long-standing appeal suggests a base for more. “Southern soul . . . is bubbling with the potential to blow up,” Franklin said.
It’s far from underground success for the Alabama-raised singer Sir Charles Jones, who has built a solid career over nearly two decades by sticking to his music and connecting with fans. Jones’ parents both were gospel musicians, which shaped his style, but also led to some raised eyebrows among church members when he decided to broaden into blues, rhythm-and-blues and soul.
The singer shrugs off such criticism. “The people you see in church on Sunday, you go home with them after church and they’ll be in the backyard listening to Johnnie Taylor and Bobbie Blue Bland,” he said in a phone interview.
Jones found a way to update Old School soul for a younger audience, scoring hits with such songs as “Is Anybody Lonely,” “On My Own Again” and “For Better Or Worse.”
What he learned from his years working with soul star Marvin Sease is how to turn an audience into longtime fans. “Simplicity always sells. You have to capture and hold the audience,” he said.
And while many contemporary performers prefer to keep their distance from fans, Jones welcomes it. “I’m a touchy-feely sort of guy. I like to let audiences touch me and make eye-to-eye contact,” he said.
He also makes a point of giving back to the community. He was calling from Duluth, Georgia, where he had helped start a training program for young people to give them marketable skills. Also on his to-do list is creation of a recording label aimed at finding and promoting young Southern soul talent. “I believe in giving back to the community. God has been blessing me, I’ve made money and it’s the type of thing we do,” he said.
Jones caps an afternoon of music that also features soul stars TK Soul and Cupid. TK Soul, born Terrence Kimble, played keyboards for H-Town early in his career and has gone on to become an established solo act on the soul-blues circuit as well as heading Soulful Records. Louisiana-native Cupid broke into national attention with his 2007 party hit “Cupid Shuffle.”
Franklin intends to use the Brazos Blues Festival as a platform to recognize the legacy of Waco musician Classie Ballou for his music and lifelong contributions to his community. Ballou will perform at 4 p.m. after the festival opens with music from DJ Batman and the Smooth Jazz Generation.
Following Ballou will be Cupid at 5 p.m., TK Soul at approximately 5:45 p.m., then Sir Charles Jones at 7:30 p.m.
Festival goers can buy carnival-type food and drink on site or pay a $10 cooler fee and bring coolers.