By Michael P Coleman

Dr. WaltonAs we celebrate Father’s Day and honor fathers (and father figures) everywhere this month, THE HUB is proud to honor and remember Dr. Vernon L. Walton, father of four and Sacramento’s first African American pediatrician. 

Dr. Walton, or “Sonny” as he was known by family and friends, was born in 1930 in Wynne, Arkansas.  He spent time in Illinois and Oklahoma, where he attended Langston University.  He then returned to Illinois where he enrolled in medical school.  While he was completing his residency in Chicago, he met his wife, Velma, who was a nursing student at the same hospital.  They married and in 1960 they moved to California.  

After serving two years active duty as a Navy doctor in San Diego, Dr. Walton moved his family to Sacramento and started his medical practice in Del Paso Heights.  His eldest daughter, Stephanie, remembers that time well. 

“Initially he was doing family practice,” Stephanie recalls.  “Back in that day, pediatrics was more of a new specialty. Kids were seen by family practice doctors.  He fell in love with taking care of kids, and went back and did his specialty training in pediatrics.” 

Long before “Take Your Child To Work Day” was a thought in anyone’s mind, Dr. Walton exposed his children to his chosen profession.

“I remember as a small child hopping in the car with him and going on house calls,” Stephanie recalls.  “Sometimes I’d wait in the car, or sometimes on the step of the house.  I remember going from house to house to house back in the day.  When I was old enough, I worked in the office a little bit, and got a feeling for what was going on there.” 

Stephanie got more than just a “feeling” during those years.  She ultimately followed her father’s career path.  Today, she’s better known as Dr. Stephanie Walton, and like her dad did, she practices pediatric medicine in Sacramento.   And all three of her siblings — Vernon L. Jr., Rosemarie, and Kathleen M. — chose careers in public service.  

After 40 years of practicing pediatrics in Sacramento, Dr. Walton retired in 2010.  He remained active in the community and his church until the family and our community lost him after a short illness earlier this year.  He is survived by his four children and his wife of 60 years. 

The Walton family, and everyone else who knew him, will always remember him fondly. 

“He was fun, always busy doing something.  I don’t think he every slept,” Dr. Stephanie Walton wistfully remembers.  “He was very active in the church, and he loved taking care of kids and watching them grow up.  He was a mentor to quite a few young people.”

“I’ll tell you what he would tell every kid that he ever met,” Dr. Stephanie continues.  “If you work hard, you can do anything you want to do. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do.”   

In honor of Dr. Walton, the family has established a scholarship fund to support African American students who pursue careers in the sciences.  Contributions can be made to St. Hope Academy, ℅ the Vernon L. Walton Scholarship Fund, PO Box 5447, Sacramento, California 95817. 

 Connect with Sacramento-based freelancer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com or follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP.

As we celebrate Father’s Day and honor fathers (and father figures) everywhere this month, THE HUB is proud to honor and remember Dr. Vernon L. Walton, father of four and Sacramento’s first African American pediatrician. 

Dr. Walton, or “Sonny” as he was known by family and friends, was born in 1930 in Wynne, Arkansas.  He spent time in Illinois and Oklahoma, where he attended Langston University.  He then returned to Illinois where he enrolled in medical school.  While he was completing his residency in Chicago, he met his wife, Velma, who was a nursing student at the same hospital.  They married and in 1960 they moved to California.  

After serving two years active duty as a Navy doctor in San Diego, Dr. Walton moved his family to Sacramento and started his medical practice in Del Paso Heights.  His eldest daughter, Stephanie, remembers that time well. 

“Initially he was doing family practice,” Stephanie recalls.  “Back in that day, pediatrics was more of a new specialty. Kids were seen by family practice doctors.  He fell in love with taking care of kids, and went back and did his specialty training in pediatrics.” 

Long before “Take Your Child To Work Day” was a thought in anyone’s mind, Dr. Walton exposed his children to his chosen profession.

“I remember as a small child hopping in the car with him and going on house calls,” Stephanie recalls.  “Sometimes I’d wait in the car, or sometimes on the step of the house.  I remember going from house to house to house back in the day.  When I was old enough, I worked in the office a little bit, and got a feeling for what was going on there.” 

Stephanie got more than just a “feeling” during those years.  She ultimately followed her father’s career path.  Today, she’s better known as Dr. Stephanie Walton, and like her dad did, she practices pediatric medicine in Sacramento.   And all three of her siblings — Vernon L. Jr., Rosemarie, and Kathleen M. — chose careers in public service.  

After 40 years of practicing pediatrics in Sacramento, Dr. Walton retired in 2010.  He remained active in the community and his church until the family and our community lost him after a short illness earlier this year.  He is survived by his four children and his wife of 60 years. 

The Walton family, and everyone else who knew him, will always remember him fondly. 

“He was fun, always busy doing something.  I don’t think he every slept,” Dr. Stephanie Walton wistfully remembers.  “He was very active in the church, and he loved taking care of kids and watching them grow up.  He was a mentor to quite a few young people.”

“I’ll tell you what he would tell every kid that he ever met,” Dr. Stephanie continues.  “If you work hard, you can do anything you want to do. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can’t do.”   

In honor of Dr. Walton, the family has established a scholarship fund to support African American students who pursue careers in the sciences.  Contributions can be made to St. Hope Academy, ℅ the Vernon L. Walton Scholarship Fund, PO Box 5447, Sacramento, California 95817. 

 Connect with Sacramento-based freelancer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com or follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP.

By Michael P Coleman

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”  - John 8:32

After 30 years, the legendary vocal ensemble Take 6 has never recorded a more truthful album.  And ironically, for a group that began firmly entrenched in the gospel tradition, their new album only includes one overtly religious song. 

That said, the very aptly entitled Iconic is comprised of 10 songs that are immediately recognizable.  According to founding member Claude McKnight, that was very much by design. 

“Because we have a national and international audience and following, we tried to branch out even farther and say ‘What 10 songs could we go almost anywhere in the world and sing, and people would immediately know them,” McKnight shared during our EXCLUSIVE interview. 

With the wealth of popular songs from which to choose, fans may wonder how the group settled on the 10 included on the new album.  McKnight said that the group’s song selection process was, and has always been, extremely democratic. 

“We vote on everything,” McKnight shared.  “We sat down in a room together and each guy went through in their own mind and hearts literally dozens of songs that could have worked with this album.  We voted on them, and all of the songs that received at least four votes ended up getting another look.  Then, we whittled it down from there.” 

For the full story, visit http://www.sacculturalhub.com/item/10875-legendary-vocal-ensemble-take-6-releases-brilliant-new-album-of-iconic-songs.

 

Connect with Sacramento-based freelancer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com or follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP.

By Michael P Coleman

Early this afternoon, I commiserated about the dismal voter turnout that had been reported regarding yesterday’s elections.  Initially, only 16% of registered voters in Sacramento County were thought to have taken part in our democratic process, which included an opportunity to send a strong message to current Sacramento District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert and County Sheriff Scott Jones.  My head and heart ached for Stephon Clark’s family, and for our entire community. 

Late this afternoon, I got a virtual Advil for THAT headache.  As it turns out, voter turnout had been woefully underreported by major media outlets. 

This morning, Sacramento County Interim Registrar of Voters, Alice Jarboe, confirmed that there are approximately 235,000 uncounted ballots in the Registrar’s possession.  And those DON’T include vote by mail (VBM) ballots that were postmarked by June 5.  Of those 235,000 outstanding ballots, approximately 175,000 VBM ballots were dropped off at vote centers and ballot drop box locations on Election Day. 

Interim Registrar Jarboe estimated that voter turn out could exceed a phenomenal and unprecedented 45%. The Democratic Party, in an official statement, said they believe those ballots “…could change the outcomes of a number of local races, including the District Attorney and Sheriff races.”   It will take some time to verify the signatures of those 175,000 ballots.  The Democratic Party goes on to say that they will keep us advised as new information is available. 

And THE HUB will, as always, keep YOU in the know. 

THIS election is NOT over. 

Follow the Democratic Party of Sacramento County on social media:  @sacdems.

Connect with Sacramento-based freelancer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com or follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP.

Jeffrey OsborneYou remember the songs:  “Love Ballad.”  “Shine On.”  “On The Wings Of Love.”  “Stay With Me Tonight.”  “We’re Going All The Way.”  And, of course, “You Should Be Mine (The Woo Woo Song).” 

As the artist grew artistically, he made forays into jazz, covers, and even holiday music.  As great as those projects were, fans of true R & B missed him. 

As if guided by some divine divining rod, Osborne has just released an excellent collection of new, old school R & B.  With his brand new Worth It All album, Osborne is solidly back where he belongs and sounding as good as ever.  But during our EXCLUSIVE interview, he told THE HUB that his long-awaited return to old school R & B almost didn’t happen.

“Originally, it was not supposed to be this kind of an album,” the 70 year old icon said by phone.  “My last record was an album of jazz standards, and on the merit of that album, I was asked to do a smooth jazz record.  As I sat down and started writing songs for the album, I realized that my writing was taking me back to my roots, back to old school R & B.  I’m extremely happy with how it turned out.” 

Find the full story at http://www.sacculturalhub.com/item/10763-jeffrey-osborne-releases-first-old-school-r-b-album-in-years-and-the-wait-is-worth-it-all

By Michael P Coleman

Beginning with her initial smash, the gorgeous, ethereal “Free” from her 1976 debut album, This Is Niecy,  Deniece Williams’ girlish, multi-octave voice enchanted R & B and pop music fans.  More often than not, she casted that spell from the very top of the charts, filling the gap between Minnie Ripperton and Mariah Carey. 

Williams’ piercing, rafter-raising voice almost defied description.  She started her professional career singing background for Stevie Wonder.  She had gone to an audition in Detroit, and showed up along with a few dozen other singers…but with no sheet music, and not having rehearsed anything to perform for the Motown legend. 

“Well, I will tell you: ‘green’ is the word to describe me that day,” Williams recalled during our EXCLUSIVE chat, with that trademark, still youthful giggle.  “I had no idea what the audition would be about, or details about what I should bring or anything.  I just felt so bad. There were a couple of people who actually showed up with their keyboard players, and their music, and I showed up with just me.” 

Click here to read MPC’s full feature and how Williams ultimately got that first gig with Stevie Wonder.  Williams tells how her biggest hits, “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” and “Let’s Hear It For The Boy” almost never happened, talks about her upcoming shows in Oakland, and gives us the scoop on her upcoming album: her first ever jazz project!  The legend also shares how she’s always put God first, even when that decision threatened to end her recording career. 

Connect with Sacramento-based freelancer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com or follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP.

by Michael P Coleman

Ruben StuddardThe wait is almost over.

Grammy nominated R&B, pop and gospel singer Ruben Studdard, who was hailed as “the next Luther Vandross” during his triumphant American Idol run almost two decades ago, is finally releasing an album of Vandross covers.  Ruben Sings Luther: A Tribute will be released March 16. 

Studdard teased this project a few years ago, with a fantastic cover of “If This World Were Mine,” with Lalah Hathaway standing in for the original’s Cheryl Lynn, and he covered Luther’s “Superstar” years ago.  But to take on an entire album of Vandross covers?  Studdard deserves a standing ovation just for giving it a go, as Luther was unquestionably a peerless vocal powerhouse. 

“My goal was to not only pay tribute to Luther but to add my own passion on top of Luther’s brilliant songs,” Studdard said of the new album.  “I often sang different Luther songs during my live shows.  But people always asked when I was going to do an album of Luther’s songs.  Happily the day has arrived.” 

“I am so proud of this record,” Studdard continued.  “It was a thrilling experience selecting the songs from Luther’s different albums and putting my own interpretation on them.”

I’ll take Studdard at his word that recording this new album was “thrilling,” but I can attest to the fact that listening to it was absolutely so.  Ruben Sings Luther: A Tribute delivers 10 almost reverent Vandross covers.  Stunningly, in at least a couple of cases, Studdard improves upon the originals.

And for those in northern California, the news is even better:  Studdard has added a Sacramento stop to his 22 city tour in support of the new album.  Always And Forever: An Evening Of Luther Vandross Starring Ruben Studdard comes to Sacramento’s Crest Theatre on Sunday, April 8. 

I’m one of the Luther fans who never got to see him in concert, and friends have always insisted that I missed quite a show!  Luckily, Studdard is ready to recreate that experience during his upcoming tour. 

“We are not only recreating some of the production elements, musicians, background singers, wardrobe and lighting that were ever present when Luther took the stage, but my heart and soul will be in every note I sing as I honor one of the greatest vocalists we’ve ever had.” 

After listening to this new album, it’s easy for me to take Studdard’s word for that, too! 

Click here for tickets to Studdard’s upcoming Sacramento show. Tickets for the Sacramento show and all other performances are available at Ticketmaster.  

Look to The Hub next week for more information on the upcoming Ruben Sings Luther: A Tribute album, including our EXCLUSIVE interview with Ruben Studdard!  

 Connect with Sacramento-based freelancer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com or follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP.

By Michael P Coleman

Mathis roseI had an opportunity to witness a couple of miracles last night at the Luther Burbank Center in Santa Rosa.  The first was the venue itself.  I learned that, miraculously, most of the facility survived last year’s raging fires.  It’s truly a gem of a venue, and it was great to learn that audiences can continue to look forward to a variety of phenomenal performances by world-class entertainers. 

And it’s that’s not a perfect descriptor for the incomparable Johnny Mathis, who graced the stage there last night, I don’t know what is. 

In fact, Mathis’ performance, a part of his The Voice Of Romance tour, was the night’s second miracle.  The 82 year old legend appeared roughly half of his age as he effortlessly whipped through a two hour performance for an adoring, near capacity crowd. 

His voice was virtually unscathed by the ravages of time, and his boyish enthusiasm for his craft was infectious.  This was particularly surprising, as it’s easy for performers of his generation to appear bored as they traipse through static set lists, or performances that appear to be more cake walks that class acts. 

Not Mathis.  I’ve seen him in concert a half a dozen times in as many years, and guess what?  He’s presented a different show every time.  Last night, he charmingly started the show with an inspirational “Life Is A Song Worth Singing” from his sterling I’m Coming Home album, followed by a declaration worthy of someone who’s been giving us his unadulterated best for over 60 years. 

“We’re going to sing and play our hearts out tonight,” Mathis said, “and I’m going to sing a few songs that will prompt you to wonder ‘Where the heck did he find THAT one?’  But they’re all lovely songs that I love to sing, and I hope, somewhere along the way, you’ll find one or two that you enjoy.” 

One or two?  Is that modesty or what?  “It’s Not For Me To Say.”  “Chances Are.”  “99 Miles From LA.”  “Misty.”  “Gina.”  “Betcha By Golly Wow.”  “I’m Stone In Love With You.”  They were all there, along with a stunning, pitch-perfect version of The Beatles’ “Yesterday” that took on new urgency coming from the now-octogenarian and left his audience begging for more. 

If there was a disappointment to the night, it was that Mathis didn’t perform any songs from his most recent album, last year’s exceptional Johnny Mathis Sings The Great New American Songbook.  But frankly, after the decades of musical joy he’s brought to his millions of fans, Mathis has earned the right to sing whatever he wants to sing. 

“You ask how long I’ll love you / I’ll tell you true / Until the 12th of never / I’ll still be loving you,” Mathis beautifully sang, during one of the night’s many intimate moments.  He seemed to be singing directly to us, and I can absolutely assure you that everyone in that audience felt the same way about him. 

If you want to remember a musical era that’s largely in the rear view mirror, catch Johnny Mathis in concert.  And take someone you love — or someone you want to love — with you.

Information on Johnny Mathis is available at johnnymathis.com.  

 

 Connect with Sacramento-based freelancer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com or follow him on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP.

 

dianaross eblast

By Michael P Coleman

Over 50 years after her first Billboard #1 record, the iconic Diana Ross scores another #1 — with a song that she recorded back in 1970!                

“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough 2017,” a remix of the multi-format chart-topper from her eponymous debut solo album, sits at the top spot on Billboard’s dance chart this week.  Not very many artists enjoy a #1 record over half a century after releasing a debut album, as Ross did with 1961’s Meet The Supremes

According to Billboard, it’s the 73-year-old Ross’ first #1 on the Dance chart in over 22 years, when she topped the chart with 1995’s “Take Me Higher.”  The remix is featured on a new collection of Ross’, Diamond Diana.   The achievement comes just days after the superstar made international headlines by partying at one of the world’s most popular gay nightclubs, The Abbey, in West Hollywood. 

Cher, eat your heart out. 

The original masterpiece is a six minute opus that includes dramatic spoken word segments interspersed with the emotive, gorgeous soprano that had become Ross’ calling card.  The remix’s current success is a testament not just to Ross’ staying power and tremendous talent, but to the original hit, written and produced by the legendary Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson.

In a rare interview, Simpson said she was thrilled by the song’s current success. 

“I’m beaming, I’m smiling,” Simpson said by phone from her home in New York.  “I’m happy that long past my lifetime ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ will continue to touch people and move them as it has proven to do. We didn’t think it would last 50 years, much less wherever else it’s going!” 

“Diana is right — great songs DO last forever — and I’m thrilled to be a part of this,” Simpson continued.  “But we also had a great carrier.  You can’t do much better than Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrill [who recorded the original version in 1967] and then Diana Ross, somebody who can carry the message.  If it had been sung by someone unknown, perhaps the world wouldn’t have gotten to know the song.  So we owe her a debt of gratitude that she was such a fantastic carrier, and that she continues to carry that song and that message.” 

Simpson suggested that the stars aligned with the partnership between her, Ashford and Ross on “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” 

“Everything in it’s time, and that was the right time,” Simpson said.  “We caught Diana at a great time in her life, because she was leaving The Supremes and she wanted to step out on her own.  It’s funny when a song helps you do that.  We pushed her as far as we could push her [in the studio], we made sure her keys had her voice sounding bright, and the message of that song is still the same as it was 50 years ago.” 

“In terms of the political climate that we’re in, we may need it more than we did then,” Simpson continued.  “We have to be strong about who we are and what we’re standing for, and we’ve got to stand for something.  So ‘ain’t no mountain high enough’ right now!” 

With today’s mercurial music business, who knows what tomorrow will bring (a new recording contract for Ross, perhaps)?  But for now, the First Lady of Motown is enjoying her latest #1 record.  Hat’s off to the timeless Diana Ross and Valerie Simpson!  Ain’t no mountain high enough, indeed! 

Connect with freelance writer Michael P Coleman at michaelpcoleman.com or on Twitter:  @ColemanMichaelP.