This past Friday night, June 1, 2018, MNPRmagazine sent me to photograph and submit a review of the dynamic Billy Buchanan, performing at The Athens Theater in Deland, Florida. I have had the pleasure to see and photograph Billy seven months ago in the “Songwriters Showcases of America”. I thought I knew what to expect before I arrived, but I was pleasantly surprised as I was treated to Billy’s “Pioneers of Rock ‘n Soul” show.
Billy Buchanan grew up in Cleveland, Ohio just 15 miles south of Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame and The Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. He has opened or shared the stage with numerous international acts like; Harry Connick Jr., Tower of Power, Jersey Boys, KC & The Sunshine Band, The Four Tops, and even Alice In Chains to name a few. Billy’s career has taken him to 26 countries and all 50 states. His discology includes six solo albums and two albums released with his old band Fusebox. Billy has had three Top 20 songs on the CCM carts.
Tonight, was a show to honor Hall of Famers that laid the ground work of Billy’s musical influences. Buchanan’s portrayal of his childhood heroes was spot on. Billy Buchanan wasn’t playing tribute, this was a total transformation. The songs, outfits, costumes, and even wigs sent the audience back in time. Back to a time of the birth of Rock n Roll, when the citizens were defiant of the status quo, and all was good. Friday night was a “feel good” show, one that reminded us of the past and about the artists that paved the way of music the rock culture. The audience danced in the isles during the show and remained after even after the house lights rose, clapping and screaming for more.
Billy came out on stage dressed as Little Richard to start the show. Little Richard is know as the inventor of Rock & Roll, and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with the first inductees in 1986. I was close to the stage and from what I could see, it was Little Richard! He went to the piano and belted out “Tutti Fruiti”. At that moment I knew I was in for a very exciting evening. Next followed “Lucille”, “Good Golly Miss Molly”, and “Keep a Knockin”. Billy, or Little Richard, left the stage. The band played “Chain of Fools” and Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary”. Then the large screen above the stage played a video introducing the next performer of the night.
Chuck Berry followed next, duck walk and all. He was also inducted with the initial group to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. Chuck’s set started with “Johnny B Goode”. Then he played my favorite, “No Particular Place To Go”, still trying to locate the Kokomo. Then he ended his set strong with “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Rock and Roll Music”. Like before, Chuck left the stage as the band played on with Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” and “At Last” by Etta James. As before, the video screen had a short message and introduced the next icon.
Sam Cooke, named the forth “Greatest Singer of All Time” by Rolling Stone, strolled onto the stage. In 2013 Sam Cooke was inducted into the Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame, also in Cleveland Ohio. He started his set with “What a Wonderful World” followed by “You Send Me”, “A Change is Gonna Come”, and “Twisting the Night Away”. Sam and the audience twisted as they became more engaged. When Sam exited, and the band played Martha Reeves & The Vandellas, “Dancing in The Streets” and “I Can’t Help Myself” by The Four Tops.
Ray Charles appeared on the stage to thunderous applause as he made his way to the piano stage left. Ray has been ranked number ten on Rolling Stones list of “100 Greatest Artists of All Time”. Like Little Richard and Chuck Berry, Ray Charles was in the initial class of inductees in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1986. This was a high-powered line up. Ray played “Hallelujah, I Love Her So”, “Georgia On My Mind”, “I Got a Woman”, “America The Beautiful”, and ended with “Hit The Road jack”. Ray then left the stage and, as before, the band played the up-beat song “I Heard it Thru The Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye, and “I’ll Take You There” by the Staple Singers.
The last performer of the night was Billy Buchanan, himself. As I said in the beginning, I was there to cover him, but I was treated to an iconic line-up of Rock and Roll, and Soul superstars. Billy Buchanan, is a superstar in his own right, and played his set to complete the night on a high note. “Working for a Living” started the set, then “Love Me Right”, “Get to You”, and ended with “Pioneers”. I have seen many acts in my time. Billy, always brings energy and the crowd leaves satisfied and smiling. As I drove from the show, “Hit The Road Jack” was playing in my head. I smiled to myself as I had witnessed tonight that, Rock n Roll will never die, because it’s in our hearts. It’s who we are.