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Thursday, July 7, 2016

In the Genes

Todays blog post is a departure from my normal threads as I ask you folks to humor me (and beg forgiveness) as I don the disguise as an autobiographer.

On this medium I usually stick to the subject of my writing and the gendre(s) surrounding it, but I also have a career as a singer in a local variety band. I come about it honestly as my father, the late (and great) Merlin Jones was a life-long entertainer and popular singer here in the Midlands of South Carolina. He got his start with Dickie Holler and the Holidays in the early 1960's in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

My father was the drummer and back up singer in the trio. Dick Holler and Merlin Jones would later be inducted into the Louisiana Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.  From August, 1962 until May 1965 Dick Holler and the Holidays based and performed in and around Columbia, South Carolina. Their 1964 third single release, "Double Shot (Of My Baby's Love)", later become a hit in 1966 by "The Swingin' Medallions". The band settled in the Midlands of the state because a single written by my father titled "Mooda Grooba" had become wildly popular in South and North Carolina.

After the band split, my dad decided to stay in Columbia and began playing in local night spots including The Odyssey, The Army/Navy Club and King of the Road. Later he would go into business with his own places The Thunder Bird Lounge, Merlin's Nightclub and Checkers of West Columbia . He continued entertaining as the drummer/lead singer in the house bands of each club. My dad was followed and adored by many in the Columbia area earning him honors as Entertainer of the Year throughout the 90's. So popular was my dad that every year there are still "Merlin's Nightclub Reunions" held in his honor.

Sadly my father passed away after battling cancer in November of 2014. In January of 2015 there was a memorial jam held for Merlin at The Hanger in West Columbia, SC. Attending and participating in the event were several local area musicians and Dick Holler himself. He and my father remained friends even after the split of the Holidays.

This is where I come in...

During the memorial I performed several songs throughout the night. I'd started my singing hobby years previous when working as a bartender at Merlin's Nightclub. During the busiest time of the
evening my dad would call me up and I would perform I four or five songs. I was immediately hooked by the limelight as I did my best to emulate my fathers knack for entertaining.

After the January Memorial for dad concluded one of the keyboardists who had participated approach me. Darryl Hill mentioned he was in a band called Wide Open and he would like me to come check them out at a bar in Lexington, SC the following week. I agreed since the place was only a 5 minute drive from my home and me and my girlfriends regular hangout.

That following Friday night my we shot pool at JT'S On the Pond enjoying  Wide Open as they played Classic Rock, Country and Beach. Darryl Hill and guitarist Wayne Hopkins had started the group some ten years previous and between these two musicians they had a vast knowledge of music. Add an extraordinary rhythm battery of Chris Miano on the drums and Paul Russo on bass guitar and it was one of the best bands I've heard in my thirty years of being in the business.

As the night wore on I had to leave for I had to wake early for work the following morning. While paying my tab Darryl summoned me over. Surprised, I made my way to the stage as he introduced me as a "Special Guest Singer". I was overjoyed as I belted out "Keep Your Hands to Yourself" by the Georgia Satellites. As I prompted the crowd thrusting the mic outward I heard everyone in the room respond. My passion for entertaining was re-ignited and the lime light entangled me once again.

Later that week I was overjoyed to receive a phone call from Darryl inquiring whether I would like to be the new "front man" for Wide Open. Discussing it with my girlfriend Robin she gave me her blessing.

I've since been experiencing the time of my life living out my mid-life crisis as the singer in a Rock n Roll band. With my addition to the group the repertoire of music has increased as my style has blended with the existing song list. We play Rock, Classic Rock, Beach, R&B, Country and much more. Wide Open Band now boasts playing the widest variety of music in town performing everything from Al Green to ZZ-Top. Check out our homepage and find us on Facebook, Twitter and [sample song]

I hope my father is proud as I do my best to honor him by emulating his spirit on stage.