Take Second Place
in 2011 Silver Stars Competition
October 23, 2011, Nashville, TN
When HealthSpring held it's fourth annual Silver Stars
competition this year, it opened up the contest to performers from both
Nashville and Memphis, TN. Performers had to be at least 60 years of
age. More than 300 performers tried out for the coveted prizes,
including our friends, the soul vocal group, the Masqueraders. When
the preliminary trials were over, the Masqueraders were among the ten
finalists, scheduled for a run off in Nashville on October 23, 2011.
In spit of the fact that we had just gotten back from Canada on October 22
and the next day was our anniversary, we were on an early morning plane to
Nashville to show support for our friends the Masqueraders.
The Masqueraders, well known for their 1960's
and 1970's soul harmony hits like "I Ain't Got To Love Nobody Else," "I'm
Just An Average Guy," "One More Chance" and "(Call Me) The Travelin' Man"
have been singing as a trio in Memphis for the past several years.
Members consist of Harold "Sundance" Thomas, Sam Hutchins and Robert "Tex"
Wrightsil. In 2010 we (Pam & Charlie) combined the current
Masqueraders with former members Abdur Rahman "Lee" Hatim and David "Cowboy"
Sanders to have them sing at our anniversary. While the group remains
close, after the anniversary the Masqueraders returned to singing as a trio.
Several weeks ago, the Masqueraders told us
they were entering a contest called Silver Stars, produced by well-known
Nashville entertainer Billy Block and sponsored by the HealthSprings
Company. The contest is for performers over the age of 60, living in
Tennessee. 2011 was the fourth year of the contest, but the first to
include performers from Memphis as well as Nashville.
The Masqueraders entered the Silver Stars
preliminary rounds, finishing in the top ten contestants from a field of
over 300. The finals would be held in Nashville's famed Ryman
Auditorium on Sunday October 23, 2011. Classic Urban Harmony's Pam &
Charlie Horner decided to fly to Nashville to show support for the
The Ryman Auditorium
1960's era postcard of the Ryman Auditorium
The Ryman Auditorium is one of the most
revered music halls in the United States. Best known as the home of
Country & Western music's Grand Ol' Opry from 1943 until 1974, the Ryman's
history includes much more. Built in 1892, the Ryman has hosted
thousands of performers of all types of music and entertainment. For
instance, the Fisk Jubilee Singers, foundation of all of our harmony, sang
at the Ryman Auditorium at least sixteen times between 1892 and 1940.
Other notable vocal groups to sing there include the Ink Spots. Over
the years, everyone from Louis Armstrong to James Brown have performed at
After the Grand Ol' Opry left the Ryman for
bigger quarters in 1974, the famed auditorium fell into disrepair. It
has now been restored (thanks to the Gaylord Corporation that also runs the
Grand Ol' Opry House and the Gaylord Opryland Resort), and is again a major
music venue. Still the sense of history permeates the building and
just standing on the Ryman stage is a thrill for any entertainer or music
Nashville's Ryman Auditorium
October 23, 2011
The Ryman. Though some modifications
have been made,
even the original wooden benches have been retained.
Admission to the Silver Stars finals was
Attendees were given a souvenir booklet and a CD
with a cut from each of the finalists.
Silver Stars poster that hung in the Ryman.
We asked to have it for the Classic Urban Harmony Archives
but the Ryman wanted to archive it themselves!
An excited crowd awaited the first
performer. All the competitors were top notch,
making determination of the winners difficult.
Billy Block, well-known entertainer in the
Produced, MC'd and played drums during the event.
Billy Block introduced the three judges for the night:
Country & Western music legend Mel Tillis; singer songwriter Bonnie Bramlett
(Delaney & Bonnie & Friends); and guitarist & vocalist Billy Burnett (son of
Dorsey Burnett and formerly with Fleetwood Mac and John Fogerty).
The evening's first performer was Rev.
Robert Shipp, last year's First Place Winner.
Rev. Shipp, gospel singer and guitarist, gave an unbelievable rendition of
"Don't Call Me Lucky, Call Me Blessed". We could readily understand
won first place in 2010.
Contestant #1 was Rev. Lawrence Thomison, a
61 year old gospel
singer and preacher from Nashville who sang a stirring version of
"I Saw The Light". After hearing Rev. Thomison, we knew there'd
be some tough competition.
Next up was Alicia Lundquist, a 65-year-old
who was originally born in the Philippines. Alicia's rendition
of "La Bamba / "Twist & Shout" was spirited and energetic.
The Memphis Reed Riders (Jim Watkins and
Gene Finny) were a harmonica duo
who have been performing for more than forty years. Their toe-tapping
"Sweet Georgia Brown" was most enjoyable.
Dianne Hill's powerful voice boomed out
"And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going".
Finishing with a dramatic ending, it's understandable the Nashville native
known as "Lady Dianne".
The fifth contestant was singer songwriter
Well known for his C&W songs, Richard sang "Planet Country".
Marilyn Larson, a 78-year-old jazz vocal
gave an impressive rendition of "The Man I Love".
David Balph gave an exciting trumpet
rendition of "Stardust,"
including a short narrative about the song in the middle.
Miss Ruby Wilson is a blues vocalist known
in Memphis as "The Queen of
Beale Street". She'd recently recovered from a stroke
and sang a powerful version of the Aretha Franklin tune, "Natural Woman".
Boomer Castleman is a 66-year-old
guitarist, singer and songwriter.
His expertise with a guitar was evident in the song, "Guitar
Stars," in which he emulated the styles of many great guitarists.
The Masqueraders singing "A Change Is Gonna
The Masqueraders came on last. Prior to singing, the
group surprised us by acknowledging us in the audience and had us stand for
an applause. We were hoping they'd
sing the Sam Cooke tune, "A Change Is Gonna Come" since that's the song that
impressed us so much when we first met them. It was also the song that
got them into the final round. However, the program listed a different
song, so we didn't know which song was coming. To our delight, the
group launched into "Change" and the audience responded immediately.
By the time they'd finished, members of the crowd (including us) were on
their feet screaming their approval. We knew the Masqueraders had a
good chance of winning!
Audience members jump to their feet as the
finish their song!
Contestants back on stage for a curtain
After a short time (that seemed like forever) Billy Block
received the judges decisions and began announcing the winners. In
third place was jazz singer, Marilyn Larson. Second place went to the
Masqueraders and first place was won by trumpeter David Balph.
Naturally we were rooting for the
Masqueraders (we admit we are biased) and by all indications the final
decision was a difficult one. But we congratulate David Balph, as it
took a spectacular performance to come in first. The competition was
so good that we wish all the contestants could have won.
Awarding the prizes.
Pam & Charlie with the Masqueraders inside
the Ryman Auditorium.
We thank Billy Block and Chris Beals from the Billy Block
from the Billy Block Corporation for their hospitality and for, along with
their staff, producing such a fabulous event! (See
After the event, the Masqueraders joined us for dinner on
Nashville's Broadway. We're very proud of the group.
Of more than 300 contestants, the group came in second. We don't have
a video of the Silver Stars performance but for those who want to get an
idea of what the Masqueraders sounded like, here's a clip of them singing "A
Change Is Gonna Come" at our anniversary in 2010. - C&P