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Al Wilson Tribute Concert:  May 3, 2008

by Mark Guerrero

     On Sunday afternoon May 3, 2008 there was a tribute show called the "Together Benefit Concert," dedicated to the memory of r&b singer Al Wilson, who passed away on Monday, April 21st due to kidney failure in Fontana, California at the age of sixty eight.  Wilson was best known for his recording of "Show and Tell," which was a number one hit on the Billboard charts in 1973.  He was scheduled to perform at this show at San Bernardino Valley College before his passing.  The promoters and artists decided to turn the show into a tribute to Al Wilson.  On the bill at the outdoor amphitheater on the college campus were Brenton Wood, Tierra, Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods, Cannibal & the Headhunters, Jewel Akens, Leon Hughes of The Coasters, Jerome Robinson of The Platters, and Ron Dante of The Archies.  I was invited to the event by Robert Zapata, drummer and leader of Cannibal & the Headhunters.  Robert and the Headhunters band had recently backed me on the Mr. Duran Show, a cable TV show in Los Angeles, and at a concert at Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona.  I showed up with my former drummer from my 60s and early 70s bands, Ernie Hernandez.  When I got backstage, the first person I ran into was lead singer of Cannibal & the Headhunters, Charlie Muñoz.  He was rehearsing "Show and Tell" with guitarist Bobby Robles and Ron Dante.  Charlie asked me to sing a verse of "Show and Tell" with them on the show.  I told him that I didn't know the song other than kind of remembering how the chorus goes.  I tried to talk him out of it, but he was very positive and encouraging in pushing for me to do it.  He sang it to me a few times until I got it.  The next thing I know, my name is announced when Cannibal & the Headhunters were about to do "Show and Tell" in tribute to Al Wilson.  I walked out on the stage joining Charlie, Bo Donadson, and Ron Dante on vocals.  Charlie sang the first verse and sounded great.  The four of us then sang the chorus together in harmony.  True to his word he pointed to me to sing the second verse.  Since I had no choice at that point, I went into it and got through it respectably.  However, I had to read the lyrics from a piece of paper I held in my hand.  It came off well and I got some good comments about it afterwards.  As we were well into the song, we were were joined onstage by Rudy Salas and Billy Mondragon of Tierra who contributed to the harmonies on the choruses.  The song being sung for the late Al Wilson added to the emotional content of the moment and the audience seemed to feel both the sadness of the loss and the joy of the music and tribute at the same time.  It was the emotional highpoint of the day.

     The camaraderie between the musicians backstage was great.  I also got to meet and take photos with Brenton Wood and Jewel Akins.  I'd already met Ron Dante through Trini Lopez, who'd brought him to my gig in Palm Springs on a couple of occasions.  Ron just finished producing an album with Trini called "Ramblin' Man."  The CD, which includes Trini's covers of Bob Dylan's "Lay Lady Lay," The Allman Brothers' "Ramblin' Man," Dion's "The Wanderer," and Ron Dante's hit with the Archies, "Sugar Sugar," was released on May 15h on the Fuel label, distributed by Universal Records.  Mr. Duran of Thee Mr. Duran Show attended the event and Phil Reyes, who does the sound on Mr. Duran's television show, provided the sound mixing for the Al Wilson tribute concert.  Many photos were taken on stage and backstage by Paul Ruiz and my aforementioned old band mate, Ernie Hernandez, which can be seen on the photo gallery for this article.  I was able to catch the shows of Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods, Ron Dante, Jewel Akens, and Brenton Wood, but unfortunately had to leave before Tierra's set.  I had to get back to my gig in Palm Springs.  Everyone put on a good show and had a great time in tribute and in honor of Al Wilson.  All of the artists on the bill had toured and performed with Al over the decades and knew him well, so it was easy to tell there was definitely the feeling among all the performers of being there and performing for Al Wilson on this memorable day.
 

 

 



Click here for Al Wilson Tribute Photo Gallery

 

 

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Mark Guerrero
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