Entertainment at this year’s Stanislaus County Fair has all genres of music to entertain the masses including country artist Rodney Atkins and R&B band Kool and the Gang.
Atkins, who will take the stage at the fair on Monday, July 14, has been in this neck of the woods before. He promoted his sophomore album, “If You’re Going Through Hell” here in Northern California in 2006 with a few bandmates. The group flew in from Tennessee, got a rental car and went from town to town playing in bars and restaurants, anywhere they could until they made enough money to fly back home.
Growing up in Eastern Tennessee in the mountains, Atkins had a love for music and writing music. He has a diverse mix of what he listens to and stated that he has been influenced by modern acts as well as acts from the past.
“There was a lot of bluegrass music that was played as far as live music,” said Atkins of growing up country. “There wasn’t much to do around there but farm work, chase girls, fish, hunt, and play music.”
Learning a few guitar chords and a song or two on the front porch in his small town, Atkins’ training began when he was 15 or 16-years-old.
“I was interested on how songs were written and the stories, and I don’t know, it seemed like the most logical next step was to write songs,” stated Atkins. “I grew up really loving Charlie Daniels and Alabama and southern rock and country music and I just wanted to write songs.”
The tunes of Aerosmith and Bon Jovi were also musical influences when he was growing up.
Atkins explained that he was really shy and was very nervous of singing in front of people. Since he did not think he would ever perform on stage, Atkins just kept writing songs.
The small town in Tennessee that Atkins grew up in had a little pizza place called the Oasis that he often ate at. When he was a kid, if his little league team won their game, they would go there for pizza. As he got older, he came back from college and the owner of the Oasis asked Atkins to sing there. He agreed and the night he sang the owner sold T-shirts that had his name on it. At the end of the night she took all the funds raised and gave the money to Atkins and told him to ‘go to Nashville and knock them dead.’
“That was how I got my gas money to go to Nashville and knock on some doors,” said Atkins.
After moving closer to Nashville from Eastern Tennessee, Atkins sang at an establishment and received a few offers from publishing companies and labels and his own recording career began.
Atkins signed with Curb Records in 1996 and worked with different producers, noting that working with producers from Los Angeles and learning about different sounds was very beneficial.
The encouragement from the people and the fans is why Atkins can get up on that stage today.
“It’s me and them together singing songs and I love that,” stated Atkins. “I try to sing songs that people can relate to.
“I want songs about being human; the making mistakes, the good, the pushing through tough times.”
Atkins’ 12-year-old son Elijah has inspired several songs for the country artist and was the inspiration for his track “Watching You” off his sophomore album. Elijah was even the star in the video for the song.
A few days after marrying Rose Falcon, a singer-songwriter, in 2013, Atkins visited a VA hospital and went room to room singing to the veterans.
“She just knows that’s important to me to honor these men and women,” said Atkins. “She supports it, she’s incredible.”
Among touring and planning for a USO tour in the fall, Atkins has continued to write music and has a single out called, “Doin’ it right.”
Atkins will be entertaining fans at the Stanislaus County Fair on Monday, July 14.
“It is a celebration of life, come out and have a good time,” expressed Atkins. “It is a great time to spend time together to forget your troubles and have peace of mind.”
Another musical group that will be entertaining the Central Valley this month and celebrating 50 years on stage after starting back in 1964 is Kool and the Gang.
Robert “Kool” Bell plays bass guitar and is the leader of the band. Two of his brothers are also band members, Ronald “Khalis” Bell and Amir Bayaan.
Over the past 50 years Kool and the Gang have traveled all over the world and have performed with several other artists.
One of the highlights of their career was playing with Elton John at Wembley Stadium in London, England. Another concert that stands out, Bell explained, was an Aids Awareness concert in Kenya where they performed with other local bands.
Two years ago the group did 48 shows with Van Halen, last year they did 10 shows with Kid Rock, they did a few shows with the Dave Matthews Band, and, most recently, they performed just days ago with Bryan Adams in Dublin, Ireland.
“For the past two or three years we have been rocking it out,” stated Bell. “There is music on our record that we have recorded that has a rock edge.
“We do it all; a little rock, pop, funk, jazz.”
With many different influences like Ron Carter the bassist, Reggie Workman, the Jazz Crusaders, Motown bands, Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, the Beatles, just to name a few, Bell explained that they listen to all kinds of music.
In August they will be performing at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles. The group will also be included in the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2015.
“We are Hollywood Swingers,” stated Bell. “We will have a star in LA.”
Kool and the Gang have won several American Music Awards, Grammys, and recently the Golden Camera award in Berlin.
“It’s great going to the award shows because you’re there with your peers and fans and it is always great when you win,” said Bell.
The band has shown no signs of slowing down. They will hit the Bud Light Variety Free Stage on Tuesday, July 15 at the Stanislaus County Fair.
“I love what I am doing and all my band members and partners, we love what we do, and you know, we figure we will still be out there for a little while,” stated Bell.
He added that the performance at the fair will be a high energy show and you can expect hits from the ‘70s and ‘80s ranging from Hollywood Swingers, Jungle Boogie, Funky Stuff, Summer Madness, Ladies Night, Cherish, Get Down On It, Too Hot, and Celebration.
The band will also be recording a new CD for their 50-year celebration and should have the first single out around October or November this year and the entire album will released next year called, “It’s a Celebration, 50 Years of Kool and the Gang” which will feature a few guest artists that have joined them on the project.
There are many other musical guests that will be performing at the fair, which starts its 10-day run on Friday, July 12. For more details visit the website, www.stancofair.com.