The Legends of Soul Tribute Show is a group of individuals who impersonate ““ well ““ legends of soul.
This very talented group of guys and gals, put on nothing short of a true Las Vegas style show, with each impersonator in full character during their entire set, and many performers playing multiple characters.
As droves of young and old crowded into Thunder Valley Casino Resort‘s Pano Hall on Saturday, radio personality, and the evenings emcee Nick Harper thanked everyone for coming out to the show, as well as Thunder Valley Casino for providing such a great venue.
The Legends of Soul kicked off their 2+ hour extravaganza with the legendary Sam Cooke played by Elijah Sterling (Get it? Legends of Soul ““ legendary Sam Cooke. I know, it cracked me up too.) Cooke dressed in a powder blue suit with matching hat, sang “Cupid” and “Twist the Night Away,” easily two of Cooke’s greatest hits from the early “’60s.
Following Cooke was Jackie Wilson, played by John Hampton. Wilson was known as Mr. Excitement due to his dynamic dance moves while onstage. Hampton didn’t disappoint as he took the stage by storm, dancing much like Wilson. Singing “You Keep Lifting Me Higher” and “Baby Workout,” Hampton delivered a high energy performance.
Wilson Pickett, played by Dwayne Thompson, delivered a soulful performance of “Mustang Sally,” followed by “In the Midnight Hour,” two of Pickett’s biggest hits.
The Legends of Soul wouldn’t be complete without the Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin, played by Samantha Richardson. A gentleman, accompanying Franklin on stage, removed a white fur she had draped around her neck and left the stage as she belted out “Chains of Fools” and “Rock Steady.” Franklin finished off her set with an extremely well done rendition of “Respect.”
The O’Jays arrived on stage singing “Love Train” and “Back Stabbers.” The trio was in perfect synchronization their entire set and sounded eerily familiar to the original O’Jays.
The Stylistics and The Dramatics also performed later in the show. Both groups performed flawlessly while they danced in-step with each other, lending to their credible performance.
Needing no introduction due to the silky tone and song choice, Lou Rawls, played by Russell Branch, came out singing “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine,” followed by “Lady Love.” I believe I saw a woman or two faint, he was that good.
So the show continued with one legend after another. Some audience members were lost in the moment, as I’m sure they were thinking back to those long forgotten memories, or maybe they were just dosing ,as some folks in the crowd were just a tad on the old side.
Other stars that shared the stage were Curtis Mayfield, Marvin Gaye, Al Green, Patti Labelle, and Stevie Wonder.
Most notable was John Hampton coming out as Stevie Wonder. Lending to the credible performance was Producer Rudolph Peter’s as he guided Wonder to his keyboard, taking Wonder’s hand and guiding it to the keyboard and microphone to ensure Wonder knew where they were. Complete with the sound of Wonder, Hampton’s performance included all the mannerisms of the legend.
Every performer did an excellent job staying in character and singing just like the real thing. The real standouts of the show, and mostly forgotten in the background, was the band, as they played a wide variety of hits throughout the night.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see this group of talented individuals performing in Las Vegas at some point in the future. They pack in the people, they love what they do, and they do it well.
Complete Cast in order of Appearance:
Master of Ceremony: Nicholas Harper
Sam Cooke: Elijah Sterling
Jackie Wilson ““ John Hampton
Wilson Pickett: Dwayne Thompson
Aretha Franklin: Samantha Richardson. Background Dee Johnson and Dewanna Slaughter
The O’Jays: Charles Boomer, David Lige, and Lionel Burns
Lou Rawls: Russell Branch
Curtis Mayfield: Elijah Sterling
Marvin Gaye: Chase Ruffin
Al Green: Lionel Burns
The Dramatics: James Hill, Stan Lockwood, Rodney James, Douglas Stepney, and Chase Ruffin
Patti Labelle: Dee Johnson ,background – Samantha Richardson, and Dewanna Slaughter
Stevie Wonder: John Hampton
The Stylistics: Ralph Greene (lead vocals), background- Elijah Sterling, Rodney James, and David Lige
Michael Jackson: Thurman Conners
Band: (Lead Guitar) Richard Cravalho, (Drummer) Rich Aguon, (Bass Guitar) Darrel Broadnax, (Keyboard Left) Archie White, (Keyoard Right) Earnest Nation, and (Congo) Glen Austin
Producer: Rudolph Peters
Prior to the show, Glenda Gonzales and Bart Ruud, co-chairs for the charity organization Arts and Kids, thanked everyone in attendance for their support. They also presented a plaque to the United Auburn Indian Community for their efforts in bringing this, the second annual, charity event to Thunder Valley Casino Resort.
Arts and Kids comprises three charitable organizations; Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center, Boys & Girls Club of Auburn, and Friends of Vinh Son Montagnard Orphanage.
Ok, enough. Back to the show!
Johnny and Dee, along with the band known as The Rhythm Riders, were flawless in their delivery of hits. The band included David Johnston (guitar), Larry Tracy (guitar, dobro), Brett Boyle (bass), and Charlie (drummer).
Starting off the show was Dee with the mostly older crowd erupting into cheers as she started singing Patsy Cline’s “Walkin’ After Midnight,” followed by “That’s How a Heartache Begins.”
Dee belted out hit after hit with her smooth, crystal clear vocals. She sounded wickedly similar to Patsy
Cline and the audience simply ate it up.
Dee performed a complete set of fifteen songs ending with “Blue Moon of Kentucky.”
After a brief intermission Johnny opened up his set with “Folsom Prison Blues.” He thanked the audience for being there for charity, pointing out the importance of organizations such as the Cinh Son Montagnard Orphanage that helps under privileged children in Vietnam.
In between songs Johnny would talk about The Man in Black and provide a bit of historical content around some of the songs. After “Folsom Prison Blues,” he explained how Cash had to introduce himself when he performed at Folsom Prison, leading Cash to introduce himself at all his performances.
As for Johnny’s vocals? In a word – perfection. If you closed your eyes you would have thought Cash himself was up there singing.
Johnny even worked in many of the mannerisms of Cash, like the way he handled the guitar and sang into the mic.
Johnny performed over twenty songs, Dee came back onstage to help out towards the end. Specifically for the song “Jackson,” which Cash originally performed with his wife June Carter Cash.
The Rhythm Riders Back in Black show is the real deal with a Vegas feel. Johnny Cash’s only drummer for 37 years, W.S. “Fluke” Holland, flew in from Jackson, Tennessee last year to join them onstage at their Thunder Valley debut.
You can catch the The Rhythm Riders starting in March, and running for 16 weeks, at Harrah’s Reno.
About Auburn Placer Performing Arts Center:
The Objective of APPAC is to raise the funds necessary for the acquisition, design and reconstruction of the State Theatre and to maintain funding for the continuing operation of a state-of-the-art regional performing arts center within the 1930-vintage State Theatre located in Historic Downtown Auburn.
About Boys & Girls Club of Auburn:
Boys & Girls Club of Auburn provides hope and opportunity to many Auburn area youth. The Club offers our members what they need and want most: adults who respect and listen to them; a safe environment where they can have fun and be themselves; and interesting, constructive activities that channel their energy into challenging pursuits.
Our Club members benefit from a broad range of programs offered daily with our trained, caring, professional staff and volunteers who help them take control of their lives, envision productive futures and achieve their goals.
About Friends of Vinh Son Montagnard Orphanage:
Raise resources (cash and in-kind gifts) to directly benefit the children. The orphanage is administered by The Sisters of the Miraculous Medal who, with our help, provide:
- Primary and secondary education
- Life skills to ensure the children become self sufficient
- A safe environment
- Food, clothing, shelter and medical care