As December’s season of giving draws closer and closer, parents in the Tuscaloosa community want to ensure their children’s happiness. Typically, this calls for toys, chocolates and Christmas trees. This year, many families simply can’t afford these holiday commodities, as checkbooks are devoted to costs of healing April’s tornado devastation. Luckily, some Bad Boys of Blues want to help.
Friday night at 7:30 p.m., four of the biggest names in Southern Soul – Vick Allen, Omar Cunningham, Jeff Floyd and Wilson Meadows – will combine as the Bad Boys of Blues at the Bama Theatre. Tickets are $25, and can be purchased ahead of time at Marcus McGee at West End Diner, CatFish Heaven off of Greensboro Ave, Oz Records or the box office. After costs are covered, all remaining proceeds will go to a toy drive benefitting children of low-income Tuscaloosa parents.
The Community Network, a local non-profit organization that aims to recognize and solve problems faced by Alabama’s young people, will sponsor the toy drive.
“We concentrate on high-risk kids and offer many services,” said Reggie Kennedy, who founded the Community Network in 1997. “This concert is kicking off our annual toy drive.”
While attendees help their community, they will be serenaded by the sounds of Southern Soul, a genre of music deeply rooted in the blues. The genre also caters to younger audience members.
“We want to appeal to the college kids in Tuscaloosa,” said Jeff Floyd, a musician out of Jacksonville, Fla. “We’ll have the old-school blues with a new twist and new style. It’s a good blend.”
Floyd and his Bad Boy colleagues are all renowned blues artists. Floyd has worked with legendary singer William Bell and found fame upon releasing his hit “I Found Love (On A Lonely Highway).”
Vick Allen, known as the “Velvet Voice of Soul,” has produced music with Grammy-nominated artists such as Bobby Rush and The Canton Spiritual.
Omar Cunningham and Wilson Meadows have been popular Southern Soul musicians for years, and both have multiple records. They contend that it is an honor to play together.
“We want to see each other live and want to learn from each other,” Floyd said. “It’s all part of discovering what makes the crowd holler and jump up and down.”
These four artists are not only brought together by their music, but also by their passion. After all, they are accustomed to playing for much bigger fees. But they believe the call for service and charity is the only true incentive. Allen has driven through Tuscaloosa several times since April.
“I’ve been able to see the devastation first-hand,” Allen said. “To me, it’s an honor to help in any way I can.”
Allen feels that benefit concerts like this can offer more than just toys to a healing Tuscaloosa.
“A lot of people are trying to get back on their feet,” Allen said. “We want to give peoples’ minds a break, even if just for a few hours.”
Floyd is also looking forward to being a part of the community’s healing process. He hopes the band members’ names can help to draw a large charitable crowd.
“We want to pack in and combine all of our crowds,” Floyd said.
Whether attendees are drawn to the concert by a good cause or by good music, the Bad Boys of Blues are aware of Friday’s opportunity to go the extra mile – or extra refrain – to help.
“We all have the feeling that this show is bigger than us,” Allen said.