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​smooth R&B song in the dimly light ambiance of a nightclub; it is safe to say that he is doing what he truly loves to do, sing. I got the opportunity to talk to Tony earlier this year and the end result was an insight into his musical roots and the process that helped shape him as a singer.

LC: How do you define what you do?

Tony: Basically, I believe myself to be a social worker, adviser, motivator, singer, teacher, educator and change agent!

LC: At one point in your career, Tony Harrington and Touch could well have been known as Tony Harrington and the Whalers… (laughs). I am joking here, of course, but realistically, you were a fixture with the Hartford Whalers organization for quite some time. Tell me, if you will, about those years. 

Tony: It was great. In the white community I was recognized for my contributions to the NHL and the Hartford Whalers. When I went to Canada I was recognized and respected. That brought along a significant amount of respect from others including supervisors etc. In fact, during this period I believe African Americans in the Hartford area looked at me favorably because I was the only person of color doing a good job and recognized for it in a predominately white sport. I think some people turned on their television sets to see the beginning of the game. I could not disappoint them

LC: Singing the national anthem in a civic center is serious business; the first reflections or echoes can destroy many a gifted singer, however you seemed to do very well in that environment. How did you maintain your cool?

Tony: I took it very serious. I looked at it as developing ground for me. I sang every game I was supposed to and that has enabled me to believe under any circumstances I will prevail in getting the job done. It has been channeled in the band as well. There have been many instances when I lost my voice but took care of myself to the full extent possible and just got through it. The same holds true for the many times players became unavailable hours before an important gig. I have been able to deal or find a substitute in order to complete the job in a professional manner.

I never assumed I would do well. Each performance was an individual performance that required preparation and dedication.

LC: Seeing that they are so many bloopers out there, where some well intended singers met with some sad, for them, but funny for us, results; Can you share with us, a funny moment that occurred when you were singing the Anthem?

Tony: Many times I asked myself after completing the anthem whether or not I sang the wrong line. I in fact did not but sometimes when the crowd was aroused or just loud I would concentrate on beating them to the punch and I would become a bit more nervous than usual. However, there was an instance when I decided to sing the Canadian anthem in French around New Year’s Eve. What happened was we were playing in the Civic Center from say 5-7 and then I ran out to sing the anthem. I started out okay and then forgot the words. The crowd was stunned (but not more than me)! I hummed along because there was no way anyone could help me. There were many mouths trying but I could hear nothing. I died two deaths on the ice that night. But then something great happened. After what seemed an eternity I latched onto the remaining lines and finished strong. I tore the last section up and the crowd was very appreciative. They always enjoyed me taking the challenged of singing in another language and I enjoyed it as well. That was the first and only time thus far that I lost it. I don’t know how many times I have sung the anthem but I have been singing it regularly since August 1984. I am very proud of my involvement and feel very patriotic as a result.

LC: How did you become interested in singing and did you come up singing in the church or nightclubs like most R&B singers?

Tony: I came up singing in church. When I was 11 years old, Rhani and I along with my brother and his sister formed the H & H singers. We used to sing in Hartford, CT and Springfield, MA. Then we formed a band while we went to Westminster School during the summer before high school.

The difference with me is that I didn’t get serious or busy with groups until I joined Sounds of the North End in 1973. My problem was that I was more a classical singer at that time. Ms. Campbell, who was the choir director and others at Hartford Public High School, were giving me singing opportunities but they were for Madrigal Singing and stuff like that. So when I joined a band everybody used to look at my nose and ask me why my nose always expanded when I sang. That infuriated me!

LC: I suppose that the nose expanding has something to do with Madrigal singing or training technique, right?

Tony: I guess it does have something to do with my singing earlier on in my career while singing for Dr. Mack who headed up the Hartford Youth Chorale Ensemble. I loved singing those songs. You know, now that I think of it, it is probably one reason why I have sought to challenge myself to learn songs in other languages. I never thought about this before you posed the question. Hmm…..

LC: It was always easy for us to spot singers that were trained in a formal setting even if they had soul. They were always thought to annunciate and breath right and be prim and proper but singing in a band thought you how to get it right as far as the feeling and soul was concerned. You certainly put in the time in both places.

Tony: You know that’s interesting. I love to sing and I love for the songs that I perform to mean something to the audience that I perform for. I’m what is termed old school in that sense. Songs have to have meaning. I was just on a radio show with (John) Sabastian and he was arguing with me about the ending of the anthem and he felt it should not be moved in any way, shape or form. My argument was that I am an emotional singer and I sing best when I can articulate through that forum of understanding. I’d actually like to be more emotional. I think I am in too much control. I’d prefer to let loose-I just can’t bring myself to that point. Anyway, back to Sabastian. I told him that I sing with emotion and spirit. He said the anthem is not a spirited or emotional song. I questioned him on that and stood my ground because I interpret the song with a mild diversion of the standard manner of singing it. That’s me.

LC: Let’s talk about your band, Touch, for a moment. Several gifted musicians have played with your band over the years, can you talk about some of them here for the readers who may not be familiar with past members of Touch?

Tony: Ethan Mann was one player who I enjoyed performing with. He was a guitar player who moved to NY for bigger and better projects. Odel Crawford was also another gifted player on keyboards. Steve Muse brought the keyboard bass feel to the group. He could have been a permanent fixture with the group but that’s how things work out. You, Lionel Crawford, was also a former player with the group on guitar. In your capacity as a very creative force I believe you never got your due with this group. Your strength, in my opinion, is your artistry, your creativity and your challenge to make innovative beginnings and endings to songs so they flow with precision and professionalism. Scott Dawley on keyboards was another great player, performer with this group. Chris Davis is arguably the finest pound for pound keyboard player that has entered this group. Carnegie Clapp from Waterbury, has also played for us in our early years. Sonny Repass was a phenomenal saxophone player who worked with us for approximately 7 or 8 years. Patricia Thompson was with the group since our inception until about three years ago. She was and still is a great performer with a very special gift and is one of the greatest singers this region has produced. Anika Rose, who just won a Tony Award two years ago, performed for our group for a few years in between attending Florida A & M University. I knew she would be something. She had vision, talent, determination and IT. She had IT and ultimately the right people saw IT. Now she is off and running. She came to a show last year that I performed in. I felt like now I am the student. It was a very interesting revelation.

LC: I remember Anika. We all worked together on the material for Fleet Bank. She is a beautiful person. You just brought back memories. You know, Chris is a hell of a player. You have had some great musicians in your band over the years. There are players that come and go, sidemen so to speak, but what about the nucleus of the group, those guys that are certified, that have always been there?

Tony: actually, I have the distinction of working with some of the best musicians in this area right now! On vocals one of the original members of Tony Harrington & Touch is Ms. Daphne Falconer. She keeps us close to our roots. Her style exemplifies a mixture of reggae with neo-soul influence. Also, I have worked with Phil Franco on Drums, John “Noodle” Nevin on Bass, Dan McNamarra on Keyboards and Saxophone and you and Tony Lee on Guitars. Vocalist Patricia Thompson and Barbara Fowler sit in with the band occasionally and bring an enormous level of experience and talent to the group.  

LC: Let me change the subject and ask you where did the name Touch come from? 

Tony: Scott Dawley named the group many years ago and it stuck.

LC: Let’s talk a bit about your singing style. You seem opened to anything, like the time you did a rendition of Prince’s “The Most Beautiful Girl In The World” completely using falsetto and you are a Baritone, right? Your style can easily be compared to that of singers James Ingram, Larry Graham or Lou Rawls. Would you agree? 

Tony: Yes. Unfortunately, I stopped growing at the pace I needed to in this group. I need rehearsal. I’m just not a wood shedder. I grow in practice but we don’t do that often so I’m sort of stuck right now. I love singing many styles. I think that is one reason why I gravitated to learning other languages when I had the opportunity to sing national anthems for other nations. 

LC: Quick! Name 3 of your favorite singers?

Tony: You just named all three of my favorite singers!

 LC: Woooooh. Okay, okay…then tell me why they are your favorites?

Tony: Lou Rawls because he sang songs that I enjoyed and they all had meaning. They told stories. Larry Graham because he sang from the heart. I sing best when I can feel the song. James Ingram I absolutely love because he has the flexibility in his voice I once enjoyed but now dream about.

LC: Well you know I had to bring this up; track nine from the Marion Meadows “Next To You” CD, can you share the experience of cutting that lead vocal on “Spend My Life” and is there anything similar in the works?

Tony: Yes, if we can put something together. I honestly feel I have deprived myself by not taking advantage of the studio I have continued to update but not record in. There is something in the works with my cousin and it may very well happen-but you know how that goes. I have had people email me from Detroit and other places who absolutely enjoyed that song. I just wish I could have parlayed that into something else.

LC: Well you already know how much I like the song, plus I love the Quincy Jones production polish your cousin, Yasha, used on his production to make the rhythm tracks shine and you and Marion were great. Tony thanks for stopping by.

Tony: Lionel, thank you for asking me these questions, it has been rewarding for me to go back and retrace some of these experiences. I have been very fortunate to work with some very talented people. The good news is that I still enjoy performing and I want to continue if I can for as long as I can.

© 2006 LCM Productions

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 the wood, steel and electronics he fondly refers to as his guitar. If you went to high school or college in the late seventies in New England or checked out the music scene of the late seventies, early eighties; or checked out  today’s Gospel festivals, you would realize that he has been here, singing and playing, all this time.

LC: Thank you for finally doing this interview. Let me start by asking, what influenced you to start playing guitar? 

Roland: I would have to say Black Magic Woman by Santana, and almost any rock song that had a catchy guitar hook from the early seventies. I believe context wise, Santana was like Jr Walker with a guitar and tone. He was not just an instrumentalist but instead more like a vocalist with a hook and chorus; but with a fat tone guitar. Plus, the guitar intro to Black Magic Woman just grabbed me.

LC: Santana was definitely a strong influence on me also. Do you remember your first guitar and the body style, brand, stuff like that? Also, When you were in a position to buy your guitar of choice, what did you get and why? 

Roland: If I recall, my first serious guitar was a solid body pure white Washburn. I only kept it about six weeks though because I caught this sweet deal on a beautiful black Fender Strat. It had a small chip in the finish on the bottom edge. I really went to work on that baby. I had that guitar in my hands so much; my wife got jealous of it. When I fell asleep with it, still in my hands one night, she threatened to burn it (smiles). I know Jimi Hendrix was my influence on that brand. Oddly enough Santana played a Les Paul.....Go figure. 

LC: Over time you have shared stories about growing up down south. How did that experience play a role in your total sound or shaping you as an artist? 

Roland: I think the biggest influence of that southern environment was the prevalence of music. See, the south has a musical rhythm that's just always there. Not just on special occasions or weekends but every hour of every day. We would sometimes have an impromptu talent show right in the field while we worked. So when you see someone playing a washboard, or spoons or a washtub bass, I think it was because that music just had to get out of you somehow. The guitar was the king daddy of all and if you played one well.....ah man, people would congregate on your front porch just to listen. I would just soak it all in. But to be honest, the music scene in Hartford around the 60's and 70's kind of solidified my desire to be a musician. Man, Hartford was burning hot during that era. I guess music was the commonality of that generation, huh?

LC: Yes. I agree. Hartford produced some great bands and musicians, during that period that made a mark on the national and international scene. The legend of Tony Bowen from Tony Bowen and the Soul Choppers comes to mind. I never got to meet him in person but met him through his music and stories I heard from other musicians, like Emanuel King and Philip Andrews. On the other hand I could sit and listen for days to Jackie Mclean tell stories about the American jazz scene and I was able to do that because Jackie brought that history with him to Hartford. Any other particular memories from the south come to mind? 

Roland: I have a cousin in N.C. (North Carolina) named Joe that was born blind. Joe was considered to be a musical prodigy because he could not only play almost any kind of instrument; he was a fantastic singer as well. I took Tony Bowen and The Soul Choppers' 45 'Don't Be So Mean' down with me and he freaked out on how good Tony and the group sounded. He played that song over and over. He called Tony the best sax player he had ever heard. 
That song became the yard stick around here by which all of the up and coming sax players were measured. Good Days.

LC: Wow! that was so powerful. That 45, “Don’t Be So Mean” influenced a lot of musicians. I actually played the song in a band called “The Standing Ovations” for quite some time before actually hearing the record. I had learned the guitar part from Sam Car, Mike Foy and Emanuel King. I was use to hearing the song played live; in a band with a lot of power so when I heard the recording, on a very small record player, I thought it was great but I was a bit disappointed. Any musician that has ever played in a band would know what I am talking about. Then one day I was in my studio listening to Mink on WQTQ, the Hartford Board of Education station at Weaver High, Mink said he was going to play the song so I had time to turn up the radio on a good stereo. The energy that came off of that recording and the way it made me feel was unbelievably strong. Roland, don’t get me started. I am supposed to be interviewing you, so let me stick to the questions. Can you come forward a bit and share some of your other musical experiences? 

Roland: While stationed in North Dakota, as far as being a guitarist, not to be immodest, I was the big fish in a little pond. Little did I know I was in for a rude awakening when I had come back to Connecticut after my stint in the military; I was floored by all the good guitarist that were around. That includes you, Skip McDonald, Perry Hendrick, Ernest Cotten and of course Eli. The list is only partial but you get my point.

LC: Can I throw in some other guitar players like Eddie Smith, Slim from Berry Williams and the Soul Sets? How about Greg Gillespie, Rodney Redden and Jeffrey Mitchell? Yes, the list could go on.

Roland: I felt like I had to go into the woodshed and sharpen up my skills just to hang with you dudes. I'll never forget the first time I heard you play and I was like "that dude sounds just like the record" on whatever song Pok’ Chop was playing. (laughs). I took a few lessons and kept on pushing; playing in God knows how many start-up bands but never getting to that one with that “ready for the world” point. Know what I mean? It was a real highlight when I became a member of Pressure Point. 

LC: Why was that?

Roland: Cause y'all was probably the hottest band around at that time. Despite what I considered to be somewhat of a rough start between us, I always felt like you were a great talent, still do, and a great friend, still do, and a great Teecha, still are. I totally enjoyed those times.

LC: I am glad you did, minus the “rough start” business, (laughs). I definitely want to cover that but perhaps during a Pressure Point revisited interview. Did listening to records have any effect on your musical attitude?

Roland: I remember when I was a young fellow living on Bedford St. in Hartford; just listening to music in my room, like some of those old Motown Revue live albums. I would be transported man, envisioning myself one day being on stage like that; music tight, singing tight, you know what I mean, “A Smokin' Band” ultimately making records, hearing myself on the radio. I have to say that the majority of those dreams came true for me with Pressure Point. Well, on a smaller scale of course but none the less, true. See, for me singing was like breathing, it was elemental. But, I was almost willing to give it up and just be a guitarist. In Pressure Point I had the opportunity to do both and believe me I felt like I was doing what I was born to do.

LC: I want to get back to the Pressure Point Days and talk about you, as a vocalist and also about that wicked first leg of the duet guitar solo, on "Come Inside" which we both played on. It was the second time we had gone into the Gallery Recording Studio, East Hartford, CT to record Come Inside. The first time the song was faster and more festive but had technical issues that I was not particularly happy with, however, the second time was the charm. What was your experience like during that time?

Roland: When we went into the studio and started recording "Come Inside", that was pure unadulterated orgasmic euphoria. I was a little awed by the process but strangely, not intimated, because we were well prepared, especially with the singing parts. I almost lost it there for a minute when you said to record that lead guitar part. I don't think I was expecting that, but it was totally cool conceptually because I realized after a moment or two it was something you had planned.
In hindsight I'm glad you didn't tell me, I didn't have time to fret about it, (pun intended). If I never thanked you for that let me say it now. Thanks Brother.........some of the best days of my life. I'll never forget that feeling man, when I heard that thing (Come Inside) for the first time on WKND. Wow!

LC: What is your focus, musically, these days?

Roland: These days my focus is mainly Gospel. God has blessed me in many, many ways and I feel compelled to give back something. I don't intent to isolate myself from other genres of music but man it seems like some of the best musical talent and creativity has migrated to Gospel. In Gospel you are not measured by that superficial “IT” factor that the major labels are looking for so much. Even if you are not considered to be eye candy you can still sing and play and inspire and uplift. I love that factor.

Interview of Roland Carter Sr. by Lionel Crawford

Originally published 5/28/10

Riffman1: The Roland Carter Sr. Interview 
I have been promising for a long time to do an interview with Roland, but somehow it never seemed to come together. One summer, I got as far as to take a picture of him, for the project. I put it up on my web site and boldly proclaimed, “Interview Coming Soon” but it didn't. It simply came down to time and opportunity, so I had to steal a little time and make the opportunity. Who is Roland Carter Sr.? He is quiet and unassuming, if you take the time to engage him, you will hear about interesting life experiences either in his own words or through his musical conversations from...
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Tony Harrington 
Roland Carter Sr.

Survival is like a mother’s child 
Clinging to her breast.
The only hope for life
To be natured, to grow, to learn, to know
To sprout forth new fruit
Creating newborns
Like a mother’s child

Written by Lionel Crawford
Appears on Vent by PoeticWorkz
Lionel Crawford
©1980, 2000 Lionel Crawford. Used by permission. 
A place to share  my Art, Music, Words and Creativeness with you. Welcome to lionelcrawford.com 
(c) 2013 -2017 Lionel Crawford
Energy takes form, 
similar energy takes on similar form,
All hurricanes look similar
so too do all human beings
- Teecha
                                          Hippie Rockso  

I recently ran into Hippie Rocko, aka Nowonosous, aka Mervin Cotten cooling out at Wimbash 2013. Hartford, CT. He was checking out the performances while celebrating his brother, Ernest Cotten’s birthday. I thought how cool is that, hanging out with your big brother on his birthday? I took a break from blinding folks with the strobe from my camera and hung out with them for awhile. We reminisced about music, good times on Homewood Place in Charter Oak and felt the vibes from some good people and great music. I realized that, through conversation, we conjured up the past and although we mentally revisited it, physically it was obvious we could not. It was torn down. All gone. A line from the Joni Mitchell song, “Big Yellow Taxi” came rushing to mind, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” Here was Mervin, a grown man now, from that place where he and Ernest once listened and played music, but now he was creating his own music, his own paradise. 

Lionel: What or who got you started in Music?
Hippie: That big record player we had in the living room growing up in C.O.T (Charter Oak Terrace). Ernest Cotten was very inspirational also.

Name three of your favorite artist?
Jimi Hendrix, J Dilla and Rage Against The Machine.

Wow, that was a fast response. It seems like you didn’t even have to think about it. Okay, but why those three?

Hendrix took guitar as far as it is going to go. The rest are copy cats! Dilla is the best Hip Hop producer because of his expressiveness and Rage has the hardness I like when it comes to feeling. I like my sound to have that hard edge. All three are the ultimate to me and all three are my biggest inspirations.

I realize that there are a lot of young artists and producers who grew up creating music using only samples and computers. I know that you create music utilizing computer based programs like most musicians do in home studios today; but do you also play any traditional instruments?

As long as I don’t have to blow into it, I can play any instrument, some better than others; guitar bass, drums, keys, etc.

Can you briefly describe your beat making and production process?

I use FL STUDIO, proudly, and I do everything in it; record, produce, mix, master…everything!

You mentioned your brother Ernest as being an inspiration to you; and I know there must have been times perhaps when, as a younger brother, you got into his record collection or played his favorite guitar just a little too long. You both get along very well. Will there be any collaboration between you and him in the future? 

Definitely in the future, now that I got Bro turned on to this virtual wave…ha!

Your twitter feed and soundcloud account support the fact that you are constantly creating beats and producing tracks. Is there a track that you would select as a good representation of your skill as a producer, and can you provide a link so people can check out your work?(Hippie pauses then brings up the following link on the computer then replies.)

No guns and drugs over here, always positive vibes.

Hippie can be found on twitter at http://www.twitter.com/NOWONOSOUS/status/453088146335334402 http://www.soundcloud.com/hippie-rockso and http://www.reverbnation.com/nowonosous‎

Thanks for making time to do this short interview.

© 2014 lionelcrawford.com

Back To Words
Lionel: What or who got you started in Music?
Hippie: That big record player we had in the living room growing up in C.O.T (Charter Oak Terrace). Ernest Cotten was very inspirational also.

Name three of your favorite artist?
Jimi Hendrix, J Dilla and Rage Against The Machine...(more)
Hippie Rockso
Thanks for checking out the site. If you would like to leave a comment please do so below or through my twitter feed
The Jus Us Band is simply an amazingly gifted group of singers and musicians with one aim, to bring the best show possible to their audience, which always includes family, friends and fans and with Jus Us, the categories are so synonymous.

Consider this, they consistently played the Mohegan Sun's Wolf Den performing music from the great American music song book, the Rhythm and Blues, the sounds of the Motor City. Heart warming, infectious music from a time when music was the perfect sound track to our lives. 

Jus Us Band plays music from the sixties to the present, ensuring the audience has a good time.
Vocalist Rex Greene, Kevin Ray Baskerville and James Mclloyd step into the spotlight with harmonies just as tight as their choreography and outfits. Band leader, Michael Gaynor pulls double duty on keyboards and vocals. Earnest Ford anchors the group on bass and vocals while Trevor Pitts, a master technician,  locks in the groove on drums. Ray Moore provides melodic flavor on saxophone and flute. The latest addition to the line up is guitarist Lionel Crawford, who brings a rhythmically interesting style of playing to the group.

Jus Us Band resonates with everyone, From the youth to the mature; a fact which lead on air personality Alicia Cosby from radio station WEBI, while on stage after the band had just appeared at a music festival in Springfield, MA to say, "you know a band is great when it has young people dancing to the Temptations and older people dancing to Bruno Mars and Pharrell." 

 What is interesting is that Jus Us has developed a dedicated following through the years, without having a major record deal, or hit record. What they do have, is a great show and a very musically tight group of musicians. 

The group's fan base keeps up with the band through social media and the band's website jususband.com so feel free to log on and get acquainted with this fabulous group of entertainers; better yet, catch a show. 
Jus Us Band
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