Something very touching happened toward the end of my interview with the three original members of the Monday Night Allstars for this week's cover story. Percussionist Jim Brock, bassist Rick Blackwell, guitarist Joe Lindsay and I were sitting around a picnic table at Common Market in Plaza Midwood, where the three had been regaling me with stories about their band's 22-year run of weekly shows at the Double Door Inn, which closed in January. (The band has since taken its act to the Visulite Theatre.)
Lindsay, 49, turned to his elder statesmen band mates Brock, 64, and Blackwell, 62, and then to me.
"Is that recorder still on?" Lindsay said.
"The reason I asked is because — and this is for the record — I just wanted to say to Jim and Rick that I really appreciate that y'all asked me to be a part of the Monday Night Allstars," Lindsay continued. "Because didn't nobody know me in Charlotte at that time. I was new in town, a young guy in my 20s who'd just moved here, and you gave me a chance."
Blackwell's face softened to a rare smile. "Well, your playing did that," he said to Lindsay. "Believe me."
Brock took the ball from there. "Oh man, the band suffers on the nights when you can't make it, Joe," Brock said. "It's not the same band."
It was a sweetly honest show of gratitude from a terrific guitarist who's gone on to tour regularly with stars like Stephanie Mills, play on Calvin Richardson's Top 20 R&B album of 2008 When Love Comes, and perform live and in the studio with R&B legends Nappy Brown and Roy C as well as younger R&B acts including Charlotte's K-Ci & JoJo and Anthony Hamilton.
Lindsay just wanted to make sure his gratitude was on the record. And here it is. Deservedly.
The exhange says a lot about this group of musicians who play hard every week simply because they love to play.
The first time I saw the Monday Night Allstars I had relocated back to North Carolina from New York. My friend Teresa Hernandez, the owner of Pura Vida Worldly Arts, had introduced me to Brock, who would come into her store for coffee every morning. Teresa invited me to go see them with her. All I knew was that they played R&B covers. Sounded fun. I didn't have great expectations.
The Monday Night Allstars blew me away. At the time, they were a little more than a decade into their run at the Double Door, which began in 1995. Their original singer, the late, great Charles Hairston, was still with the band, performing jaw-dropping dance moves onstage, skittering off the stage to dance with or sing to various women in the audience.
With the rock-solid rhythm section of Blackwell on bass, Chris Allen behind the drum kit and Brock on congas, the Allstars were not just an R&B cover band: they played an eclectic mix that ranged from a deeply funky, jazz-fueled version of Earth, Wind & Fire's "Shining Star" to a sublimely soulful take on Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready." Lindsay, wearing a Jimi Hendrix T-shirt, ripped out wailing guitar solos while saxophonist John Alexander wailed along next to him, often moving from alto to tenor.
It was no surprise that tears were in eyes of Charlotte music fans throughout the Double Door Inn on the night the storied club closed after 43 years in early January of this year. We weren't just mourning the loss of the Double Door; we were mourning the loss of the Monday Night Allstars at the Double Door.
Fortunately, the Monday Night Allstars are not gone. They're still performing every Monday night at the Visuite. It's not the same Double Door vibe, but it's the same Monday Night Allstars passion, and the venue is perfect for them. But if more people don't start coming out to see them, as they did at the Double Door, the Visulite won't be able to sustain these Monday night shows. And if the shows stop, Charlotte will suffer. Big time. The Monday Night Allstars are that essential to the Charlotte music scene.
As Brock tells me in the story, "This town, it tears down a lot of shit. You should at least try to keep some traditions going."
When I heard the Monday Night Allstars needed support to keep going, I didn't hesitate to book space for a cover story. The history of this band is a history of Charlotte music, and it's well worth knowing about. Maybe if those of you who never knew about the Monday Night Allstars read it, you'll become the next generation of Monday Night Allstars fans.
The ball is in your court now.