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Alumni Association brings free concert

Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012

Updated: Thursday, October 11, 2012 15:10

On Oct. 12 the Alumni Association will host a free homecoming concert featuring Lauren Gray of “American Idol” and the Ohio Players at the Arkansas State University football practice field. Gray opens the show at 7 p.m. followed by The Ohio Players at 8 p.m.

In St. Louis, Mo. Lauren Gray received her golden ticket to Hollywood on the popular television show “American Idol.”  Gray performed Adele’s, “One and Only,” and one of the judges, Jennifer Lopez, was so impressed she summed up the auditions when she said, “I have two words for today. Lauren Gray.”

In late February of this year, the soulful singer was eliminated from “The Final Judgment, Part 1” of season 11 on “American Idol.”  The singer’s last performance on the show was “I’d Rather go Blind,” by the late Etta James, who actually passed away on the exact same day Lauren performed.  Despite the cut, the soulful singer’s voice was still heard by millions.

The “Voice of Spring River” was raised in Pocahontas and grew up with music constantly surrounding her.  At a young age, she started singing backup in the Mike Gray Band, her father’s band.  She learned everything from, blues to gospel, from her father.  It was natural that she would by musically inclined.

    Since her appearance on “American Idol,” Gray has been present on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and has continued to perform locally in Arkansas for benefit shows.  Gray has performed downtown at Play Street Jonesboro, Fayetteville and various other locations.

“I’ve been working here locally in Cherokee at Paradise Studios,” Gray said. “I got about 14 songs recorded.”  Lauren Gray is officially out of the contract with “American Idol” as of Sept. 21, and she hopes to release an album by the end of this year.

Gray will perform songs from different, yet related genres of music, from soul to old school. “I will be singing Adele’s, ‘One and Only’ and ‘Stand by Me.’” Gray also branches out to artists like Pink.

    The second act is a funky, R&B band that made a trademark in the music industry back in the 60s.  The band originally started as the Ohio Untouchables in 1959.  In the beginning of their career, they sung backup for the Falcons.  In 1967, the group decided to take their own route and change their name to the Ohio Players.

    There were four initial members of the band including Clarence “Satch” Satchell and Ralph “Pee Wee” Middlebrook; both are deceased.  Over the years, members like James “Diamond” Williams and Clarence Willis were added on.

    In 1971, the Ohio Players signed with the Detroit-based Westbound label.  They had a hit single, “Pain,” that reached the Billboard R&B Top 40 and “Funky Worm,” which landed No. 1 on the Billboard R&B charts and the top 15 pop charts. 
The group switched to Mercury Records in 1974.  The single, “Fire” reached No.1 on the Rhythm & Blues charts and pop charts.  “Love Rollercoaster” reached No.1 on the R&B and pop charts as well.  In 1976, “Who’d She Coo?” made the No.1 R&B hit.

“I am the only original member besides Clarence Willis and Robert Jones ‘Kuumba,’” said James “Diamond” Williams, who joined in December of 1972.  “We will perform songs like ‘Fire’ and ‘Love Rollercoaster.’”

The concert will be a soulful collaboration.  With Lauren Gray’s oldie, yet blues feel and the Ohio Player’s funky touch, you can’t miss a beat.



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