So, Nuttycombe, you think you were brilliant? Stand back.
For reasons still unclear, I was booked to sit on a jury of five for WHUR 96.3 FM’s R&B talent showcase June 21 at the Crossroads nightclub in Bladensburg. A nice fellow named Alton Gayle called me from Crossroads June 19 and asked whether I would be willing to serve on this august panel to select a winner from 14 finalists—11 vocalists, two comedians, and one dancer—who had emerged from as many weeks of semifinals at the club. This was the radio station’s third round of finals in the past year; the winner would get $1,000 and six hours of recording time at Nice and Tight Productions’ studios. What the winner will do with a scant six hours is beyond me; I’m guessing the folks were there to win the lettuce.
Our hosts, DJs Lorna Newton and Doug Gilmore, got things going promptly at 9 p.m. and kept the show moving steadily, wrapping up by 10:45. Comedians and dancers got five minutes; singers, three. When the first contestant, comedian Daniel Engle, came out onstage, I wished he had been limited to three minutes. He was the only white guy competing, and, I must say, he had a profuse way with cliches. He ventured into the heavily explored differences between black women’s behinds versus those of white women (“flat as a board and easy to nail”). The crowd, especially the women, whooped. We judges, however, fed the funny man to the lions.
The other comedian, David Carter, also had some tired-
ass schtick—pun intended. He claimed to have been injured by
a black woman’s rear end while servicing her. “I was suckin’ on the one butt cheek,” he said, “and the other butt cheek kept
slappin’ me in the face.” More womanly whoops. But he did manage a sharp bit about Robert Johnson’s proposed DC Air enterprise that, by contrast, made Democratic Minnesota Rep. James L. Oberstar’s “plantation” remark about Johnson’s plan seem like an endorsement. We decided to let him live, but he
didn’t get the prize.
When coronation time came, I personally was torn between Linda Campbell, who sounded more like Gladys Knight singing “Neither One of Us (Wants to be the First to Say Goodbye)” than Knight does herself, and Vernon Charles, who channeled Sam Cooke—and left us bleeding. But Craig Crawley, who got the most points in three 25-point categories (technical skill, showmanship, and presentation), ran a rendition of “Don’t Say Goodbye” by Walter Beasley and clinched the deal by rising to the song’s climax and passionately ripping off his necktie as a tide of sweat crested off his large frame. This man was brilliant. Whoops galore.—Bradford McKee