Performer electrifies stage with Ray Charles’ classics
JENNINGS — Jennings may be a long way from Georgia, but the Peach State will be on everyone’s mind Sunday when Willie Nash and his band brings the Ray Charles tribute show to the historic Strand Theater.
The show will be held 3 p.m. Sunday at the Strand Theatre, 432 N. Main Street. Tickets are $25 and available by contacting Carita Goodreau with Bon Ami Tours at 337-824-7078 or 337-370-2512.
A veteran performer, Nash has spent more than two decades performing with the World Famous Platters tribute band and with the Ray Charles and Company Tribute Show, both based in Branson, Mo.
With an uncanny portrayal of Charles and a talented group of musicians, Nash is keeping the spirit of the late singer-pianist alive through his music and such hits like “Georgia on My Mind,” “I Got a Woman,” “Hit the Road, Jack,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and “You Are My Sunshine.”
Just to keep the show interesting, they toss in Nat King Cole’s “Unforgettable,” Steve Wonder’s “Superstition” and a few hits by Sly and the Family Stone.
“We try to touch everyone and keep it interesting,” he said.
Andre Sheppard will be his special guest performing rhythm and blues classics including the music of the late Marvin Gaye.
Like Charles, Nash has overcome the challenges of being blind after losing his eyesight as a teenager to an untreatable medical condition affecting the optic nerve.
“And I have always been told I sound and look like him,” Nash said.
Nash said music changed his life by being in the right place at the right time.
“After school one day, my friend, Henry Brunfield, asked me to go to his band practice.”
The lead singer did not show up that day and they needed a singer fast, he said. His friend said “Will sings.”
Nash denied his talents until learning the gig paid $25.
“I took the microphone and sang ‘I’ve got sunshine on a cloudy day,’ which was the opening line to the Temptations classic song, “My Girl,” he said.
He got the job and began performing with musical groups in the East Los Angeles area.
As his sight got worse, his music got better and he became a favorite entertainer in southern California before beginning work in Branson with the World Famous Platters, he said.
Today, Nash is electrifying the stage with musical renditions of Charles’ classics including everything from blues and jazz to country and rhythm and blues to create a memorable evening for audiences.
“We anticipate everyone who shows up to the show will have a good time and enjoy some good timeless music that brings back a lot of memories,” Nash said. “Ray Charles music is timeless. It never gets old and it reaches all kinds of ethnic groups because his music, like Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, will always be there.”
Unlike some tribute shows, Nash does not use sound tracks and relays on his own vocals and the music and vocals of his accompanying band.
“We have a lot of fun doing what we do and I call it ‘musicunicating’ — bringing music and communication together so that everyone is having a good time,” he said. “And I love being able to make people smile and be happy.”
At 71, Nash says he is living his life and still having a lot of fun. Being blind has not stopped him.
“I had two choices,” he said. “I could either sit in a room somewhere or live my life.”
He considers his blindness as a “little inconvenience” and has learned to do for himself.
“I can do anything anyone else does, I just have to do it differently,” he said.
The Ray Charles tribute show will be at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Strand Theatre, 432 N. Main St. in Jennings. Tickets are $25 and available by contacting Carita Goodreau with Bon Ami Tours at 337-824-7078 or 337-370-2512.