If you go
What: Love & Laughter Tour - R&B singer-songwriter Charlie Wilson with comedian Rickey Smiley
When: Saturday, doors open at 7 p.m. with the show starting at 8 p.m.
Where: North Charleston Coliseum, 5001 Coliseum Drive
For more info: www.northcharlestoncoliseumpac.com
Great comedy and music go very well together, especially when delivered with a touch of soul, a dose of romance and a sense of togetherness.
On Saturday, the North Charleston Coliseum will host a showcase of Southern-styled urban humor along with a few sets of smooth R&B and classic funk when the Love & Laughter Tour lands in the Lowcountry.
Charlotte's Variety Entertainment Promotions and 93.3 JAMZ have teamed up to present vocalist Charlie Wilson, formerly of the Gap Band, and stand-up comedian, actor and radio personality Rickey Smiley of the nationally syndicated "The Rickey Smiley Morning Show" on the Coliseum stage on Saturday.
Headed by promoter Leo Bennett, Variety Entertainment formed in 1994. Over the past 20 years, the company has presented a variety of musical acts at large concert venues and festivals. They regularly swing through the Charleston area with impressive rosters.
"We often try to pull from various genres of music in an attempt to bring the young and old together, using old-school R&B, hip-hop and contemporary music," Bennett says. "We try to bring things all together at each festival or concert. Radio stations in each market usually partner with us to create annual events."
Bennett dabbled in piano and church groups before getting into the promotion and booking side of the music biz. These days, he puts an awful lot of time and effort into the live event promotion game, maintaining a passion for providing high-quality entertainment around the Southeast.
Variety Entertainment brought Wilson to the Lowcountry to co-headline the annual FunkFest concert at the Family Circle Stadium in 2010 on a lively bill featuring Keith Sweat, Bell Biv Devoe and Heavy D.
In 2009, the company booked the Legends of Hip-Hop showcase at the North Charleston Performing Arts Center with a bill of Doug E Fresh, Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick, Whodini and Rob Base.
Some of the company's most recent Love & Laughter showcases have featured such popular R&B and soul acts as Erykah Badu, Fantasia, John Legend, KEM and Mint Condition.
As Bennett puts it, "Our main goal is to provide an outlet through entertainment for people to let their hair down and enjoy themselves in an organized and professional environment."
Charlie Wilson's funk
As the lead singer of the Gap Band, Wilson's musical roots dig into the soul, funk, disco-pop and R&B of the 1970s and early '80s. After successfully battling addiction problems and a bout with cancer in the 2000s, he's bounced back into full action over the last few years with a positive attitude and an invigorated approach to singing, collaborating and performing.
Wilson's first serious group, the Gap Band, started out in his native city of Tulsa, Okla., in the early 1970s as a project among siblings. Charlie and his brothers, Ronnie and Robert, were teenagers when they first began singing together at church. Initially billed as the Greenwood, Archer and Pine Street Band, they eventually shortened it to the Gap Band, aka G.A.P. Band, by the time they made their first recordings in the mid '70s.
With Wilson's rich voice out front, the Gap Band hit its stride around 1980. The band scored four No. 1 R&B hits in the early '80s with "Burn Rubber (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)," "Early in the Morning," "Outstanding" and "Addicted to Your Love."
The cheerful, party-scene music videos for the band's foxy, synth-heavy, dance-beat classics "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" (1982) and "Party Train" (1983) were featured in MTV's earliest playlists alongside those of Michael Jackson, Kool & the Gang and Lionel Richie.
With its hypnotic bass line, steady 4/4 dance beat, and amusingly cheesy sound effects of a bomb being dropped from the sky, "You Dropped a Bomb on Me" is still one of the Gap Band's most popular tunes among fans. The synthesizers resembled those of new wave and techno contemporaries at the time, but the soulful groove and Wilson's raspy tone harked back to funk's raunchy heyday.
Despite changing musical directions and adjusting the emphasis from funk to pop, the Gap Band gradually faded from the spotlight in the late '80s and early '90s. Wilson ventured into a solo career, releasing a slick collection in '92 titled "You Turn My Life Around."
Rapper Snoop Dogg featured Wilson on the song "Snoop's Upside Your Head," from the 1996 album "The Doggfather," which also sampled bits of the Gap Band's tune "I Don't Believe You Want to Get Up and Dance (Oops)."
After a hiatus, Wilson returned in 2000 with an album titled "Bridging the Gap" via the Interscope label. The veteran singer welcomed several young talents such as Nate Dogg and Case as special guests while making the album.
Wilson's 2005 album, "Charlie, Last Name Wilson," made its way to the Top 10 behind the airplay of the disc's title track and the smooth song "Magic."
The 2009 disc "Uncle Charlie," featuring the single "Supa Sexxy" with guests T-Pain and Jamie Foxx, followed, reaching No. 2 on the charts and earned a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album in 2010. His follow-up record "Just Charlie" was nominated for two Grammy Awards, as well.
Wilson's latest release, 2013's "Love, Charlie," veered away from the funky party vibe toward mellower love ballads and soul anthems. Shortly after its release, BET honored Wilson with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
His forthcoming studio album is due in early 2015.
In a recent interview with the Huffington Post, Wilson said, "I still have a lot of passion for music - singing and playing and dancing and having a good time. I've been through the wringer. I've been through hell and back. And, of course, I'm still here. You just have to stay passionate and love what you do. Stay focused and stay away from drugs and alcohol, and just take it one day at a time. Love your craft and just do your thing. And never give up."
"The dynamics of Wilson's show contains both old-school and new-school sounds," Variety Entertainment's Bennett states in the event's official press release. "Uncle Charlie gives one of the best performances ever. And with Rickey Smiley hosting the show, the audience will love, laugh and cry at multiple personalities such as 'Bernice Jenkins.' "
No matter whether it's on stage at a large venue or on the microphone in a small studio, hosting with a flair of humor and funkiness comes naturally to Smiley. With plenty of experience as a stand-up comedian, Smiley regularly puts his comedic skills to work as a radio show host and television actor, and prank phone call aficionado.
Known for his easy-going demeanor and approachable personality, Smiley, a native of Birmingham, Ala., has been performing for more than 20 years.
After attending college at Alabama State University in Montgomery, Smiley hit the comedy club circuit in the late 1990s, working on mostly clean, personalized material and developing outrageous characters.
Smiley stepped into his earliest hosting duties when he appeared in the 2000 season of BET's "Comic-View" program. Additional cable network gigs followed, including "Showtime at the Apollo" and HBO's "Def Comedy Jam" and "Snaps."
Smiley's first serious radio station job came in 2004 at KBFB in Dallas. His show featured commentary on celebrity culture, national news, hip-hop happenings and a series of prank calls (a la "Crank Yankers" and "The Jerky Boys").
In 2008, Smiley signed a deal with Syndicated One, a syndicated radio division of Radio One, and went national with "The Rickey Smiley Morning Show," currently airing around the Lowcountry on 93.3 JAMZ.
Smiley also recently signed on to co-host the Fox-produced tabloid and gossip show "Dish Nation" as one of several in-studio talk show hosts in rotation.
The feisty, opinionated, church-going "Sister Bernice Jenkins" is one of several recurring characters in Smiley's comedy routines, and a favorite on one of Smiley's latest projects, a TV sitcom titled "The Rickey Smiley Show" (shown on the TV One network). The bespectacled Jenkins tells it like it is in her famous church announcements, and she holds her own with the more mischievous characters in the casts (think Aunt Esther from "Sanford and Son" meets the Church Lady from classic "Saturday Night Live").
Smiley's multiple role-playing skills are very much in the same vein as those of Eddie Murphy ("Coming to America," "The Nutty Professor") and Tyler Perry (as in numerous films featuring the irascible Madea character).
As a seasoned stand-up comedian, Smiley easily shifts between sharing colorful personal stories and simply clowning around. His language is clean, but his topics can get a little dirty and wild.
"It's not about telling jokes anymore. You have to be a great storyteller," Smiley says in the latest issue of UPTOWN Magazine. "You've got to bring people into your neighborhood. You've got to be animated and years of experience (will) get you into that space and you just crack people up. And don't take yourself so serious. That's what brought on my success."
When Smiley's clever comedy and Wilson's dynamic soul ensemble come together on stage this weekend, the Love & Laughter Tour will surely succeed in entertaining Lowcountry fans of all ages.