All posts by Larry Buford

Larry Buford is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer, and author of Book/CD titled "Things Are Gettin' Outta Hand" (Steuben Pub.) He writes Human Interest articles and entertainment reviews for various newspapers across the country. He is also an editor, and provides services for press releases, interviews, business letters, resumes, etc. A native Detroiter, he is a former Motown songwriter.
Caroline Clarke

Adoptee Caroline Clarke (Nat ‘King’ Cole’s Granddaughter) Reunited with Birth Mom

Caroline Clarke (Nat Cole's Granddaughter)

Caroline Clarke (Nat Cole’s Granddaughter) on KTLA

*She was given up for adoption by Carole ‘Cookie’ Cole – daughter of the late Nat King Cole – back in 1965, and only learned she was related to the famous Cole family after researching her medical history.

Author Caroline Clarke writes in her book ‘Postcards from Cookie: A Memoir of Motherhood, Miracles and a Whole Lot of Mail,’ how she discovered at age 37 the identity of her biological mother.

Caroline Clarke 2

Appearing today of TV station KTLA in Los Angeles Clarke stated:

“I had some joint issues for a long time and as every adoptee knows, when you go to the doctor the first question you’re asked is about your medical history, and all adoptees can say is ‘I don’t know’…so when you’re really looking for answers to a specific illness it gets to be very frustrating. I called the adoption agency hoping they’d have just some clue, some bit of information…expecting really the likelihood was small. They did get some medical information and they also painted a picture of my birth family at the time I was born…no names, no geography…just siblings, my birth mother…what she was like, what the family was like…and I recognized the family.”

A book signing is scheduled tonight, Monday, April 21st at Diesel, A Bookstore located at Brentwood Country Mart, 225 26th Street, Santa Monica, CA 90402.

Read more of this amazing story at: NY Daily News.

Christ is Risen

Resurrection Day: ‘He Lives!’

Christ is Risen

*The old Christian hymn ‘He Lives,’ written by Alfred H. Ackley, is one of my favorites. It’s a celebratory song that when sung all together by the church congregation sounds as if all of heaven is singing along as well.

The first line, “I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today; I know that He is living whatever men may say’ is a truth upon which the Christian walk hangs – His Lordship over our lives,  and the absolute preeminence of the name above all names in this world, Jesus. Our hope is in Him.

The second stanza begins, ‘In all the world around me I see His loving care; and though my heart grows weary, I never will despair’ – when we think of God’s goodness and mercy, when we consider the scripture ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life’ [John 3:16 NIV] – we as Christians know the promises of God are true and His mercy endures forever. God omnipotent gave mankind freewill to choose right or wrong, good or evil, which is best demonstrated in the Book of Job where God allowed Satan to cause calamity in Job’s life as a test to see if Job would remain faithful.

There is hope in the world as long as there are the faithful who refuse to give in to the powers of darkness. ‘Light (Jesus) has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.’ [John 3: 19 NIV]

The third stanza: ‘Rejoice, rejoice, O Christian, lift up your voice and sing eternal hallelujahs to Jesus Christ, the King. The hope of all who seek Him the help of all who find, none other is so loving, so good and kind’ – rejoice Christians for the indwelling spirit of Jesus in your heart – He in you and you in Him who is seated at the right hand of God almighty in heaven. So doesn’t it make sense that if we are indeed in Him and He is in heaven, our true residence is heaven not earth? We’re just sojourners passing through this temporal life.

The Gregorian calendar calls it Easter, but Christians know it as Resurrection Day. Christians know that for every problem, every heartache, every tragedy, there comes a resurrection. Jesus showed us the way. Be of good cheer because every challenge we encounter in this life as believers can be overcome as we place our faith and trust in the overcomer.

So on this Resurrection Sunday let every Christian lift their voices and sing a resounding refrain:

‘He lives, He lives! Christ Jesus lives today/He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way. He lives, He lives salvation to impart/you ask me how I know He lives? He lives within my heart!’

Ben Guillory and Ron Brewington

Actor/Director Ben Guillory with Ron Brewington on ‘ActorsE’ Chat (Watch)

Ben Guillory and Ron Brewington

Ben Guillory and Ron Brewington

With over 60 TV and film credits to his name spanning from 1965 to date – including The Color Purple, The Harimaya Bridge, Knotts Landing, Dynasty, and The Young and the Restless – actor/director Bennet (Ben) Guillory talks candidly and introspectively with ActorsE Chat host Ron Brewington.

During the interview Guillory reflects on how he got started as an actor in the San Francisco Bay area along with friend and fellow actor Danny Glover. He offers some invaluable insights about the craft of acting.

When asked what to do during dry spells between TV and film work he says, “Hope and pray…the majority of actors have a lot of downtime…[so] to hone craft, be a progressive actor, work at craft, you go to the theatre [do a small production].” He offers tips on film acting, stage acting and ensembles. Speaking on The Color Purple he says, “I’d read the book five years before the production…I was very moved…it was the first film I’d ever done.”

Please watch the video below to see what Ben Guillory is currently engaged in:

Etta James

Don’t Cry Etta James … Don’t Cry, Baby!

Etta James
*When the editor (Carolyn Baker) of Jam Source Magazine asked me to write an article on the late great legendary singer extraordinaire Etta James in celebration of Jazz Appreciation Month, I was hard-pressed to come up with something new about the artist that has not already been said…then bingo! I went to a book signing and got the angle that I needed.

She was born Jamesetta Hawkins. By age five she was known as a gospel prodigy; at the time of her death she’d mastered R&B, jazz, blues, and rock. As she began her professional singing career the name Jamesetta was inverted to Etta James. One of her early hits that soared to number two on the R&B charts – “All I Could Do Was Cry” – was co-written by Motown founder Berry Gordy before there was Motown. Chess Records producer Ralph Bass remembered about the recording session:

“One take and Etta was crying her eyes out for real. The band wanted her to do it over. I told them ‘Forget it’…how much more soul could I get from a singer?”

Etta James had a lot to cry about. Raised by a series of foster parents – the good and the bad – she referred to her biological sleep around mother as “the mystery lady.” She speculated that her father was the professional pool player Rudolf “Minnesota Fats” Wanderone whom she met briefly for the first time at age 49. Her childhood struggles set the stage for a life of alcohol and drug abuse. There was a quality about James’ voice that made you cry. To this day I can hardly listen to “I’d Rather Go Blind” without welling up as singer/actress Beyonce did in her portrayal of James in the movie “Cadillac Records.” I can only wonder if there was some irony in James’ hit “Don’t Cry Baby” to remind her to get through the song without crying.

Etta James and Beyonce

Etta James and Beyonce

Now back to the book signing, it was music critic Nelson George promoting his new book about the TV dance show, Soul Train. His guest was an original Soul Train dancer, Marco De Santiago who recalled when Etta James appeared on the show along with The O’Jays (1978 season eight, episode one): “She was singing a song and became really emotional, and so she had to sing the song probably three or four times…and Don Cornelius asked her to sing that song again…this time just don’t cry. Etta James had to tell him that this song was just so personal. I didn’t know all the things Etta James had been through at that time [continued drug use, etc] and for Don to not show compassion. Some artists were given the privilege to sing live, and some artists lip-synced [over a track]. Etta James actually sang the song, and each time she sang it, it ripped her to shreds. Don would let her get her composure…he was a little irritated…I had never witnessed anybody cry in a song.”

That song, “Sugar On The Floor” was included in James’ album “Burnin’ Down The House” which was recorded live at Hollywood’s House of Blues in 2001. One critic said at the time: “Her big full voice had lost none of its richness” from her first recording in 1954 at age 16. James gave her all in a song.

She was quoted: “My mother always told me, even if a song has been done a thousand times, you can still bring something of your own to it. I’d like to think I did that.”

Following is the video to the song “Sugar On The Floor” and the lyrics:

You’re a stranger to me /Still you give me your life/ I toss it to one side/ Still you’re sweeter to me /When will I be sure

It’s warm where you are/ But my lips just don’t burn/ I feel so insecure/ When you try to be kind

Could I, could I ask for more?/ Feel like sugar on the floor

Sugar on the floor Sugar on the floor

Looking at you now/ I know you only want to find me/ Still I need a reason to leave the past behind me

There is no easy way/There is no easy way /To learn how to fly

I hope that I could care

When I turn around you’re there/ Should I, should I ask for more? /I feel like sugar on the floor/ I feel like sugar on the floor/ Sugar on the floor /Oh, oh, ooh Ooh, It’s warm where you are /But ooh I wish we could be closer/ ‘Cause I’m living in a dream/ And I can’t show you /Still you’re sweeter to me/ When would I, when would I be sure?/I feel like I’m sugar on the floor/ Feel like sugar on the floor All I need, /All I need is somebody to love /All I need, All I need is somebody to care about me/ So I won’t be wasted/ Oh, wasted on the floor /Oh I, oh I I feel like I’m sugar on the floor

Re-printed by permission. Here’s the original Jam Source article:

soul train cover1

Book Signing at Eso Won: ‘Soul Train’ by Music Critic Nelson George

soul train book coverLongtime music critic Nelson George was on hand April 3rd to talk about and sign his new book “The Hippest Trip in America: Soul Train and the Evolution of Culture and Style” at Los Angeles’ Eso Won bookstore in Leimert Park.

His guest was an original “Soul Train” dancer Marco De Santiago. The room was packed and every ear attentive to the behind-the-scene stories they came to tell. The interest was so high that once I got to the counter to buy my own copy, the books were sold out. Kudos to Eso Won owner James Fugate and his team for a well-coordinated event!

Among the things discussed were the little-known rivalry between American Bandstand’s host Dick Clark and “Soul Train” creator and host Don Cornelius; and the fact that many male celebrities came from near and far attracted by the sexy mini-skirted Soul Train dancers that the cameramen took license to reveal on national TV. For instance, Marvin Gaye met his second wife Janis on Soul Train which he sings about in his song “After The Dance.”

Nelson George and Marco De Santiago

Nelson George (left) and Marco De Santiago

Also discussed was Cornelius’ indifference to celebrities and staff alike. George stated:

“Don Cornelius was absolutely one of the most formidable people you ever had to interview. He wasn’t a ‘huggy hey-man-how-you-doing’ type brother. The cool, the reserved…that’s how he was and how he presented himself to the world very often. I remember [when] I was at Billboard magazine from 1982 to 1989 as the Black Music Editor…I had been to Soul Train a few times…going to Don’s office was almost like going to the principal’s office…and that voice comes at you…” De Santiago added, “I was actually terrified of Don and I think most people were because he was ultra-aloof. He rarely had eye contact with you, and if he did give you eye contact you had no idea what was going to spew out of his mouth…he didn’t tame his tongue…he would rarely smile…he just wasn’t the kindest man but you did have respect for him.”

George: “He was not someone you can go like ‘I just love Don Cornelius’ in that emotional way…there were barriers…and there were very few people [like] Marvin Gaye, Barry White, Smokey, The O’Jays…he had a tight group of people who really, really lauded him. One of the most famous episodes of Soul Train is Marvin Gaye and Don Cornelius playing one-on-one basketball refereed by Smokey Robinson.” The two also mentioned some female artists including Janet Jackson and Diana Ross that Cornelius was kind to, and discussed – despite his opinion – how he reluctantly embraced Rap and Hip-Hop to stay current.

One of “Soul Train’s” standouts – De Santiago, always stylishly dressed, had his own unique dance style. He said he was surprised and unprepared for his celebrity when people would recognize him on the street. He tries to keep all the Soul Train dancers in contact by throwing an annual Christmas party.

George says “I wrote this book for the internet age. I tried to make sure that the show number and the year [are] very specific when I mention something…everything in the book is online…you can see all these clips…that way I’m not making anything up. It’s all there.”

De Santiago said he received a call from the Smithsonian Institute asking if he could get in touch with all the dancers that are still around to see if they would donate clothing and other items from the “Soul Train” era. They want him to be the curator for a permanent “Soul Train” exhibit at a museum they’re building that will be called The Smithsonian Museum of African-American History – an honor that underscores the significance of Soul Train being an agent for the evolution of culture and style.

eso wan audience for nelson george

A very attentive Eso Won audience

Claudeete Robinson and Ron Brewington

Motown’s Claudette Robinson Does ‘ActorsE’ Chat with Ron Brewington (Watch)

Claudeete Robinson and Ron Brewington

Claudette Robinson and Ron Brewington on ActorsE Chat

*Dubbed the ‘First Lady of Motown’ by Motown founder Berry Gordy for the very fact that she was the actual first female to be signed to the infant label; Claudette Robinson, original member of The Miracles and former wife of Smokey Robinson opens up about how it all began.

Watch the ActorsE Chat interview video (below) as Claudette tells interviewer Ron Brewington about graduating from high school at age 15, joining the U.S. Marines and becoming a sharpshooter.

She also tells of The Beatles expressing how much they were influenced by The Miracles. She talks about Marvin Gaye on what would have been his 75th birthday April 2nd.

During the interview one ‘chatter’ asked, “How do you think the lyrics [today] are so different from The Miracles [compared] to now?” Claudette, still beautiful and looking like royalty answered, “I think that has a lot to do with the person who’s writing them…lyrics come from the heart and it’s what you yourself are feeling…I think there was a lot of love and emotion that people had ‘back in the day’ [laughs]…not saying that [writers today] don’t have the same feeling and emotion, but they’re not expressing it in the same way…we were definitely about love and caring and sharing and respect. I’d like to see more of that.”

Claudette is hoping her book will be published in 2015. Here’s the ActorsE Chat interview:

Following is a story I wrote when Claudette appeared on the cover of Jam Source Magazine in 2012:

Claudette Robinson: A Quiet Storm! – by Larry Buford

Hurricanes and a tropical storm have bore her name – Claudette – and it bespeaks the impact she had behind the scenes at Motown Records for decades. You see, by the time The Supremes broke out with their blockbuster “Where Did Our Love Go” in 1964, she could have already been considered in those days a seasoned veteran of the music industry. Claudette Robinson – then a member of The Miracles, and wife of lead singer Smokey –  was the voice that added that special spice to hit songs like “Shop Around,” “Who’s Lovin’ You,” “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me,” “What’s So Good About Goodbye,” “A Love She Can Count On,” “Happy Landing,”  and many others.

If not for the PBS broadcast network where she has performed with other members of the group in recent years, Claudette would remain in relative obscurity because she stopped touring with the group before Blacks began to get more frequent exposure on major TV in the early sixties. She and Smokey decided she should come off the road in order to begin a family, but she continued to record with the group on all the songs – hits like “Tracks Of My Tears,” Ooo Baby, Baby,” and “I Second That Emotion” –  up until Smokey went solo in 1972.

Dubbed “The 1st Lady of Motown” by Motown founder Berry Gordy, one can only imagine what the Robinson household must have been like in Detroit as Claudette’s hit-songwriting husband churned out the hits (in addition to The Miracles) for various artists like Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, and The Temptations.

Although she stops short of discussing their divorce after being married 27 years, Claudette says of Smokey, “I never saw him like that [a heartthrob]…Smokey was very romantic…when he would come home from the road he gave me a real kiss like he meant it. He always brought me gifts – Valentine’s Day, Sweetest Day, Birthday, Anniversary, you name it. Smokey was as romantic as his lyrics were – what he wrote, he lived it at home [thus the lyrics to “I’ll Try Something New”]. He wrote me letters, cards…most times he would make a card – sometimes with lots of words and sometimes short and sweet. He would also draw pictures…most people don’t know he is a great artist in that regard too.”

Recently Claudette was invited to the White House along with other Motown legends including Smokey, Martha Reeves, Stevie Wonder, and founder Berry Gordy for a Motown at the White House tribute. She says, “It was my first time at the White House, and it was a wonderful event!” In April 2012 Claudette and the other original members of The Miracles were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (Smokey had already been inducted as a solo artist back in the ‘80’s).

Today, as a youthful looking grandmother of three, Claudette remains very active in charity events and fundraisers, and is a board member of various organizations. She has a fabulous website at ClaudetteRobinson.Com, and – once her forthcoming book is released – is very excited about going on a book tour to meet and greet the fans who have been so supportive of The Miracles for over five decades.

The Miracles receive star

The Miracles receive star