‘Old-school’ R&B group the Hesitations find new fans

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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The Hesitations including vocalists Art Blakey, George Hendricks, Joyce Blakey and William Carter perform at The Brothers Lounge in Nov. 2013, in Cleveland. (Michael Chritton/Akron Beacon Journal)

Back in August, the inaugural class of the newly minted R&B Hall of Fame in Cleveland was inducted. Among the members were well known legends such as Marvin Gaye along with groups and artists who had hits and were beloved by fans but not necessarily recognized by some of their peers.

Among those inductees were Cleveland’s own the Hesitations, who will perform in the President’s Hall at the Akron Urban League on Saturday with openers Rare Juelle. DJ Silk, aka Robert Primm of Swingbeat DJ Services, will be the host.

The show, part of the Urban Musical Concert Series, is being promoted by Everyday People Productions, a collective of folks who want to bring good music and good acts to the Akron area.

The Hesitations, a classic late 1960s vocal group, fits that bill.

The group released four albums during its short initial run that produced a gospel-inflected rendition of Born Free that was a 1968 Top 40 hit and other hits such as Soul Superman and Climb Every Mountain. However, its career was cut short by tragedy when singer George “Scott” King was shot and killed in early 1968.

Following the tragedy, the group disbanded until 2006 when lead singer Art Blakey was asked to put the band back together for a special show at the rock hall.

Blakey had no luck corralling the original surviving members so he reached further back to his old buddies in the Sahibs, a group he fronted as a teenager and dubbed it the New Hesitations (the band has since dropped the “New”). The Hesitations have been working ever since in clubs and casinos and occasionally Europe.

The current self-contained nonet consists of vocalists Blakey and his wife, Joyce; George Hendricks and William Carter. They’re backed by a band featuring keyboardist Dee Britt, drummer Ronnie Wilson Jr., guitarist Tim Banks, bassist Eric Spearman and saxophonist Roger Maple.

The Hesitations aren’t hungry youngsters trying to make it. They’re a group of grown folks who simply love performing.

“It's hard to explain, but if it’s in your blood it’s in your blood,” said Hendricks, the group’s lead tenor vocalist and manager. “We look forward to shows. Not saying that we’re not in it for the money, but to be honest with you, at this point we just love to be up on that stage and it’s good to see that people still appreciate good music and a good performance.

“We’re not just singers, we try to entertain the people. We’re old school.”

Hendricks said the band’s audiences feature more and more young folks who appreciate the old-school way of putting on a show.

“Even the younger people enjoy coming to a nice place and they like to dress up; people have gotten away from dressing up when they go out. Why should I put on my best, when I go see somebody and they’re up on stage in jeans with holes in them, which to me is totally ridiculous,” Hendricks said.

There probably won’t be too many folks with holes in their jeans in the building on Saturday night.

In addition to the music, there will be a cash bar and food available for purchase from A Difference in Dining.

Building a local audience

The Hesitations show is the first of a planned series for Everyday Productions. 
The group hopes to produce a couple of events annually as it discovers and ideally galvanizes a local audience looking for not just old-school/classic R&B and soul but acts from other genres.

DJ Silk, aka Robert Primm, is part of Everyday Productions. Primm of Akron is a Cleveland native who grew up in Detroit and has been a disc jockey since he was a teen. He still visits Detroit frequently and said there is still a strong love of classic soul and R&B including several classic R&B radio stations. He said that many of the acts that come to Detroit never make it a few hours south to Northeast Ohio.

“When it comes to classic soul, R&B, jazz and blues there’s a real love for it [in Detroit] and I’m not saying there’s not love here but it’s still booming up there,” he said.

He said he and his wife were missing that classic entertainment in Ohio.

“We thought maybe we can bring that here and I’m sure there are a lot of people who would love it just as much as we do, so I decided to take it upon myself to do the thing necessary to bring that here and hopefully it’ll catch on,” he said.

Primm said the Urban Musical Concert Series will not just concentrate on classic soul music.

“What we want to do is bring concerts that hit different genres,” he said. “We plan on having jazz, a gospel show, blues, rock and pop.”

Primm said he wants “to bring about a universal program” that celebrates the love of music. Period.

Malcolm X Abram can be reached at mabram@thebeaconjournal.com or 330-996-3758. Read his blog, Sound Check Online, at www.ohio.com/blogs/sound-check, or follow him on Twitter @malcolmxabram.

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