Longview Native Brings The Life And Music Of James Brown To His Hometown As Part Of His National Tour
As a very young man, Dedrick Weathersby a Longview TX native learned early on about the magic of the genre called "soul music."
It came from watching his parents dance to the great soul sounds of the '60s in their East Texas home. Whether it was the hits of Motown or the forceful, visceral passion of James Brown, the delicious sounds of soul placed in Weathersby endless possibilities.
"Every time we were cleaning the house, we had on oldies but goodies from eight tracks or 12 inch albums," said Weathersby. "I loved it. That's when I first fell in love with music, when I would listen to my mom and dad's tracks and watch how it made them move." Weathersby's Dad was a well known Disc Jokey in East Texas and played alot of popular music of his day. "He would state, son this record would be considered 'Race Music'. Weathersby received a bevy of education and information pertaining to Civil Rights and Music, which would help create what is known now as 'Remembering James'- The Life and Music of James Brown.
For Weathersby, you can say that watching his parent's dance and watching classic videos was his first real character study. That led him to dance moves in the kitchen as a young child, which then led to participation in local talent shows, and ultimately to the Bay Area where he now lives and performs.
Weathersby's claim to fame or breakout role, came from playing the ultra-confident showman James "Thunder" Early in the Broadway Musical of "Dreamgirls". To date, Weathersby has played the role numerous of times and states "I grew each time i took on this beast of a character". One can state, it can get repetitive playing the same role but others can argue its a great opportunity to keep learning about Early, a character that might be seen as an Rhythm & Blues mixture of Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye and the Godfather of Soul, James Brown.
The musical, written by Henry Krieger and Tom Eyen, follows the girl group The Dreams, based on Motown legends The Supremes, among other girl groups of the era. Multiple decades are explored as three young, naïve talents navigate their way through the thrill of the road in their youth, and through the ugliness and racism of the music industry, as they get older. Featuring a dazzling score of R & B and soul sounds, the show features powerful standards such as "Fake Your Way to the Top," "I am Changing," and the super musical theatre standard "And I am Telling You."
This musical and role Weathersby learned about when he was 15. His parents, mentors and community gems recognized his talents, had their own ideas as to the best place for him to showcase his skills.
"Many Musical and Theater lovers told me that if I wanted to see true talent, 'Dreamgirls' is where it's at," said Weathersby. "When I heard some of Jimmy Early's songs, I thought to myself I can never do that. The same way he felt when listening to James Brown's earlier hits.
"I put in the practice with a vocal coach, and worked on my dancing and singing songs full out to build up stamina and cultivate vocal techniques, and I actually faced my fear and did it." This would prove correct with previous success in DreamGirls, garnishing awards and nominations, to now taking on the entertainment giant of James Brown.
Having played a character (Jimmy Early) for years has allowed Weathersby to build and shape his character in Remembering James (James Brown). There's not just joy in Mr. Brown, but also plenty of heartache and despair. Finding all of that truth, along with historical facts is something that Weathersby made a priority in his preparation and writing the ninety minute show script. If you wasnt familar, Weathersby wrote the script and has written original music for the the show.
"I really had to give him layers, because he is known to people as, he is bigger than life," said Weathersby. "Each time I perform the role, I really have to make him true and dissect the meaning of making him true. Of course it's entertainment, but behind closed doors, he's lost, dealing with real situations, political turmoil and is actually alone."
One of James Brown's most famous nicknames is "The hardest working man in show business." Weathersby has taken that to heart, letting the music and dialogue do the talking, and not leaving anything to chance. Its something to be young and full of energy but to embody a man in whom people admired and love is well respected.
"When everyone was sleeping, James Brown was working, and that's what I want to do," said Weathersby. "I want to make sure that James is displayed as the hardest working man of his time and era."
The Musical 'Remembering James' takes place during the years of 1951-1968. Those whom studied history or lived through that time period, would know it was tough for African American people. "This show covers a multitude of faults but also sends the message of hope" Weathersby stated. The musical covers topics as The Civil Rights Movement, Voting Rights Act, Declaration of War with Vietnam, Presidency of Lyndon B Johnson and The Assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "This musical is made to edu-tain (Educate and Entertain) the audience and allow them to think and remember" passionately stated by Weathersby.
All whom are looking to get a glimpse of James Brown's life on stage this is the show for you. Those who loved the music of James Brown, this musical is for you. Those who are a fan of Weathersby's work as an actor, this is the show for you. Weathersby has embarked on the 2019-2020 "Night-Train" West Coast and National Tour. With a final 2019 stop in Longview Texas, the hometown of Weathersby.
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