S.O.S. concert a 'homecoming'

ALBANY -- Saturday will be a homecoming of sorts for the legendary '80s funk masters The S.O.S. Band, who will headline a big holiday show at the Albany Civic Center.

S.O.S. Band members Reggie Ward and Abdul "Tut" Ra'oof are home-grown Albany musicians, graduates of Monroe High School and Albany State University, and a third member of the band -- Sultan "Thaxton" Muhammad -- hooked up with Ward and Ra'oof at Albany State.

That trio, lead vocalist Mary Davis and the entire S.O.S. family will join fellow '80s favorites Lakeside for Saturday's Albany Holiday Jam Festival at the civic center. Also on the bill are the Albany-based jazz band Southern Art Music Ensemble, local R&B favorites the G&S Band and the hip-hop/reggae-flavored Unbreakable Bloodline. Other acts at the festival making their debut Albany appearances are Dublin's Slick Nick and the Macon band Phuture Fam.

The event is being sponsored by Derrick Chatman's DC Productions. Chatman, who is now based in Dublin, worked in Albany radio for several years.

"One thing I know about Albany is that the folks here love the old-school shows," Chatman said. "I wanted to put on an affordable show for everyone here, give everyone a destination event for the holidays.

"There are the obvious ties with the members of The S.O.S. Band being born and raised in Albany, and Lakeside was such a favorite at the (Sept. 4) funk show that they were brought back by popular demand. Plus, with the growing hip-hop community around Albany, it's good to give the young folks an opportunity to hear the music of their roots."

Ra'oof, who now lives in Atlanta, The S.O.S. Band's home base, said he's excited to be returning to his hometown for the show.

"We haven't been down there in a while," he said during a phone conversation. "We've been trying to work out a show in Albany, so it will be good to get back down there and see the home folks. When we were coming up, Albany was a great music town; it had as many music venues as Atlanta had, maybe even more.

"All the old R&B guys -- Joe Tex, Bobby Blue Bland, Al Green, Rufus Thomas -- came through Albany back in the day, and they usually brought along their musical producer, who would find local musicians to play with the artists. While Reggie and I were still at Monroe, we got to play with a lot of those guys in our original group, the Velvetones."

Ra'oof and Ward met Muhammad at Albany State (then) College, and the Velvetones morphed into Third World, which performed regionally for a decade before calling it quits. Ra'oof actually had a chance to join another well-known group but instead became one of the founding members of The S.O.S. Band.

"I was asked to play with the Commodores," he said, "and even though I turned them down, I definitely wondered about that decision at times over the years. This was before the Commodores hit it big, when Third World had Albany State covered and the Commodores had Tuskegee.

"We decided a short while later to start up The S.O.S. Band, which was originally called Santa Monica, in Atlanta, so it worked out well in the end anyway."

The S.O.S. (Sounds of Success) Band is best known for its No. 1 hit "Take Your Time (Do It Right)" and other pop/R&B favorites like "Just Be Good to Me," "Do It Now," "The Finest," "Tell Me if You Still Care" and "I'm Still Missing Your Love."

Lakeside, which wowed fans at the first Albany Southern Funkfest in September, earned recognition as '80s superstars with their megahit "Fantastic Voyage," which topped the pop charts, and such favorites as "Pull My Strings," "Raid" and "Outrageous."

Slick Nick, a Savannah State University mathematics major who recently released his debut album "Mr. Versatility," said he's thrilled to be playing with artists like S.O.S. and Lakeside.

"This is a great opportunity for me; I've never been onstage with artists of this magnitude," he said. "This is my shot to express myself before a new audience, and I believe my music will appeal to all age groups. I keep my music clean so that I don't limit myself to one particular audience."

Advance tickets for Saturday's show, which are available at the civic center box office, at Ticketmaster outlets and online at ticketmaster.com, are $27.50. They're $37.50 the day of the show.

"I know Albany; I've heard all the stuff about people waiting 'til the last minute to buy tickets," Chatman said. "And I know a lot of promoters have cancelled shows when they didn't sell a certain number of tickets by a certain date. But I was taught the business by men who taught me two important things: Pay everybody and don't cancel your show. I'm not canceling. I don't believe in it.

"I'd like for the city to work with us, though, so that we can best use our resources to get the word out about the show. I know they've had to deal with fly-by-night promoters in the past, but I have ties here. I want to have a successful show so that we can do more, even bigger, ones. If we have a success here Saturday, I promise to bring a big festival back here every quarter."

Chatman has also planned an after-party at the local Knights of Columbus hall with Power 105.5 DJ Jammin' Jay and a "surprise guest" appearance that is rumored to be S.O.S.'s Ward.

For additional information, contact Chatman at (478) 304-0898.