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Wednesday, Jan. 12, 2011

Georgia bluegrass performer honored with founder's award

Music Columnist
SPECIAL
Randall Franks, bluegrass musician, second from left

One of Georgia's best promoters and performers of bluegrass music, Randall Franks, recently received a special founder's award from the South Eastern Bluegrass Association at a gathering of the organization in Calhoun, Ga.

Franks, who serves on the Ringgold (Ga.) City Council and has played his fiddle in shows with legendary bluegrass artists, co-founded SEBA in 1984.

The nonprofit group unites fans, musicians, promoters and vendors of bluegrass music and serves as an information source through its newsletter and Web site, www.sebabluegrass.org.

SEBA has branches with monthly meetings in Winder, Atlanta, Calhoun, Dahlonega, Marietta, Ellijay and Fayetteville, Ga.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Anderson, S.C.

The Web site lists when and where each branch gathers for a combination of announcements and jam sessions, which are open to the public with no admission charge.

Franks' many accomplishments also include acting in TV series and movies and co-writing the books Stirring Up Success with a Southern Flavor (a collection of celebrity-supplied cooking recipes that benefited the Catoosa County Learning Center), its sequel Stirring Up Additional Success with a Southern Flavor and also Snake Oil , Superstars and Me , an autobiography of film and traditional country music star Tommy Scott.

Bluegrass music stars Little Roy Lewis of Lincolnton, Ga., and Lizzy Long of Nashville, Tenn., helped honor Franks at the ceremony in Calhoun.

Their newly-formed Little Roy and Lizzy Show has been picking up steam with shows scheduled across the nation. Their 2011 bookings, viewed at http://littleroyandlizzy.com, include the nearby Festival Hall in Greensboro, Ga., on Jan. 22.

Meanwhile, Little Roy's sister, Janis Phillips, former lead vocalist of The Lewis Family bluegrass-gospel group, also has been picking up shows with her new group, The Lewis Tradition.

The Lincolnton-based group will perform Friday in Perrysburg, Ohio, at the Holiday Inn French Quarter and on Saturday in Marion, Va., at the Lincoln Theatre. Visit http://thelewistradition.com for more about Phillips' group.

Copies of the group's new CD, Precious Memories , can be ordered for $17 (includes postage) by writing to: The Lewis Tradition, 1940 Lewis Crook Road, Lincolnton, GA 30817.

SONGWRITERS TAKE NOTE: MerleFest 2011 takes place in Wilkesboro, N.C., from April 28 until May 1. Entries are being accepted in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest part of MerleFest until Feb. 18. Visit sonicbids.com/chrisaustin songwritingcontest for details.

The massive bluegrass, country and gospel music festival honors Merle Watson, the late son of guitar playing legend Doc Watson. You can catch Doc Watson in concert when he returns with banjo player David Holt to the Newberry (S.C.) Opera House at 8 p.m. Saturday. Call (803) 276-6264 for tickets.

NICE CHRISTMAS GIFT: Loretta and Kay Johnson, co-founders of the International Fan Club Organization, report that country superstar Alan Jackson gave hit singer Zac Brown a classic 1966 white Cadillac El Dorado convertible for Christmas.

Why? Apparently as a thank-you for Jackson being invited to sing on the Zac Brown Band's No. 1 hit As She's Walking Away .

ONE MORE GOODBYE: Gospel singer Sherrill (Shaun) Nielsen died of lung cancer Dec. 10 in Cullman, Ala. Elvis Presley at a 1970 Las Vegas show introduced Nielsen as "the greatest tenor in gospel music." Nielsen sang and recorded harmony with Presley on Spanish Eyes and Help Me and was the high falsetto voice on Presley's performances of Unchained Melody . He also was known for singing Softly, As I Leave You while Presley recited the words.


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