Steady Crowds, Nice Weather Make For "Fabulous" Festival

This appeared in The Birmingham News - June 19, 2006

Marty Stuart and his Fabulous Superlatives closed out City Stages Sunday night with words that seemed sweet to organizers' ears.

"What a great afternoon of music this has been," Stuart said when he hit the Stage at 9:15 p.m. Wearing a long black coat and gravity-defying hairdo, the country star launched into "Great Big Woman (and Little Bitty Bottle of Wine)."

At the same time, the crowd was on its feet for the Allman Brothers at the Miller Lite Stage, where Birmingham nurse Susan Markem, 48, took Stuart's review a step further. "I've been here since the gates opened Friday, and the whole thing has been absolutely fabulous," she said.

Although Saturday night's attendance didn't live up to organizers' predictions, the crowds were steady all weekend, and especially thick Sunday afternoon.

That's because Taylor Hicks, who performed with Snoop Dogg Saturday night, returned Sunday at 5 p.m. to front his own Little Memphis Blues Orchestra on The Birmingham News/ Homegrown Stage.

"I'm proud to live in the state of Alabama," Hicks told the crowd between songs that included "Soul Thing" and "Will It Go Round in Circles."

The Hoover native played the same stage last year to a much smaller crowd, his father, Brad Hicks, said backstage, where he mingled with singer Bo Bice's mother, Nancy Downes, and dozens of well-wishers.

"The first year he played, probably 40 people were there to see it," Brad Hicks said.

The newly crowned American Idol was greeted this year with cheers, cell-phone camera flashes and homemade signs proclaiming "Taylor rocks!"

Hicks was not paid for his City Stages appearances. "That tells you what kind of young man he is," City Stages founder and president George McMillan said. "Taylor first played here when he was 19, and he's got the right kind of heart to want to come back and help us now."

Closing out the festival on the Coca-Cola Stage were the Beach Boys, featuring Mike Love. They opened with "California Girls" and fans were soon batting beach balls across Linn Park.

Earlier, Peter Noone and Herman's Hermits had the crowd singing along to "Listen, People," "I'm Henry VIII, I Am" and "Mrs. Brown, You've Got a Lovely Daughter."

"It's like the Shower of Stars all over again," Noone told the crowd, referring to the 1960s-era rock shows sponsored by old Birmingham radio station WVOK. Noone said the first time he played here was the Shower of Stars in 1965.

Twelve-year-old Michael Fullan, who watched Hicks with his sister, Mimi, 10, and their parents, Cathy and Guy Fullan of Mountain Brook, summed up the experience best:

"Taylor's, like, so famous, and he's, like, here on this little stage in Birmingham, and, like, we're here, too," Michael said. "It's the coolest thing."

By Kathy Kemp

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