Article written by Sonny Garrett, Editorial Page Editor for The Baxter Bulletin & a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists
There's plenty of talent outside the big time
While I was listening to the music the other night at the Winter Blast of Blues, I was struck by the amazing talent of those on the stage, particularly the more local talent. One thing that comes to mind when you hear such performers is why aren't they on the national music scene, because they're as good as many of "big-time" acts.
Maybe better than some.
There's a similar situation with writers and other artists. They're very good, yet outside a small circle or region, they're unknown. Well, largely unknown since the Internet now can carry their work much farther. I've come to the conclusion that just because a performer, artist or writer isn't nationally known, or isn't on the national charts, doesn't mean they're not talented.
In fact, there is plenty of local and regional talent that is very good. In fact, I've run across some I like better than some big-timers. Many are in a niche, working in a particular genre or style, and may be well known in those circles as well as in their home territory.
For example, Cool Beenz put on a great, entertaining show the other night, and they're getting fairly well known and appreciated regionally. (Now, if lead singer Teri Norton would just get over her shyness and stage fright, they'd really take off.)
There are other local/regional bands and performers that do well, such as Big Red & The Soul Benders, R.V. & Broken Spoke, Carnes & The Heaters, Pearl Miller, Southbound, Jerry Hopper, Southern Rush, South 14, Troy Cook Jr., Wildfire and, of course, The Monkey Run Boys.
Going a bit farther afield, there's a beaucoup of talent at Branson, Mo., and not just the show stars. There are some excellent musicians, singers and performers there. While what they do may cross a wide range of styles, one thing they have in common is they're not nationally known. Yet they're still very talented, very entertaining.
Through different links, I've been following a few entertainers online who sound great and apparently have strong local followings where they live. Like our local acts, they're just not on MTV, VH1, CMT or GAC, and their music isn't on the radio. But they're really good.
There also are writers I've encountered whose work isn't on the New York Times best-seller list, but they write well, they tell good stories, they're entertaining, some are informative. Their work takes in everything from Westerns to pulp adventures to horror to romance (and racier tales not meant for younger readers), and for the genres, they're very good. Some are good outside their genres as well.
Odds are since they're not on a national best-seller list you haven't heard of them, writers such as Beverly Mahone, Kristy Tallman, Howard Hopkins (also known as Lance Howard), Bill Craig. Their work isn't necessarily for everyone, but to me they're still good writers.
At least, like the different music acts, I like them.
I think that's what it comes down to — if someone likes it. The more who like your music, or your writing, or your art, the better. As long as someone likes it, as long as someone enjoys what you do, that's what counts. If you can make a living doing what people like, so much the better. Granted, a lot of these musicians and writers have regular jobs to keep beans on the table, but they still do what they love to do, enjoy doing, and that others enjoy.
Plus they've all taken a chance, they've all tried, which is more than those who might knock them have done.
When so much entertainment is cookie-cutter, mass-produced, sound-alike, read-alike, look-alike, it's refreshing there are what I think of as mom-and-pop equivalents in entertainment. Those are the local and regional artists who take their shot. It's like a small restaurant folks really like but that isn't well known versus a national chain restaurant everyone knows. Just because it's not known doesn't mean the food isn't good.
Just because you're not in the Top 40, on a video channels or a national best-seller list doesn't mean you're not good, either.
If you get chance, listen to local singers and bands, read a local writer or two. Go beyond the mainstream, and check other waters. If you run across someone you like who's not on the national scene, so much the better for you, and them.
Sonny Garrett is editorial page editor ofThe Baxter Bulletin and a member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Read more at his blog, "A View from the Hills," at www.baxterbulletin.com.