Gene Stovall proves that hard work and determination makes dreams come true. The East Liberty virtuoso recently signed on as lead singer of the old-school rhythm and blues chart-toppers, Blue Magic.
Blue Magic is arguably known as one of the most popular and prolific soul groups of the 1970’s. Blue Magic was formed in Philly in 1972 and produced such mega hits as “Sideshow,” “Three Ring Circus,” “Spell,” and “Stop to Start.” Remaining members of the original group are baritone and lead singer, Wendell Sawyer and tenor Keith “Duke” Beaton. Former lead singer for the group, prior to Stovall, was Leemy Waiters.
|GENE STOVALL performs at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. (Photos by Gail Manker)
“I love old school music. There ain’t nothing like old school. The music is lyrically simple and it carries a message,” explained Stovall, 35, who hails from Beechview, but bides his time between East Liberty and New York City. “There’s something about how they did things in the old days. I’ve always wanted something like this; to be the lead singer and songwriter and perform for packed houses and be good at it. I’ve been preparing for this for a long time.”
As an introduction to Blue Magic fans, Stovall performed lead vocal on several songs on the group’s current Christmas album, including “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.”
“Hanging out with them reminded me of singing at church. They were like my uncles,” Stovall said. He begins touring as the frontman of Blue Magic in February of 2012.
“It’s scary but I’m excited. I’ve been preparing for something like this my whole life,” Stovall said.
Stovall began cutting his performance chops while a student at Beechwood Elementary School where he met his first vocal mentor, Henry Biggs who later became the head of vocal studies at Rogers Middle School for the Creative and Performing Arts. Next Stovall attended the Margaret Milliones Middle School where he performed in his first play, August Wilson’s “Joe Turner’s Come and Gone” at the Pittsburgh Public Theater where he won audiences hearts as Reuben. He then went on to attend Brashear High School.
Stovall was musically trained at Duquesne University at the Mary Pappert School of Music for Vocal Performance and at the Pittsburgh school for the Creative and Performing Arts as a Vocal Performance major by David Jennings Smith.
He released his debut recording “Gene Stovall: Live @ The Shadow Lounge, PGH” during the summer of 2003 and the “Rent Party” EP on New Year’s Eve in 2005 with the band “Eviction Notice.” In 2006, the prolific artist co-founded Seriendipitty Entertainment. The company bridges the gap between regional underground performing acts and open-minded live music venues.
In addition, Stovall has hosted numerous special events including “Darksider of the Moon: A Tribute to Pink Floyd” and “Contrast: Wu Tang vs Nirvana” both performed at Dockside Tavern in 2009. He performed at Pittsburgh’s 49th Annual Light Up Night Celebration in 2008 and has opened for numerous national recording artists including Rhino/ Elelctra recording artist Howard Hewitt and MCA Recording artist Lenny Williams.
Stovall says that his vast and eclectic range of experience is what made him stand out in the eyes of Blue Magic.
“They were looking to add some new flavor to the group. I was in New York City and I was doing a play called ‘Do Wop Love’ and the musical director for Blue Magic—Bert Price—said they were looking for a new lead singer and I auditioned and Blue Magic liked what they heard and they liked that I wasn’t from New York,” Stovall recalled.
As a send-off, Stovall recently treated his fans to his yearly Christmas holiday concert Dec. 17. This year’s carolfest was held at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty. The evening featured some of Pittsburgh’s most talented performers including Pittsburgh CLO and Afro-American Music Institute’s Rachel Dumas, singer, dancer and actress Nina Demeter and Sean Jones sextet member, Carolyn Perteete.
“The common denominator is that they are all classically trained vocalists and they are very versatile singers that can do a lot of things. I wanted to get people who could bring a different style to Christmas songs. I always throw a curve ball at my concerts,” Stovall said.
Some of the Christmas classics performed included “Santa Baby,” “Rocking Around The Christmas Tree,” “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” and a Christmas medley.
“I’ve been doing some sort of Christmas party my whole life. I wanted to put people on stage and I wanted to bring people together. The Christmas concerts that I went to were at churches or were classic Christmas concerts, I wanted a combination of serious music mixed with Christmas music. I wanted to provide a concert that would bring people together. It’s about togetherness because no one wants to be alone at Christmas. Everyone wants to smile,” Stovall said.
Proceeds from ticket sales benefited the Kelly Strayhorn Theater, a non-profit organization.
“Gene is a great entertainer and has assembled a fabulous group,” said Janera Solomon, executive director of the Kelly Strayhorn Theater.
Stovall’s latest independent release is “2+2=5: Gene Stovall versus Geno Jive” the project was written, arranged, produced and almost entirely funded by Stovall.