The North Carolina Visitor Center




Southern Pines Sunrise Theater

14th Annual Southern Pines Blues Crawl to Debut in July

The Southern Pines Blues Crawl will be celebrating its 14th year in Southern Pines, N.C. on July 12th.   

Music Maker Relief Foundation is collaborating this year with the Sunrise Theater Preservation Group to present the annual festival. The crawl will be spread out across 10 venues throughout Southern Pines, complete with food and drink at most venues. The evening’s lineup will feature the Piedmont region’s authentic roots blues musicians. 

Performers include Pat “Mother Blues” Cohen, Boo Hanks, Lakota John and Kin, Lightnin’ Wells, Cool John Ferguson, Harvey Dalton Arnold, John Dee Holeman and Tad Walters, Jeff Littlejohn, Ironing Board Sam, Big Ron Hunter and the King Bees and more to be announced.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with the Sunrise Theater Preservation Group in presenting an unparalleled program highlighting the greatest unsung blues talent for miles around,” said Aaron Greenhood, artist services coordinator at Music Maker.

The festivities kicked off in late February with a screening of “Toot Blues,” a film about the history of Music Maker, featuring many of the artists set to perform at the festival.

“We are constantly striving to improve what we do well,” president of the preservation board Herb Cameron said,” and by working with Music Maker we are bringing a much more authentic and roots-oriented blues experience to the Blues Crawl festival. We have a pretty sophisticated clientele here in Moore County, and I believe they will appreciate what this arrangement will provide.”

Festival Dates:

7/12/2014 – Blues Crawl begins at 7PM


About Music Maker Relief Foundation:

Music Maker Relief Foundation, Inc. is a tax exempt, public charity under IRS code 501(c)3. Music Maker aims to keep our Southern culture vital by directly supporting senior (over 55) American roots musicians in need, expanding their professional careers, and providing with basic life needs so they can focus on their art. Music Maker also assists Next Generation (under 55) artists in the development of their professional careers. Since the organization’s founding in 1994, Music Maker has assisted hundreds of musicians who represent the traditions of Blues, Gospel, Old-Time String Band, Jazz and more. Music Maker’s programs ensure the talents of these cultural treasures are accessible so that our rich musical heritage can be shared with the world and preserved for future generations.


14th Annual Blues Crawl Venue Contacts sunrise.jpg 
July 12, 2014

The Sunrise Theater

Address: 250 NW Broad St., Southern Pines, NC 27387

Phone: 910-692-8501

Contact- Jessica Harrelson


The Jefferson Inn – Outdoor Courtyard

Owner: Curtis

Address: 150 W New Hampshire Ave, Southern Pines, NC 28387

Phone:(910) 692-9911


Rhett’s Restaurant – Outdoor Patio with fountain

Owner: Rhett Morris

Address: 132 W Pennsylvania Ave, Southern Pines, NC 28387

Phone:(910) 695-3663


Betsey’s Crepes - Indoor

Owner- Betsey Marque

Address: 127 SW Broad St, Southern Pines, NC 28387

Phone:(910) 246-2406


The Bell Tree – indoor/outdoor stage area

Owner- Con Mohoney

Address: 155 NE Broad St, Southern Pines, NC 28387

Phone:(910) 692-4766


Wine Cellar – Indoor/Outdoor

Owner-Robyn James

241 NE Broad St. Southern Pines, NC 28387



Cup of Flow – Indoor


Address: 115 NE Broad St, Southern Pines, NC 28387

Phone:(910) 693-1999


Eye candy Gallery - Indoor

Owner- Frank Pierce

Address: 275 NE Broad St, Southern Pines, NC 28387

Phone:(910) 246-2266


O’Donnell’s Pub – Indoor

Owner- Patrick O’Donnell

Address: 133 E New Hampshire Ave, Southern Pines, NC 28387

Phone: (910) 603-2193


The Sunrise Theatre -

Pat “Mother Blues” Cohen with the Wicked Mojos

Since the age of six, Pat was surrounded by music.  Her blues classroom was on the porch of her uncle’s house where one played the guitar and the other played the harmonica.  Her first professional engagement came in the early 1980’s when she was asked to perform at a local club where she was attending college.  “I had three days to find three musicians and put together 30 songs,” she said.

“They loved me—the rest is history because I’ve been singing the Blues ever since.”

For years, Pat sang in New Orleans six nights a week, performing at a wide array of venues including the House of Blues, until Katrina destroyed her home.  She relocated to North Carolina and has recently started touring with the Music Maker Blues Revue.  During her performances, “Mother Blues” unfurls the tapestry of her life experiences to her audience in soulful words and music.  She shares the mettle, pathos and ocean-deep compassion of the famous female blues singers she idolizes—women like Billie Holiday, Koko Taylor and Etta James.

Pat Cohen is a dramatic and exotic performer whose talent should not be overlooked.

Pat is accompanied by Durham, North Carolina’s smokin’ Louisiana flavored blues band The Wicked Mojos headed up by renowned harpist Mel Melton and featuring Max Drake, T. A. James, and Kelly Pace.

Eye Candy

Boo Hanks -

James Arthur “Boo” Hanks is an acoustic Blues guitarist, who began 75 years ago, with roots in the Piedmont string band and Blues traditions. He saved money for his first guitar by selling packets of garden seeds and it was with this guitar that he began picking out the same old-time songs he heard his father playing after long days in the tobacco field.

As a young man in the 1940s, Hanks earned pocket change playing guitar at barn dances with his cousins accompanying him on mandolin and spoons. His rich musical repertoire reflects his multi-ethnic heritage (his ancestors were white, African American, Ocinneechee Indian and family folklore believes they are descendants of Abraham Lincoln’s mother Mary Hanks.)

Today, Boo Hanks lives in Virgilina, Virginia, just over the North Carolina border, a stone’s throw from the rolling hills where he was born. Drawing from the deep musical well of his region, Boo Hanks showcases his virtuosity in the driving time and delicate finger-style guitar of the classic Piedmont Blues made famous by Blind Boy Fuller.

Lakota John and Kin –

John Lakota Locklear, born in 1997, grew up listening to his dad’s music collection.  At seven years old, he picked up the harmonica and at nine his first guitar.  Intrigued by the sound of the slide guitar, by ten he had bought himself a glass slide, placed it on his pinky finger and has been sliding ever since. On this recording he is joined by Mama Tonya, Papa John and Sister Layla; a proud Lumbee and Oglala Nation family of talented musicians.

The Lumbee Nation includes 50,000 members who call the enchanting area around Robeson County, with its swamps and cypress trees, home. The Oglala Sioux Nation of Pine Ridge, known for its rich historical sites and events, is the eighth largest reservation in the United States. Since the creation of blues music, Native people have paid an often overlooked but deep contribution to this musical tradition. The father of the blues, Charlie Patton, was a Choctaw Indian. Scrapper Blackwell, Jesse Ed Davis, Elizabeth Cotten, Jimi Hendrix and so many of our great blues and jazz artists celebrated their Native American heritage. Lakota John & Kin continue to stir our musical southern stew with their ancestors' ancient harmonies and traditional blues melded together.

Wine Cellar –

Lightnin’ Wells

Mike "Lightnin'" Wells breathes new life into the vintage tunes of the 1920s and depression era America employing various appropriate stringed instruments in a dynamic style which he has developed in over thirty years of performing experience. Raised in eastern North Carolina, Wells learned to play harmonica as a young child and taught himself to play the guitar as he developed a strong interest in traditional blues and folk music. His many years of public performance began in Chapel Hill, N.C. in the early 1970s. During the following decades he has presented his brand of acoustic blues throughout North Carolina, the United States and Europe.

Lightnin' Wells produced the first commercial recordings of the N.C. blues veterans Big Boy Henry, Algia Mae Hinton and George Higgs. He has traveled and performed extensively with these musicians and has documented their backgrounds and musical histories for future generations. He is also a life-long student and devotee of the pioneering performers in the piedmont blues tradition which once thrived in the Carolinas, including such artists as Blind Boy Fuller, Rev. Gary Davis and Elizabeth Cotton; deceased musicians whose influence seems only to grow with time.

His first solo recording Bull Frog Blues established his blues credentials while his sophomore effort Ragtime Millionaire strengthened his association with the Carolina-piedmont style of blues. His third release Ragged But Right stretched out to explore more facets of American folk music including old-time, country, jazz, ragtime, and early popular music as well as piedmont style blues selections.

The year 2008 saw two new Lightnin' Wells CD releases. Shake 'Em on Down was recorded on the west coast of the U.S. and features solo acoustic renditions of piedmont and delta blues with selections from the American old-time country and popular-music catalogs for added variety. Jump Little Children: Old Songs for Young Folks was designed with the younger listener in mind. These remastered home recordings offer a wide variety of American roots music including children's favorites, blues, folk tunes, old-time music and vaudeville.

Lightnin' remains an insatiable student and researcher, studying the various forms of American roots music from bygone eras. He plays a number of instruments besides the guitar including the harmonica, ukulele, mandolin and banjo. He has taught blues guitar at most of the leading "Blues Weeks" sponsored by universities and teaching organizations throughout the country. He served for ten years as a board member for the Music Maker Relief Foundation which assists elderly blues and old-time musicians to meet their basic needs and continues to serve this organization in an advisory capacity. He is presently included in the North Carolina Arts Council's Touring Artist Roster for 2008-2009 as well as the American Traditions National Roster through the Southern Arts Federation.

With his experience, knowledge and well-honed performance skills, Lightnin' Wells has established himself at the forefront of the traditional blues revival. His musical style is personal and energetic yet remains true to the original root form. His goal is to entertain and educate using a variety of sources, influences and techniques to express his dedication, respect and pleasure in presenting this unique American art form. Wrote one recent reviewer; "Whether you look for to performers for inspiration, education, virtuosity, or sheer entertainment, Lightnin' Wells delivers all the above, every single time".

O’Donnells –

Cool John Ferguson -

Along with rules for holding the guitar, Cool John ignored just about everything folks had to say about genre and style. Known for a fiery rendition of the famous Jimi Hendrix Woodstock version of The Star Spangled Banner, Cool John is just as thick with gospel as he is with a raunchy blues. “A lot of my people came out of the Gullah tradition with roots in Western Africa, hard work and a hard life on the plantations, and worship in praise houses.” Cool John recalls. “When I turned five I started gigging in the Pentecostal church of my family. You an hear some of that gospel flavor in my playing, a lot of traditional African music mixed with the field and spiritual music.”

“Little John and the Ferguson Sisters” were featured entertainers on The Lowcountry Sing on Channel 5, a Charleston. But by the time Cool John was 10, he was also huddling over his transistor radio with an earphone (to hide from his gospel only parents) listening to WAPE, “the Big Ape”, out of Jacksonville, Florida, soaking up any and all flavors of music. “I heard people like Wilson Pickett, the Beach Boys, and the Rolling Stones,” Cool John remembers.

After graduating from high school in 1972, Cool John went on the road, joining the Earl Davis Trio playing jazz. He played a house gig at Latai Inn at Fripp Island Resort and played at four churches on Sundays. He played for five years with Stephen Best and the Soul Crusaders in black clubs all over South Carolina. Cool John continued to mix jazz, clubs and blues with church music and played on pop recordings with his niece, Esperanza. He even found a spot in the tent revival circuit. If it’s music and its vibrant, it’s good.

The result of all that playing and singing is a guitar marvel who can switch and blend, from songs like Golden Girls with a jazzy, calypso sway, he can move to Black Mud Boogie and conjure a rural, juke-joint jive. Cool John’s audiences also sit in wait because sooner or later there will be a taste of some fiery guitar pyrotechnics and may be a chance to fit in a bit of call-and-return vocal/guitar work drawn from deep root in Piedmont Blues and Gulah song.

Cool John is equally eclectic in his response to venue. You can find him holding center stage in New York City at Lincoln Center Out-Of-Doors, in Australia at the Byron Bay Blues Festival, making a stop in church for gospel, or just sending it out to the rooftops at his regular Saturday night gig at the All People’s Grill, a roadhouse north of Durham, North Carolina. A Strong collaborator, Cool John has put his guitar behind artists that include BB King, Taj Mahal, Kenny Wayne, Beverly Guitar Watkins and the Stylistics, and he has been honored two years running as Most Outstanding Guitarist by Living Blues Magazine.

In sum, there’s not an audience large or small, young or old that Cool John Ferguson can’t touch with his music. Take a witness from Taj Mahal who is proud to announce that, “Cool John Ferguson is among the five greatest guitarists in the world. He is a force to be reckoned with in the music industry. He is with the ranks of Jimi Hendrix, Wes Montgomery and Dajango Rienhart.”

Bell Tree –

Harvey Dalton Arnold

Harvey Dalton Arnold is probably best known as the bass player, songwriter and singer of southern-rock band, The Outlaws, from 1976-80, with whom he toured the world and sold several million albums. In 2005, Arnold was diagnosed with head, neck and tongue cancer but, thankfully, after a year of treatment, he recovered his health and rediscovered his passion for music.  Since then, he has focused on his first and true love, playing and singing the blues.  He leads the Harvey Dalton Arnold Blues Band, based in his native North Carolina, and has now released his first solo acoustic blues album.  He will play an acoustic set as well as sets accompanied by his electric band.

Cup of Flow –

John Dee Holeman

One of Music Maker’s most renowned and respected artists, John Dee Holeman spent the first six years of his life in the town of Hillsborough, Orange County, North Carolina, barely a mile from MM’s present office. A gentlemanly, gracious man, he speaks in a lilting, soft-spoken manner.

“I was born in 1929,” he says. “My father was Willy Holeman and my mother was born Annie Obie near Roxboro, North Carolina. Her daddy moved to Hillsborough and ran a flour mill. James Obie was my uncle; there are still Obies in Hillsborough. I lived on the Sam Latta place at first- he was the High Sheriff. There were three sisters and one brother. My parents are planted in the cemetery of Obie’s Chapel Church in Person County.” “In about 1935 we moved to a 100 acre farm on Gray Road in Northern Orange County. We would walk four miles to the store at Timberlake to get us some candy. We could play on Saturday or Sunday. You know, fix a swing in a tree, swing in a tire and things like that. One time I took a fender off a Model T Ford, got on a bank, put water on the bank, and slid right down to the bottom! I completed the fourth grade, then stopped; we weren’t compelled to attend then. I cut short my education because Daddy needed me to farm. I had to do what my Daddy said. I missed my education, but I’ve made a living so far.”

John Dee has made a living and then some. He has performed at the National Folk Festival, at Carnegie Hall, and has made overseas tours. In 1988, he was awarded the prestigious National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He is proud of a certificate signed and given to him by then-President Reagan. His skill as a guitarist, singer, and buckdancer have carried him far beyond his small-town and country roots. It was his skill as a guitarist that first set him apart.

When John Dee was 14 he bought a brand new Sears Silvertone guitar for $15. “I thought I had something!” he says. His uncle and cousin taught him a few chords. “I listened to 78’s like ‘Step It Up and Go’ by Blind Boy Fuller, the Grand Ole Opry, and heard others play at pig-picking parties. I was good for catching on. My guitar kept me company when I tended to tobacco in the barn so I wouldn’t go to sleep. You had to control the tobacco as it cured-you ran one heat to get the green out, then another to dry it out for cigarettes.”

He moved to Durham in 1954 in reaction to farming’s financial shortcomings. “The government took over the farming and gave you an allotment of how much you could raise. Before that we raised as much as we could handle. If you went over the allotment at harvest time, they’d make you cut it down. In 1954 I got $200 for my portion of tobacco for the whole year.” “I went to the Liggett and Myers Tobacco Company for work. You could get a three-room ‘shotgun’ house for $6 a week. I also operated heavy equipment, like hauling dirt.”

In recent years John Dee has been a regular artist at Music Maker’s summer Warehouse Concerts series in Durham, held onsite at the West Village development on the site of the old L&M factories and warehouses. Organized in partnership with the City of Durham Parks and Recreation Department, the concerts are produced among West Village condos and stores where John Dee and his L&M co-workers used to produce cigarettes for the world. After his move to Durham, he played with musicians who learned first-hand from such bluesmen as Brownie McGhee, Sonny Terry, and Reverend Gary Davis, who played for rent parties and outside the bustling cigarette factories.

Although John Dee played his guitar for private functions while engaged in his regular day jobs, it wasn’t until folklorist Glen Hinson asked him to play for the Bicentennial Festival in Durham that his music career took off. “He said there would be 500 or 5,000 people. I told him, ‘I can’t face that many people- I’m not that good.’ He said to do the same thing that I do at my house or at a pig-picking, to do what I know. He just about begged me. I went out there and everybody like to have a good time. It made me feel real good.”

Since then, John Dee has been “just about all over- Thailand, Honolulu, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Turkey, Canada and six weeks in Africa. I met B.B. King and Chuck Berry and played with Joe and Odell Thompson (from Mebane, N.C.) in Boston.” He also met Lighnin’ Hopkins, who originally recorded a song in John Dee’s repertoire, “Give Me Back My Wig (Let Your Doggone Head Go Bald).” Some of his foreign trips were sponsored by the U.S. State Department. In addition to caring for his late wife Janet when she became ill for several years, John Dee managed to keep a regular schedule of foreign and local gigs with partners such as harp player Billy Stevens and the late piano player Fris Holloway. More recently he has recorded on the Music Maker label, backed by well-known players such as Taj Mahal and Cool John Ferguson. In 2008 Zeke Hutchens produced John Dee’s most recent CD, “You Got To Lose, You Can’t Win All The Time.”

When John Dee turned 80 in 2009, his many friends surprised him with the gift of a new electric guitar, which made his Piedmont blues sound as fresh as ever. His rapport with younger players is reflected in the comments of fellow MM artist Harvey Arnold, who has played bass and guitar with John Dee.

“His playing and singing have that special feel like they’re pouring out as natural as breathing, “says Arnold. “He’s such a genuine bluesman that I want to touch him and hope it rubs off on me.” Whether he’s playing and singing a ragtime like Fuller’s “Come On Down To My House”, a traditional blues like “John Henry”, or a city blues like Jimmy Reed’s “Big Boss Man”, John Dee Holeman is the real deal, a much-loved performer and man.
– Written by Peter Kramer

Tad Walters -

Born in Canton, Ohio, and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina, Tad Walters began playing the guitar at age 12. As he was developing his guitar skill, Tad picked up the harmonica a couple years later at fourteen. He was influenced by the likes of Blind Boy Fuller, Robert Lockwood, Charlie Patton, Robert Nighthawk, and John Jackson, among others, and began his professional music career with the Bob Margolin Band in 1996. In that four year period he traveled the world with the band and played with musicians like Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Billy Boy Arnold, Cary Bell, and others. In 2001, Tad joined the Big Bill Morganfield band and stayed until 2004. Tad is now teaching guitar and harmonica lessons and concentrating on Piedmont blues and old-time jazz with Dave Andrews

Rhett’s –

Jeff Littlejohn and Company

Farmville’s Jeffrey Littlejohn began playing guitar upon hearing Chuck Berry and Jimmy Reed screaming through the radio speaker when he was in the sixth grade. He formed his first band at sixteen, playing local juke joints and school dances before joinig the Air force and setting off for the Pacific and a subsequent career in music. Littlejohn has toured the United States and Europe, recorded and performed with Jimmy Carl Black (drummer and vocalist for Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention) as the Mesilla Valley LoBoys and Big Sonny and the LoBoys. He has shared the stage with BB King, Bad Company, Three Dog Night, Jeff Beck, Frank Zappa, Dr. John, and Osabisa.

Betsy’s Crepes

Ironing Board Sam

In his heyday, Ironing Board Sam was nearly a total obscurity — working primarily in local scenes around the South with only minimal touring, and recording sporadic singles, all for different labels and none approaching hitdom. But those who got to see him, whether in person or on the R&B television program Night Train, remember him well, for Sam could put on a show.

Born Samuel Moore in Rock Hill, South Carolina, in 1939, he began gigging locally on piano and organ at age 14. By the late ’50s he was on the scene in Miami where, lacking a stand for his electric organ, he mounted it on an ironing board. When he moved to Memphis around 1959, his instrument earned Sammy Moore the new moniker Ironing Board Sam, which he resented (whoever gave him that handle proved prescient, however, as the ultra-hot Sam & Dave soon emerged from Memphis, and the former’s surname was Moore; the who’s-who confusion caused by having two Sam Moores in the same music scene would likely have killed Ironing Board Sam’s already-meager career). By the mid ’60s, Sam was based in Nashville — I picture him down on Jefferson Street showing the young, unknown Jimi Hendrix what showmanship was all about.

Because make no mistake, Sam was already a showman — a slightly mellower Little Richard crossed with a slightly saner Screaming Jay Hawkins and a slightly less churchy Ray Charles — as he moved back to Memphis, then to Chicago, Iowa, Los Angeles, Memphis once more. Somewhere in there — history is woefully imprecise — Sam invented his “button board,” which was actually two keyboards. The main one looked like a Hammond B3 but underneath the keys were guitar strings that were fed through a wah-wah pedal and into an amp. Not only could he make it sound something like a B3, he could also make it sound like a piano, a guitar and all three combined. The lower keyboard, which provided bass, consisted of 60 upholstery tacks connected to electronic sensors. Under his coat sleeve, a wire ran down Sam’s arm to his fingers, conducting electricity to the buttons. It was just one of his many inventions — among other he claims to have built a machine with just five moving parts that could provide electricity to an entire apartment complex at no cost — and Sam never had to worry about anyone else playing his ax; nobody else could figure out how it worked.

In the mid ’70s Sam moved to New Orleans, where he was in residence, billed as “The Eighth Wonder of the World” and backed only by drummer Kerry Brown, at Mason’s VIP Lounge on South Clairborne. There, he’d lift his keyboard off its stand and strap it onto his shoulder as he strolled the club and sidewalk playing his late-night, lowdown blues; Brown played with the tips of his drumsticks on fire, and sometimes ended the set by burning the whole damn kit. When Sam got booked into Jazzfest in 1979, he did his entire show underwater in a 1500-gallon aquarium. Later, he busked on the streets backed by a wind-up monkey toy that kept time, as it were, on drums. When Sam concluded from the disco trend that audiences would now only listen to jukeboxes or deejays, he built an eight-foot high wooden jukebox, put himself and his keyboard inside it, and played that on French Quarter sidewalks; it had a coin slot that you fed money if you wanted him to take your request. In 1991, playing a vintage Wurlitzer piano, he cut demos for a local Orleans Records album called Human Touch; though unavailable on eMusic, it was finally released in 1996.

And then Sam’s button keyboard was vanquished. Before going on the road, he gave it to an electronics tech to have it transistorized and the guy found the whole project so ludicrous he up and threw it out. Sam claims he’s simply never had time to build a new one. Some of his aura consequently faded in New Orleans and he’d been retired for some time when Katrina savaged the city in 2005. He moved back to his South Carolina birthplace and began gigging again; eventually rediscovered by the Music Maker Relief Foundation, a charitable group that helps get Southern roots musicians back on their feet, he recorded and released the solo piano album Going Up.  [His other album,] Ninth Wonder is the Ironing Board Sam album you simply can’t miss, because it was originally recorded in the late ’60s/early ’70s as part of a promo packet to get Sam gigs; only 100 were pressed and sent to agencies, and none were released.

The Jefferson

Big Ron Hunter and the King Bees

Ron Hunter was born in Winston-Salem, NC. His father, who was a sharecropper, taught Ron how to sing and play the guitar at a young age. Mentored by the legendary Guitar Gabriel and versed in R&B, Rock & the Blues of BB King, Ron plays both electric and acoustic guitars in dramatically different styles. From Gabe’s advice, Hunter developed his unique sound all while raising a family and working a day job. As a maintenance man, you could find Ron locked up in his closet-sized office, plucking away at his guitar and pouring out the blues.

Hunter just released his second album, the Great Unknown, which, aside from receiving praise in the Living Blues magazine, proves his mastery of the blues and folk niches.

Now touring with the Music Maker Revue, Hunter has entered the Blues scene at full speed.

Big Ron will be backed by the King Bees. The 'Bees cut their teeth and honed their skills sitting in with and backing up many blues titans - Bo Diddley, Tinsley Ellis, Billy Branch, Mojo Buford, Big Jack Johnson, Sam Carr, Frank Frost, Lazy Lester, Ronnie Earl - these are only a few who've invited The 'Bees to share the stage.

But what has most refined and sharpened their cut-to-the-bone talent are the years spent on the road with some of the most legendary of blues greats, such as Jerry McCain and Chicago Bob Nelson. They are a hot band that will share some of their own great material as well.


July will see five classic movies on Thursday evenings at the Sunrise Theatre in downtown Southern Pines. Shows are bargain priced at $5 and begin at 7:30. Leading off on the 3rd will be the musical “Cabaret”, followed by “Top Gun”, the beloved “Casablanca” on the 17th, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, and on the final day of the month, “Gremlins”.
Cabaret is recognized as one of the 100 greatest films of all time as well as a top ten musical. Released in 1972 and directed by Broadway’s Bob Fosse(who later got his own movie, “All That Jazz”) the movie was filmed in Germany and is set there in 1931 Berlin, during the last days of the Weimar Republic. The National Socialists, better known as the Nazis, loom. The cynicism and despair they will inspire is represented at the bohemian Kit Kat Club. The main attraction is Sally Bowles who is, of course, played by Liza Minnelli in an Academy-award winning performance. Joel Grey, who won his own statuette, stands in for  viewers as the emcee. When Doctor of Philosophy candidate Brian Roberts(Michael York) shows up he becomes a love interest of Sally’s. But who else is he interested in? York’s continental good looks and manner are perfect for the sexually ambiguous character of Roberts. He eventually heads back to Cambridge as Sally elects to stay in Berlin after their dalliance. Unlike most musicals the songs are performed as musical numbers  in the club and not used to necessarily advance the plot and character development. The exception is Tomorrow Belongs to Me, sung in a beer hall by a brown shirted future Nazi.
Cabaret set a record for most Oscars won by a film that was not selected as Best Picture. In 1972 the competition was The Godfather, so that is understandable. Fosse won for Best Director and five technical bests were added to the previously mentioned Minnelli and Grey. Stylish and socially conscious, come to the Cabaret. Wells Fargo is sponsoring “Cabaret”.
Do you feel the need…the need for speed? If so, join us for the July 10th showing of 1986’s “Top Gun”. Some of the best aerial footage to be found in any film is featured in the late Tony Scott’s two-hour Navy pilot recruitment effort. You know Tom Cruise stars as flawed American hero Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, but did you know that Matthew Modine supposedly turned down the role; that would have been a crash and burn! Kelly McGillis co-stars with Cruise and the F14A Tomcats as love interest Charlie Blackwood, and Val Kilmer plays Iceman. Anthony Edwards as Goose and Meg Ryan as his young bride are featured as well. In a potential international incident over the Indian Ocean the reckless, no-rules Maverick’s derring do wins out and he and partner Goose are chosen for the prestigious Naval Weapons School, known as “Top Gun”.  Here he bumps heads with authority and the cocky Iceman.  After learning of classified information on the heroic, and previously secret, death of his father Maverick is able to simmer down, woo Charlie(Cruise sings!) and grow up. Top Gun was the highest grossing movie of 1986 and the soundtrack featuring Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone and the Oscar winning Take My Breath Away, performed by Berlin and written by Giorgio Moroder, sold seven million copies. Bomber jackets were ubiquitous and Ray Ban’s aviator sunglasses increased in sales by 40%. (I had both) Additionally Top Gun was feted as “Best Foreign Film” in Japan! Top Gun is sponsored, appropriately,  by  Southern Pines Barbell & Crossfit.
Why is “Casablanca” so many Americans of a certain generation’s favorite movie? Perhaps because it embodies the idea of sacrifice. Released in November 1942 to coincide with the Allied invasion of North Africa and capture of Morocco’s city of the same name, Casablanca stars Humphrey Bogart as a man torn between love and virtue. Rick Blaine was Bogart’s first romantic lead and he set the standard in this Best Picture winner. You know the story; into Rick’s gin joint comes the lost love of his life, Ilsa, played by the beautiful Ingrid Bergman. When she says “Play it, Sam” to the bar’s piano player she brings a haunted and angry Rick on the double. He never wanted to hear their song, As Time Goes By, again. Meanwhile, her once-thought-to-be-dead husband Victor is a resistance fighter and target of the black uniformed Nazis who needs the letters of transit that have come into Rick’s possession in order to escape to neutral Portugal. A love triangle and only two letters; who will be left behind? Besides the Best Picture nod, director Michael Curtiz won, as did the screenplay, which was adapted from an unproduced play called “Everybody Comes to Rick’s”. Only three americans are in the multi-national cast, but who needs them with the likes of Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre scheming and double dealing.  Here’s something to look for, but don’t let it spoil your appreciation of the film. In the foggy final scene, the plane in the background is built to a small scale and made of cardboard. No wonder one of our three lovelorn heroes had to stay behind. Mockingbird is sponsoring this favorite.
Perfect for July is John Hughes’ best movie because it is about the pursuit of happiness. I’m referring to “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. An independent spirit? Why, yes. Matthew Broderick stars as the teenaged Ferris in a role that director Hughes says would have been perfect for the young Jimmy Stewart. Also starring are Mia Sara as the girlfriend and Alan Ruck(twenty-nine at the time) as the depressed best friend, as well as a 1961 Ferrari California convertible. Who could resist? Also from 1986, as was Top Gun, the movie is about a high schooler who simply needs a day away from the halls of education. He’s needed so many days off, however, that one more absence means repeating the year. Dean of Students Mr. Rooney, played by Jeffrey Jones in the role of a career, wants to catch Ferris in the act and suffers greatly for his efforts. No days off in the adult world. In writer, producer, director Hughes’ self- described love letter to his home town of Chicago, Bueller and company attend a Cubs game(and make a TV replay), visit the art Institute of Chicago(watch for Nighthawks), eat at an expensive restaurant with a snooty, incompetent maitre’d (Ferris’s dad is there) and wind up at the Von Steuben Day parade where Ferris sings “Danke Schoen” and “Twist and Shout”(a version Paul McCartney says has too much brass). Too much brass….Ten thousand citizens showed up to shoot the parade scene on a few day’s notice and the fun is evident on screen. Co-starring in memorable small roles are Edie McClurg as the school secretary who can hold three pencils in her big hair, Ben Stein as a supply side lecturing teacher, Charlie Sheen as a delinquent in an anticipatory role, and Jennifer Grey(daughter of Joel) as a long suffering sister. The Ice Cream Parlor is sponsoring the movie even George will has described as effortless escapism.
Last but not least in July is the 1984 black comedy “Gremlins”. Written by Chris Columbus of Home Alone and Mrs. Doubtfire directorial fame and directed by Joe Dante, who was handpicked by executive producer Stephen Spielberg, this one comments on no less than Western Civilization itself. A well meaning Dad buys a Chinese “monster” or, mogwai, as a Christmas present for his teenaged son. Named Gizmo by young Billy(Zach Galligan) it’s not long before the care and handling rules(no sun, no getting wet, no food after midnight) are broken. Mayhem ensues. (Western Civilization?) Mogwais are microwaved, they reproduce, they go to the movies where they enjoy Snow White and her own “monsters”. Singer-songwriter Hoyt Axton is the father and Polly (Flo from the “Alice” TV show) Holiday plays unforgettable Mrs. Deagle. Gremlins wound up 1984 as the second highest grossing movie after Ghostbusters and was influential in the idea of splitting the difference between “R” and “PG” ratings. “PG13” was the result.  Moubry Dental of Southern Pines is sponsoring.