Santa Claus is coming to town and so are plenty of other faces that are familiar to blues, southern soul and R&B fans.
Mr. Mike's Productions is celebrating the holiday season with a special installment of the Saturday Night Live series with headliners Calvin Richardson, Avail Hollywood, Kiki Pryor and El Dorado's own Benito Glosson, the self-proclaimed Teddy Bear of Southern Soul.
Recently added to the lineup is Coupe Deville, a blues and southern music artist from Monroe, Louisiana.
The show is set for Dec. 21 at the El Dorado Municipal Auditorium, 100 W. Eighth. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m.
Comedian Cleatis Allen Jr. will host the show.
Mr. Mike's Productions
Michael Jackson — the "Mike" in Mr. Mike's Productions and Mr. Mike's Music and Artwork store on East Hillsboro — launched the SNL series earlier this year to complement his flagship shows: Soul Fest and Southern Soul Showdown, both of which largely focus on blues and southern soul music, with some funk, R&B, soul and neo-soul mixed in.
As the owner of a music store that opened in 2000, Jackson, a self-described "lover of good music," got an unexpected lesson in the concert promotion business by developing connections with a variety musical artists and selling tickets for shows that were scheduled in other cities in the region.
"I wanted to have [a show] in El Dorado," Jackson said previously.
He began booking sporadic concerts at various outdoor and indoor venues in the city and in 2002, Jackson presented his first major production.
Enter Soul Fest, which showcases some of the most well-known names on the blues and southern soul circuit and features other local and regional acts that perform a wide variety of musical genres.
The Southern Soul Showdown took off four years later as fans clamored for one last show before fall and winter temperatures settle into the area, Jackson has explained.
Soul Fest is typically held in late spring/early summer and the Showdown, in late summer/early fall.
It did not take long for the outdoor shows to become two of the most highly anticipated, annual events in El Dorado, typically drawing crowds of 1,500 to 2,000 to the Union County Fairgrounds for a down-home, bring-your-own-lawn-chairs-and-coolers vibe.
As requests for more shows grew, Jackson explored other ideas to entertain local crowds.
Two of those ideas are SNL and Grown Folks Nite Out — near-monthly concerts that are designed to whet the musical appetites of fans during the periods between Soul Fest and Showdown.
Many of the same artists who headline the two major shows also appear at SNL and GFNO. Jackson has said he likes to introduce new artists during the shows to gauge local response and to possibly add them to the talent lineup for Soul Fest and Showdown.
Many are invited back to the flagship events, he said.
Hollywood is one such artist, having become a local fan favorite over the years.
A native of Texarkana, Texas, Hollywood can trace his musical beginnings to church. At the age of 5, he served as the drummer for the Mass Choir at his Texarkana church, along with his father, Collins Estell Sr., a guitarist and consultant to southern soul artists and a gospel group.
Two sisters, Loraine and Donna Estell, were also part of the choir and they later formed a soul and blues group called Shades of Ebony.
Hollywood released his first album in 2009, "The Young Gunn of Southern Soul," on his own label, NLIGHTN Records. His latest album, "Still King," dropped in March.
Making his first visit to El Dorado, per fan request, Richardson headlined SNL in October and he was so enthusiastically welcomed by concert-goers, he agreed to return for the December installment of the SNL concert series.
"He's back by popular demand. There was a good crowd in October. A lot of people came to the fairgrounds," Jackson said.
Cold temperatures and the threat of inclement weather kept many fans away and SNL will provide another opportunity for those fans to see Richardson perform live.
A North Carolina native, Richardson got his start as a gospel singer in a local group, the Willing Wonders, which was led by his mother.
He was also influenced by blues, R&B, funk and soul music. Some of his favorite artists are Bobby Womack, Sam Cook, Otis Redding Donny Hathaway and the Gap Band.
While making the rounds on the North Carolina gospel music circuit, Richardson befriended two gospel-singing brothers, Cedric "K-Ci" Hailey and Joel "JoJo" Hailey, who rose to stardom with the '90s R&B group Jodeci and later as a duo.
Mr. Mike's Productions booked the Hailey brothers for a show at the municipal auditorium in 2012.
Inspired by the Haileys, Richardson formed his own urban contemporary group, Undacova. The group's mid-tempo groove, "Love Slave," appeared on the soundtrack of the 1995 movie, "New Jersey Drive."
Each of Richardson's musical influences and his gritty, soulful sound are showcased in the popular track, "Can't Let Go."
The love song appears on Richardson's "All or Nothing Album," which was released in 2017. The single has racked up millions of views online and is still in heavy rotation on the radio.
The SNL event will double as a release party for Richardon's new album, "Gold Dust" and a 65th birthday celebration for Jackson's mother, Ethel Jackson.
"She's a big Calvin Richardson fan. I was going to do the show earlier in the month but I pushed it back for her birthday [Dec. 21]," he said.
Pryor and Glosson performed at another SNL event in July as part of Mayor Veronica Smith-Creer's El Dorado Dazed Weekend, three days of activities.
The duo performed as part of a former blues and southern soul collective that was known as The Fantastic 5!, which included Mr. Lyve, Royal D and Coupe Deville.
Pryor was born in Farmerville, Louisiana, and grew up in Spearsville, Louisiana.
As a member of a musical family, Pryor developed a love for music in his early childhood and honed his talents in church by playing the piano and singing in the choir.
That southern-bred, gospel background is evident in Pryor's music. He also cites R&B singer-songwriters Aaron Hall and R. Kelly as musical influences.
Glosson, a 1987 graduate of El Dorado High School, toured and performed with MC Hammer in the late 1980s and early '90s as a singer, dancer and songwriter.
He achieved a modicum of success as a solo artist after releasing an album in the mid-90s.
Glosson's sultry slow-jam,"Show Me Some Love" was played in heavy rotation on "Midnight Love," a former video music show that used to air nightlyon the BET network.
Earlier this year, Glosson announced that he was releasing new music, including gospel and southern soul.
A music video for the single, "The Teddy Bear Zydeco Bounce," was filmed in Mattocks Park and featured a line dance that included Smith-Creer.
'The show, the after-party …'
Jackson said tickets are moving briskly for SNL. The first 100 tickets went for $20 and were quickly sold out.
"They went so fast, I had some more printed up for $20. People have been taking advantage of the early-bird tickets," he said.
Tickets are now $25 in advance and they will be $35 at the door. Prices start at $50 for the VIP section.
There will be a photographer and food vendors selling fish and chicken plates on-site.
An after-party has also been planned.
An announcement will be made Dec. 20 to provide further details, including the location and price of admission, which the headliners are expected to attend, Jackson said.
Tickets for SNL are available at Mr. Mike's Music and Artwork in El Dorado; Special Touch in Camden; JB's in Crossett; Golden Girls in Warren; Record Rack, Pine Bluff; Golden Lady in Texarkana; Ugly Mike's in Little Rock; and in Louisiana at LBK's (Farmerville), Martha's Boutique (Ruston) and Poppa's Liquor (Arcadia).
For more information, call Jackson at 870-866-7441.