For 15 years, the Southern Soul Showdown has brought some of the biggest names in R&B, blues and southern soul to El Dorado and that milestone anniversary will be celebrated with a similar lineup Aug. 8 at the Union County Fairgrounds.
Gates open at 6 p.m. and the show starts at 7 p.m. Monday is the last day to purchase tickets for $30 in advance. The price goes up to $35 Tuesday and admission is $40 at the gate.
A limited number of VIP tickets are available for $60.
Headliners TK Soul and Calvin Richardson will face off in a match-up, pitting Soul’s gritty blend of R&B, soul/southern soul and blues, flavored with a hip-hop edge against Richardson’s smooth melodic flow — R&B and neo-soul that is influenced by vintage soul music of the 1960s and 70s, hip-hop and the R&B/neo-soul movement of the 90s and early 2000s.
Rounding out the SSS lineup will be featured performers Donnie Ray, Britt Foxx and Kiko, all of whom are rising stars on the blues/southern soul circuit. P2K will serve as host and DJ Big Daddy will be on hand with musical entertainment to keep the crowd hyped.
It all started ‘simply’
Promoter Michael Jackson, of Mr. Mike’s Productions, said Showdown, which centers around a good-natured “competition” between the headliners each year, started in 2006, simply, as a response to requests from local blues, southern soul and R&B fans.
Jackson had launched the equally popular Soul Fest in 2002.
The Soul Fest event is typically held in late spring/early summer each year at the fairgrounds and while the musical roster is dominated by blues and southern soul artists, Jackson has mixed it up over the years with R&B, soul and funk acts.
This year, Soul Fest was held June 13 against the backdrop of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
An event plan had to be approved by the Arkansas Department of Health and safety guidelines implemented, but Jackson said that while the 2020 crowd may not have reached the usual numbers of 2,000 - 2,500, Soul Fest still drew a sizable audience, including numerous out-of-town visitors who were looking for safe, outdoor events after months of self-quarantining and cancellations or postponements of other events and live-music shows.
The SSS was born off the strength and popularity of Soul Fest.
“I was doing Soul Fest and people were asking for more. I got requests to do one more show before it got too cold so I started doing one show in the summer and one in the fall,” Jackson explained.
Showdown has evolved into one of the area’s most highly anticipated annual events, consistently drawing at least 1,500 to 2,000 attendees to the fairgrounds each year.
Starting out, Jackson scheduled Showdown for the first weekend in October, the same time as another major music event in El Dorado: MusicFest.
“Now, I move it around between September, October, Labor Day — depending on whatever else is going on at the time,” he previously said.
Jackson has since refined the Showdown schedule even more.
For a few years, Showdown was booked the second week in September but several other local events are scheduled around the same time — the SouthArk Outdoor Expo, Airstreams on the Square, the Union County Fair and the start of the high school football season, just to name a few.
In 2019, Jackson decided to move Showdown to August and though some of the other local events have been postponed or canceled — the SouthArk Outdoor Expo will not be held this year —, Jackson is sticking to the August date for Showdown.
He quickly learned that moving the Showdown schedule to August left people clamoring for another outdoor concert before fall and winter temperatures set in, Jackson said.
Showdown provides the same type of laid-back, down-home atmosphere as Soul Fest, in which attendees bring their lawn chairs and coolers and patronize a variety of on-site vendors while listening to blues and southern soul music, the latter of which is influenced by blues, soul, R&B and gospel.
This year’s lineup will maintain that tradition.
“Lately, I’ve been getting requests for Calvin Richardson,” he explained.
Ricahrdson made his first appearance in El Dorado in October of 2019 as a headliner at another Mr. Mike’s live music event, Saturday Night Live.
Jackson said Richardson was so enthusiastically welcomed by concert-goers that Richarson agreed to return two months later for the December installment of the SNL concert series.
During the December event, Richardson partnered with Jackson’s nonprofit organization, Brothers Making Changes, to host a holiday food drive.
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. Richardson has said that 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 released hit singles as a duo.
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.”
Richardson’s musical influences and seductive melodies are showcased in the popular track, “Can’t Let Go.”
The love song appears on his “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.
T.K. Soul has made numerous appearances in El Dorado over the years and is one of the most highly-sought after performers on the blues/southern soul circuit.
He is a proven audience draw and has held the SSS crown on a number of occasions over the past 15 years, having last headlined the show in 2017.
The Winnfield, Louisiana native mixes traditional R&B, funk and hip-hop with blues melodies and lyrics that speak to love and the ebb and flow of romantic relationships.
Soul, born Terrance Kimble, has cited Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5, Al Green, Maze, Rick James and Prince as some of his musical influences.
At 10 years old, he picked up a guitar and discovered he could easily play the instrument by ear. He went on to master the keyboards, drums and bass.
Soul worked as a DJ at clubs and parties before he began writing songs and touring with R&B and funk acts as a sideman.
For a while, he played keyboards for the H-Town, the Houston-based R&B trio who scored a number of hit songs in the 1990s, including “Knockin’ Da Boots”, “Emotions”, “They Like it Slow” and a stirring remake of The Persuaders’ “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate.”
The cover which was featured on the soundtrack of the 1994 movie of the same name that starred Martin Lawrence and Lynn Whitfield.
Another R&B/soul great, Shirley Murdock, was featured on the track.
Since 2002, he has released a string of top-selling albums — including “One Woman Man”, “The Bad Boy of Southern Soul”, “Love Games”, “Undisputed” and “The Legacy” — with several singles that have been crowd-pleasers at his shows.
Soul has come to be known as The Bad Boy of Southern Soul and has generated buzz for his showmanship and lively, energetic concerts, having even taken the stage in a boxing robe and gloves for some performances.
In addition to giving fans what they asked for all those years ago, Jackson said he uses Showdown and other shows presented by Mr. Mike’s Productions for more altruistic purposes.
Five years ago, he began directing proceeds from Showdown to Brothers Making Changes, a nonprofit he launched in the early 2010s to mentor young men and boys from their teenage years through early adulthood.
As for Showdown 2020, Jackson has the same advice that he doles out each year.
“Bring your lawn chairs, bring your coolers and just enjoy the music,” he said.
Coolers are allowed inside the gate for $5 each.
COVID-19 safety guidelines will be enforced.
Tickets may be purchased at Mr. Mike’s Music and Artwork in El Dorado; Special Touch in Camden; JB’s in Crossett; Golden Girls in Warren; Record Rack in Pine Bluff; Golden Lady in Texarkana; Ugly Mike’s in Little Rock; and LBK’s in Farmerville, Louisiana.
For more information, call Jackson at 870-866-7441.