Gary “Booster” Oliver has been putting on shows and concerts in Akron for 20 years. The shows are usually headlined by his own long-running band, the Relatively Jammin’ Blues Band, so named not because it relatively jams but because the band is made up almost entirely of members of Oliver’s family.
The Akron native and singer/guitarist spent years toiling on the local club scene trying to get gigs before coming to the conclusion that if he was going to struggle he’d rather struggle on his own terms. He began holding his annual Stone Soul Balls in various venues around the city.
Oliver then decided to expand and start an outdoor version of his concerts with more bands and an eclectic lineup. Oliver dubbed it the Stone Soul Rock ’n’ Roll Music Festival, and it is now in its fourth year. The 2013 festival is happening on next Saturday at the Firestone VFW Pavilion in East Akron.
Oliver is proudly old school, coming from a time when local and national soul and R&B were played by bands featuring musicians playing actual instruments who dressed up for shows, danced while playing and singing and worked hard to entertain a crowd.
“There’s a lot of talent around here, but it ain’t like it used to be when James Ingram and those guys were here,” Oliver said.
“There were bands all over the place and it’s all gone now because of rap. They don’t know about playing instruments. I’m drilling it into my kids’ heads, but I can’t save the world.
“[Rappers] don't know, really know, what real fun is when it comes to entertainment. All that grabbing your crotch and throwing $500 microphones into the audience and profanity. All this violent stuff compared to the old-school stuff. Man, they don’t know,” Oliver said.
The Relatively Jammin’ Blues Band features Oliver’s daughter singer/keyboardist Marilyn Oliver, Akron’s “Queen of the Blues;” the RJBB dancers granddaughters Marsharee and Alana Oliver and nephew Barry Davidson on bass. Oliver handles guitar duties and this year he has his 11-year-old grandson Royal Oliver playing drums, including a two-song spotlight where Royal will sing and play Little Richard’s Good Golly Miss Molly and Lucille.
The band will also have a nonrelated special guest, keyboardist Norman Weatherly, a Buchtel High graduate who is currently in the ’70s R&B band Rose Royce (which is playing today at Lock 3 Park) and has toured with Ike Turner. Oliver also has his 4-year-old great-great nephew Terrell Hall on air guitar.
The gates will open at 3:30 p.m. and the music will begin at 5 p.m. This year’s lineup includes rock, blues, old school funk and R&B with a dash of contemporary R&B. Here’s the schedule of bands:
5 p.m. — The Swizzle Stick Band, an old-school soul big band complete with a horn section that plays Motown classics and funk and soul from the 1960s through the 1980s with plenty of energy and expertise and soul singer Vanda Johnson.
6 p.m. — It’s Been a Long Time, a classic rock cover band.
7 p.m. — Midlife Crisis, a Streetsboro-based rock and blues band that covers classic rock tunes by the Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix and many others as well as a few of their own blues-rock originals
8 p.m. — The Relatively Jammin’ Blues Band, Oliver’s family band covering several decades of blues and soul music.
The festival is sponsored by A. Max Music which is offering a full guitar setup including guitar, strap and amplifier, guitar picks and an instructional video to be given out in a drawing.
In addition to the music, there will be food vendors and the event will be emceed by DJ Silk, who specializes in spinning old-soul classics. There will be a hand-dancing competition and concertgoers will have a chance to break out their moves during the perennially popular Soul Train Line.