Children's entertainer Red Grammer teaches peace in his songs, but he has another message for parents.
"We live too fast," he said recently from his upstate New York home. "Being a child is a wonderful place to be. There's no rush."
Grammer, whose music is a relaxant for kids on the fast track through childhood, will perform in Ventura on April 26 at Buena High School. In a concert here last year, he drew a standing ovation.
With a clear tenor voice, he sounds a lot like singer John Denver, but Grammer bounds onto the stage and never stops moving. His animated approach is gentle and soothing, sometimes rambunctious and silly.
"With my music, kids feel safe and comfortable."
His music appeals to parents as well as to children, he said. In fact, he may be a familiar face to some adults. His major career break occurred a decade ago when he was offered the job of replacing Glenn Yarborough in the folk group the Limelighters.
While performing with the group, Grammer and his wife, Kathy, a former schoolteacher, became interested in children's music. In 1983, they released a tape of songs aimed at 2- to 6-year-olds. That was followed in 1986 by "Teaching Peace," a tape for older children.
That one took off, selling 50,000 copies with virtually no distribution, he said. He left the Limelighters in 1989 to concentrate on children's entertainment.
"Teaching Peace" is a collection of songs that promote harmonious living, healthy self-esteem, equality and acceptance of others. The songs take the broad concept of peace and break it down so that children can grasp its meaning.
In "Places in the World," he uses a rap rhythm to link such diverse places as Warsaw and Moose Jaw, Canada. In the marching tune "Teaching Peace," he suggests that children can do something simple every day to promote peace.
He teaches young listeners how to say hello in Spanish, Swahili and Cantonese in the "Rapp Song." He has fun with his songs. In "Barnyard Boogie," he does a mean rooster. He shakes his head wildly in "Shake Your Brains."
Being a kid should be fun, he believes. And that's what's sad about the way kids grow up today, he said. Society pushes them to mature too fast and, at the same time, they are bombarded by television marketing and advertising strategies.
"I worry about the pace society moves," he said. "It's not in the interest of children. They're exposed to too much intensity."
He toured the Soviet Union recently and was struck by how much more relaxed the children seemed. The pace was slower there, he felt, and the children weren't receptacles for television marketing.
"We Americans allow a lot of people to have an impact on our children's lives," he said.
Since Grammer left the Limelighters, he has appeared on the Disney Channel's "Kaleidoscope Concerts," Nickelodeon's "Eureka's Castle," "Entertainment Today," "Entertainment Tonight" and National Public Radio's "All Things Considered."
His manager, Glenn Sernyk, believes that Grammer may be the next Raffi, who during the 1980s became the guru of children's entertainment. But Raffi, also managed by Sernyk during that time, has drifted over to adult entertainment.
"Raffi was able to touch people," Sernyk said. "He was a charismatic performer. Red is the same way."
Grammer gives a much more energetic performance than Raffi, whose music was aimed toward a younger audience.
"Adults listen to my tapes," he said. "I've had parents say Raffi tapes aren't what they want to listen to."
Grammer, the father of two elementary school-age sons, has just released a new album, "Down the Do-Re-Mi." On it, his older son, David, joins him in the tongue-twisting melody "ABC's of You," which doles out praise with each letter of the alphabet. The release continues in the same vein as his "Teaching Peace" tape--building self-esteem and getting a kick out of being a kid.
* The Ventura Youth Chorus, under the direction of Barbara Howard, will present its spring concert April 28 at 4 p.m. at Trinity Lutheran Church, 196 N. Ashwood Ave., Ventura. Tickets are $2.50. Guest artist is harpist Michelle Temple of Santa Barbara.
* Talented students from the Oxnard Union High School District and Santa Clara High School will face off in the Youth Performing Arts Competition at 7 p.m. April 25 at the Oxnard Civic Auditorium. Drama, instrumental, dance and vocal are the talent categories. Admission is free.
* The Conejo Valley Days are under way. On Saturday, runners can compete in 5- or 10-K races starting at 7:30 a.m. in front of the Cal Lutheran University gymnasium in Thousand Oaks. A 2-K family run starts at 9:30 a.m. A children's parade begins at 9:15 a.m. along Duesenberg Drive. A chili cook-off will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Conejo Creek Park.
* WHERE AND WHEN
Singer Red Grammer will appear April 26 at 7 p.m. at Buena High School in Ventura. Advance tickets are $3.50 for children and $5.50 for adults; $1 more at the door. Tickets are available at Ventura elementary schools and Adventures for Kids, 3457 Telegraph Road, Ventura.