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Broad Spectrum

Fair music runs the gamut from Little Richard to Big Bad Voodoo Daddy.

August 04, 2000|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

A local tradition since 1875, the Ventura County Fair offers a better-than-average soundtrack this year, with a spectrum of musicians including the new, the old and the "are they still alive?" category of artists who continually come back or refuse to go away.

The crowning moment figures to be Wednesday night when Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, those well-dressed kings of swing wearing cool hats, take the stage. The VooDudes started playing locally back in 1991, mostly at Nicholby's in Ventura. Relentless road dogs, they landed an important gig at the Derby in Hollywood, from where they helped launch the nationwide swing dance craze in which participants both dress and dance well.

The Derby gig led to a part in the 1996 cult movie "Swingers," which definitely put the band on the map. After a couple of independent albums and plenty of roadwork, the band signed a lucrative deal with Capitol before moving on to Interscope, where its latest is "This Beautiful Life." The most successful band ever from the Poinsettia City, BBVD's resume is the envy of many--appearances at the Super Bowl and the Orange Bowl, a gig for President Bill and even an episode of "Ally McBeal."

Other local artists will perform Saturday as part of the fifth annual Gospel Music Festival. Soloists, duos, small groups and choirs from 15 Ventura County churches will share their talents in a five-hour program beginning at 4 p.m.

Doing their share to keep classic rock alive are a pair of FM staples, Foreigner and Firefall, playing Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

Foreigner, originally powered by the vocals of Lou Gramm, made its debut in 1977 and had a string of hits including "Feels Like the First Time," "Cold as Ice" and "Hot-Blooded." Firefall's self-titled debut album in 1976 allowed the group members to keep their night jobs with hits such as "You Are the Woman" and "Cinderella."

Country fans can check out Terri Clark, Kenny Chesney and Chely Wright, not to mention some real cowboys doing real cowboy stuff at the PRCA Rodeo during the fair's final weekend.

Clark, the country hit maker, went triple platinum in her 1995 debut. Her follow-up, 1997's "Just the Same," went gold. "How I Feel" is the latest for Clark, who will perform tonight.

Tennessee native Chesney has released five albums since his debut seven years ago, his latest "Everywhere We Go."

Chesney, who performs next Friday, described his new one thus: "I'm very proud of the fact that there's not a boring moment on it and there's no overall theme. As far as I'm concerned, there are 11 different songs on here and 11 different themes. I'm having fun, I'm crying a little bit, I'm feeling good and I'm feeling bad--all the way through the album."

Wright, who brings down the curtain on the fair Aug. 13, started singing at the ripe old age of 11. The 20-something singer is best known for her smash hit "Single White Female."

Tower of Power, with that incomparable horn section that has performed with such diverse artists as Elton John, the Eurythmics and Phish, has been creating its own brand of soul since the '60s. The Bay Area band was originally called the Motowns, leaving little mystery as to its musical orientation. The 10-piece outfit is one of the few groups that can actually stage a fluegelhorn duet.

Joining Tower of Power on Thursday will be another veteran band, War, out of South-Central Los Angeles. War, which was launched in 1969, a year after Tower of Power, has a musical agenda to spread a message of brotherhood, justice and harmony. Its most famous tunes are perhaps "Low Rider," "Why Can't We Be Friends?" and "Spill the Wine."

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Debbie Reynolds, star of stage and screen and forever known for the ballad "Tammy," will perform Tuesday on Senior Day, when those 55 and older get in free. Reynolds landed the lead female role in one of the greatest musicals of all time, "Singin' in the Rain," co-starring Gene Kelly. The mother of Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), Reynolds has starred in more than 30 films and has been a lifelong supporter of the Girl Scouts and the Thalians, a charity that has raised millions of dollars for emotionally disturbed children.

By the way, anyone 100 or older gets into the fair free, any day.

Former teen heartthrob Rick Springfield will bring a lengthy resume to his Tuesday night performance. The former soap opera star from "General Hospital" has recorded a dozen albums, selling 15 million, and has earned a Grammy as well as three American Music Awards. His latest is "Karma," but expect his biggies such as "Jessie's Girl" and "Don't Talk to Strangers."

Oldies but goodies will come to life in the form of the Drifters and Little Richard.

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