Soul veteran brings uplifting music to Elks Opera House

Courtesy photo<br>Eddie Watkins Jr., who has performed with a number of music industry legends, will sing hits of the Motown era Saturday.

Courtesy photo<br>Eddie Watkins Jr., who has performed with a number of music industry legends, will sing hits of the Motown era Saturday.

Eddie Watkins Jr. will sing praises of "Motown & Miracles" when he brings his groovy music gig to the Elks Opera House stage Saturday.

The show, sponsored by the Center for Spiritual Living, starts at 4 p.m.

Tickets are $20 and are available online at www.elksoperahouse.com, by calling 777-1370, or at the door.

This maestro of bass, primarily, but also of guitar and piano and, more recently, a songster of note, promises an eclectic performance with hits of the Motown era and melodies made famous by the likes of Sly and the Family Stone, Frank Sinatra, Louis Armstrong and Tony Bennett. "It's going to be great," Watkins said of Saturday's concert.

Watkins, 56, grew up in the Motor City, a product of tough times amid ghettos. He watched tanks roll down his street in the 1967 Detroit riots.

"My music is an expression of all the experiences of my life," Watkins said.

He gives his grandmother her just dues for inspiring his musical career. Despite the hardship, she saved coins in a jar for his piano lessons, and he carried them in a handkerchief to pay his teacher.

His recollections of those days center on "being brought up with the Motown greats." When he was in middle school, his music teacher, a sax player in a Motown band, took him to work with him and introduced him to the stars of this age.

"I would sit backstage and watch Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Supremes," he said, recalling the influence those greats had on him. By the time he was 17, his own proficiency won him a place in a recording session with the Temptations.

From there, his career blossomed. He moved to Los Angeles and recorded with Motown artists, setting him on the path to international fame "as one of the most prolific bass players in the music industry." His credit is on CD labels with Marvin Gaye, Quincy Jones, James Brown, Santana, Cher, Diana Ross, Herbie Hancock, Patti LaBelle, The Pointer Sisters and Peter Frampton.

His "soulful and hard-driving bass licks" have also supported such classic R&B recordings as Peaches and Herb's "Shake Your Groove Thing," Dan Hartman's "I Can Dream about You," the Pointer Sisters' "Automatic" and Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive."

A more personal success came with the platinum album he recorded with "a miniature Jackson 5 kind of group," which he wrote and produced, titled, "A Message from the Boys."

Now living in Seattle where he is music director for the Center for Spiritual Living, Watkins' focus changed a bit when he became involved in religious science, a spiritual, philosophical and metaphysical movement.

"Songs woke him up, pouring out of him," Watkins says of his relationship with the "new thought" concept of this religious group's teachings. This genre of music, Watkins said, bases its principles upon new thinking emanating from ancient wisdom of centuries ago - Buddha, Christ and Confucius.

"It's self-empowering, uplifting and positive," Watkins said. "It's not exclusive, more universal" and appeals "even if you don't have a religion."

Saturday's "Motown & Miracles" will also feature some of Watkins' own compositions, including "I Walk Away,"

"Get Out of the Way" and "The Answer."

"These are songs written through me," he said. "Songs out of me are things I need to hear to work on myself. Hopefully others searching to make sense out of our world, out of what's happening" will find answers in his words, he said.

"Motown & Miracles" will benefit programs at the Center for Spiritual Living in Prescott as well as its international scholarships that enable youths and young adults to attend conferences that teach the center's mission.