The Atlanta Tribute (2002)
Notes on the Tributeby Kevin Trumper
On Friday, fans arrived at the hotel a few at a time. We introduced ourselves to each other. There were two small bars where we could purchase drinks. Reginald McDaniel brought some Sam Cooke CDs to play while we chatted to each other. Sam's music playing in the background set the atmosphere. The family members started to arrive and chatted to us. We all had name badges on so we could ask questions and know whom we were talking to.
The whole family was so happy to talk to us, and so friendly I could not believe this evening was actually happening. It was like a small private party. Some food snacks and punch were provided later in the evening. I met everyone in the room, and when I told them I had come from England they could not believe that I had traveled so far (4,300 miles) to be here. They shook my hand, hugged me and made me feel so welcome - like being part of one big family. It was well worth the flight.
I introduced myself to Paula (Sam's daughter) as she was sitting with Gwendolyn Greene (Mary's daughter), Toni Howard (L.C.'s daughter), Augustine (Gwendolyn's daughter-in-law and the wife of Erik Greene, Sam's great nephew) and Charlene Cook Graham (Charles' daughter). When I told her I was from England she cried, "Oh my God, that is amazing!" She invited me to sit down with them and I chatted with them for a while, and then I had my photograph taken with them (Fantastic!). They made me feel so welcome.
Ophelia (the twisting niece) looked stunning in a red suit. I chatted with her and husband Billy Chapman, and both were charming. I took a photograph of them and gave them a copy, as I had some of my photographs developed the next day.
I met L.C. Cooke, who was with the Magnificent Montague. I informed him that it took me about 20 years to find out that L.C. was his actual name, because in England initials for a name is unheard of. I told him I always thought L.C. was short for another name, and he laughed.
I also met all my fellow Sam Cooke fans. They are too numerous to mention but we had a great time talking about Sam and our favourite songs. What LPs do we each have? Have any of us got that LP? What do you think of that record? Etcetera.
On Saturday during the day there was a roundtable discussion and if you read Jack Kaplan's account (see below), you'll see that he has noted nearly everything that was said at the discussion. I don't think I can improve on that.
At lunchtime, some family and fans went to the Hard Rock Cafe for something to eat. The staff there sang and danced to the record "YMCA" by the Village People. We had a very good time, and I took some photographs there as well.
Some memorabilia was on display at the tribute, which was brought by the fans. I downloaded some pages from the Ultimate Sam Cooke Web Site (now defunct) for the display, but was unable to take anything else with me. (They are too priceless to risk on the long journey!)
Notes on the Tributeby Jack Kaplan
The roundtable discussion started with the introduction of Agnes Hoskins, Sam's youngest sister and David Cook, Sam's youngest brother. Introductions were by Reginald McDaniel, the fan club member who organized the tribute.
David Cook opened the discussion, saying, "I am overwhelmed."
Agnes Hoskins then gave thanks to Reggie and Greg Alldredge. Said Sam was the fourth child of seven. He was always outgoing even as a child. No one he ever met was a stranger. He was a lovely person. Everyone was a friend unless you proved otherwise.
Agnes recalled a time she was driving back from Michigan with Sam, and he kept turning around talking to her in the back seat and telling her a joke and then he would laugh harder than you would at his joke. Everyone loved him. He loved his family. He made sure that he always was home for Thanksgiving. He made sure he was home for Momma, and was never booked on Thanksgiving. Every July they would have a family picnic that Sam never missed. He would not eat for a few days before Thanksgiving, so he could eat everything his mother cooked.
Sam's father was a pastor. The oldest child, Charles, formed the family singing group, called The Singing Children, which performed until the children were teenagers. (David and Agnes were too young to perform with the group.) After that, Sam went into the Highway QC's. From the Highway QC's, Sam joined the Soul Stirrers, who had recruited him to replace their departed lead singer R.H. Harris. Sam had traveled some with the Highway QC's, but when he really went with the Soul Stirrers that is when he really went out on the road.
David recalled when he sharing a bedroom with Sam while growing up. He said Sam would get up in the middle of the night and read the bible. David said he would remind Sam that he had to go to the school in the morning, but Sam would be reading the bible and writing songs late into the night. David recalled that the Highway QC's would go on a program with the Soul Stirrers, but they would not let them come up on the stage. The audience called out "QC's" and "QC's in the house!" until the Soul Stirrers would have to call them on the stage and then the QC's would turn it out.
Everyone was at home at the Cook family house, all categories of ages, everyone had friends over and then mother would cook for everyone, even like when the Five Blind Boys would come to town, they would come to the Cook's house for a meal.
Sam used to brag on the road that the rolls his mother cooked would melt in your mouth, so all the singers had to come to the house to taste Sam's mother's rolls. And they always came back again and again after the first time.
Any of the neighborhood teenagers who were put out of their house could always come to the house and the Cooks would always take them in. When Agnes asked her father why he would let everyone stay, since they really did not have enough room for their own children, he responded, "Agnes, someday you may be in a situation where you do not have a place to stay and I would want someone to take you in the same way."
After that she understood a little better. Sam treated people this same way, David said.
Sam has five children and 13 grandchildren.
Agnes said the question was brought up about the "truth" -- meaning the truth about Sam's death, and she said the family knows the truth. They asked themselves, "How can we convince other people of the truth? If we cannot convince others of the truth, that is fine because we know ourselves in our heart what the truth is."
Gwen (Mary's daughter) said that Sam had been gone for four or five years when her son Erik was born, but Erik grew up singing his songs, he always asked for Sam's songs.
Agnes also related this story: Last year, her great-grandson was in pre-school and the teacher held up a picture of Sam Cooke and asked if anyone knew who it was. The boy held up his hand and said, "That's my Uncle Sam." The teacher was surprised and her great grandson was happy. He came home and told Agnes the story.
Regarding the Daniel Wolff book, Agnes said there is some truth, but there are also many things that are incorrect. Agnes points out that her mother's name is incorrect in the book and said that if something that simple is incorrect. It is agreed that some good came from the book: It put the Sam Cooke name out there and it has sold very well. (Agnes said Sam's mother's real name is Annie Mae Carroll Cook; in the book it is reported as Annie May Carl Cook.)
David told a story about the relationship between Agnes and their mother: In a four-story building, a lady once cursed his mother's name. Agnes was a teenager at the time and she ran all the way down to the vacant lot across from the house and grabbed the woman and whupped her, because you never said anything bad about her mother. To this day, Agnes is very protective of her mother's name.
Sam always took all the kids in the family to the amusement park. One day in the summer when he came to town, all the nieces and nephews had everything they wanted. It was like fantasyland for one day each year.
Doncella Woods Pamon (Hattie's daughter) recalled when Sam performed at the Regal, they were the only kids backstage. When Sam performed they often attended, sometimes every night he performed in town. Sam spent time backstage with the kids. Maurice (Hattie's son) was the oldest grandson and he and Sam bonded very close and always played checkers. Maurice was very good at checkers, but Sam could talk him out of his game by talking to him. Agnes' oldest son Eugene would coach him not to listen to Sam and concentrate on the game. At the Regal backstage, when they came back and told Sam he had to go on, Sam said, "Gotta go to work. Time to go to work, Maurice." Doncella said she would like to believe that Sam and Maurice are in heaven now playing checkers just like they did backstage at the Regal.
Doncella recalled a time when singer Baby Washington had a hit with "Leave Me Alone." Doncella said she and the other children had practiced and rehearsed a dance they made up to go with the song. The girls told Sam they had made up the dance and asked if they could go up on the stage and dance. Ophelia (Hattie's youngest daughter) told Sam, "You said that we were good! Can we, please?" Opehlia asked this as she rubbed Sam's face and played with his hair. Sam told them, "I could book you in Philly for $25 a week!"
He always picked people to come on stage and dance with him, like the time he brought Ophelia up on stage to twist with him.
Toni Howard (L.C.'s daughter) remembered family picnics on which Sam would acknowledge fans who approached him, but those days were for his family. They once had a twisting contest in the middle of a park.
Donald Miller (Mary's son) began to talk about what he remembered about that, but Doncella interrupted and teased him, saying, "He remembers that they (the boys) always lost!" David fired back, "Donald always had the big hit in the baseball game. We would all hit singles, get on base and then Donald would come up and hit it out of the park driving everyone else in."
Donald recalled one of the more tender moments. He said that as a child he once had the pleasure to go out to Los Angeles and visit Sam at his home. He arrived and took a bath. He said he was 8 years old at the time, and he was butt naked and he went to turn the water on and the water came out brown (rusty) and he started hollering, "Something's wrong with these people's water! Mama, come get me, I want to go home." They said it was OK, but still he cried. (As Donald recalled this, Gwen reminded him that he was really only 5 at the time.)
Next time Donald went to visit him, Sam and his family had a mansion and he had a Bentley and the water was crystal clear and he was afraid to sit on the toilet seat because they were inlaid with silver dollar coins!
Reg asked the family about Sam's transition from gospel to pop. Agnes said Sam's minister was Rev. Rawls, who was not upset that he crossed over to secular music. Sam called his father and asked him what he thought. "He said do whatever is best for you and will be best for your career and what will make you a living for you and your family."
The first sign of change was "Lovable" being released under a different name (Dale Cook). Agnes said she asked why he recorded under another name, since everyone would recognize his voice anyway.
David said Sam never lost his spirituality even when he sang his pop songs. The way he phrased, the way he manipulated notes, he was an extremely innovative and unique artist.
Asked why Sam changed the spelling of the Cook name to Cooke, Doncella remembered her mother explaining why he added the "e" to the end of his name: because of the superstition if you have a k at the end of your name bad things will happen. Sam also had heard that names with an even number of letters were bad.
Did Sam ever talk about making a Christmas album?
Family members recalled that Sam had talked about making one, but it did not happen since time ran out.
Who were Sam's idols when he was coming up?
R.H. Harris was one of the men that Sam admired most. He liked Nat King Cole. Also Billie Holiday, hence his tribute album for her.
Sam sang tenor in the family group, not lead. Why? When did they recognize his talent?
They knew all along, but Charles was the oldest, he formed the group and he wanted to sing lead, so he did and Sam continued to sing tenor.
Did Sam ever want to do anything else?
Never. Sam always wanted to be a singer. The family told the story about Sam singing to Popsicle sticks even when he was very young, practicing for an audience, so he would not have to work a nine-to-five job. He always wanted to e an artist. He was also very talented at drawing. In reference to whether Sam fit in when he was in school, Agnes recalled that he was king of his prom. He excelled academically, even as a little kid, and his classmates were crazy about him. In a discussion of the Daniel Wolff book, family members remarked that it seemed the only people who credited in the book with helping Sam were those who were part of Sam's life after he had made it, not from his youth when he was growing up.
Why wasn't the family interviewed for the Daniel Wolff book?
The family said it cannot give an answer to that question. Daniel Wolff would need to give that answer.
Tom Ford asked about Sam's dad. Family members said Sam's father was a huge influence. Sam always asked his father before any big decisions. Rev. Cook always said: "Once a task is first begun, Never leave it until it's done. Be the labor great or small, Do it well or not at all."
Sam's mannerisms were the same as Rev. Cook. They acted very much the same. A lot of what everyone considers to be the Sam Cooke style is the Cook family style, learned from papa, Rev. Charles Cook, Sr.
Vel Omarr talked about his daughter singing the national anthem and her teacher said she sang like a female Sam Cooke - understanding what incredible high praise that really is.
Sam seemed mature beyond his years, what do you attribute this to?
He learned a lot on the road through traveling with the Soul Stirrers and he learned a lot form his father and traveling with him with the Singing Children. Brazen and bold and confident in his abilities, singing at the Copa, at the Harlem Square Club, etc. He was way ahead of his time. He never backed down.
They once wanted him to do two shows (one for the black audience and one for the white audience) and he was only contracted to do one, so he said he was only going to do one show. They segregated the audience left and right, black and white. So the whole night he sang only to the black side, as if to say, "You can make the crowd segregated, but you cannot tell me where to sing." The next time he went back there everyone sat together.
Kevin from England asked why Sam's gravestone has the incorrect birthdate? Can the family do anything about it?
The family was not involved in the purchase or selection of the gravestone. His booking agency wanted him to appeal to a younger audience, so they had pushed his age back. They were marketing his age as younger, so it was always incorrect as publicized. The truth is he was born in 1931.
At this point, fans began relating how they started listening to Sam's music?
Rev. McDaniel recalled hearing Sam sing gospel and predicting at the time that Sam would eventually crossover. In 1957, he was in Italy and his mother sent him "You Send Me" and he was hooked on Sam Cooke forever.
Rev. Jones said hat "You Send Me" was when he got hooked, too.
Les said that he went to Soul Stirrers concerts in '54 and '55, according to his mother. Les lives in Miami and when RCA released "Live At The Harlem Square Club" in 1985, he was hooked big time.
Barbara remembered her grandfather playing "Bring It On Home To Me" and liking it. Her favorite is "Little Red Rooster."
Rev. Jones talked about L.C. being stationed at Fort Rucker and being a bit of a partier.
Agnes, Sam's sister, told a story about eating lunch with Sam writing a song on a napkin. When she asked where he got his songs from, he said, "I'm observing people."
Kevin spoke of being on holiday at the King Martin Discotheque when he was 18 years old. He said his girlfriend had just finished with him and the club played three songs in a row: "Let's Go Steady Again," "You Send Me" and "Chain Gang." He found out who the singer was, and he looked for an LP and bought "This Is Sam Cooke." Kevin said he has been married 20-something years, and he recalled quoting Sam Cooke to his future wife - without telling her (until much later) that the "poem" he had just read to her was Sam's words.
Larry Hilton, originally from Brooklyn, said his father was with the Brooklyn All Stars. His father once put on a record of the Soul Stirrers and from that moment on he compared everyone else to Sam. In December 1964, he thought everyone in the world had lost their innocence.
Angela said she grew up listening to Sam. Her parents had an 8-track of "The Legendary Sam Cooke." She said that about 15 years ago it was hard to find his music, but she is very happy now that so much Sam Cooke music has come out recently.
Reg told a story on behalf of Meni, since she is very shy. It was only about two and a half years ago that she heard Sam's music and she was hooked.
Nate recalled that he had broken up with a girlfriend about a dozen years ago when he heard "It's Alright" from the Harlem Square Club album. He went out and found the tape and started buying more copies to give as gifts. When you go to a store you never know where his songs will be listed, Pop, Soul, Vocal, Gospel, etc. He said he discovered the tribute and the fan club through Clark Kauffman's web site.
Jack told of growing up and hearing some Sam Cooke songs, but going to see Dave Mason and hearing him play as an encore "Bring It On Home To Me," paying tribute to Sam Cooke. He said that's how he got hooked.
Kevin talked about Clark Kauffman's web site. (Jack accused him of being Clark Kauffman because there is no way we can believe that Clark would not be at this tribute with the thousands of hours he has devoted to The Ultimate Sam Cooke Web Site.) Kevin explained that he has indeed talked to Clark Kauffman and that he is a real person from Des Moines, Iowa. He was unable to come to the tribute but did send his regards. Kevin also mentioned "A City Called Glory," a BBC radio drama about the life of Sam Cooke.
After lunch we discussed the future and the next event. We agreed to hold the event in Chicago next year on the second weekend in September, which would be Sept. 12, 13 and 14. One of the reasons to hold it in Chicago is to allow for more of Sam's family and friends from his youth to attend. We can also plan group outings to a number of places that were important to Sam, such as his high school, his star on the walk of fame in Bronzeville.
We watched the VH-1 "Legends" Sam Cooke special in the afternoon before the continuation of the roundtable. During dinner we were able to watch a compilation of Sam Cooke's appearances on television.
All in all, this was an incredible event that will never be forgotten by anyone in attendance. Mere words cannot describe the incredible warmth that was shared between the family, friends and fans of Sam Cooke. This was much more than a "Fan Tribute." It was the first meeting of a group of people that want to share and spread the wonderful memory of Sam Cooke.
Thank you, Reginald McDaniel, for pushing forward for the last three years and not letting your dream of sharing our respect and admiration for Sam Cooke go unfulfilled. I would also like to thank everyone who was able to attend for making this event so incredibly special, fans from all over the country (Boston to Southern California and Arizona) and the world (UK and Greece via Canada), and especially the incredible Cook family for being so open and for sharing so many personal details. I personally cannot fully understand how hard it is to lose a family member so young, a man who accomplished so much in such a short time. I often wonder what Sam Cooke would have done with his career if he had lived. He had done so much for himself and so many others, looking forward to "the change that was coming."
I am glad that I had an opportunity to meet some of Sam's family and learn how special you all are as individuals and as a family. During the roundtable discussion when we were discussing the Daniel Wolff book, I said, "Some good came from the book -- putting more information about Sam Cooke out there, even if some of the information is not totally correct. What was I supposed to do, just walk up to your door, Agnes? Knock, knock. 'My name is Jack and I would like to talk to you about your brother and your family?' Well, now I know that I can, and I will."
I look forward to gathering with everyone in September 2003 in Chicago for the Second Annual Sam Cooke Tribute. For me, September 2003 cannot come quick enough.
The Saga of Atlantaby Jane Ford
One day back in ninety-eight
The Sam Cooke Fan Club began.
Four years later, a dream came true
In Atlanta, to honor the man
It started out small, a handful of fans
Determined to gather no matter how few.
But as word got out and the news was spread,
The celebration for Sam just grew!
Plans went on, details addressed,
Daily postings and checking the board.
Then one day, good news appeared
Sam's family was coming, our spirits just soared!
Now it must be perfect, each wrinkle ironed out,
They would be welcomed with arms opened wide.
Any nervousness was soon put to rest,
We had Reginald to lead us, a formidable guide.
Each of us wondered as the days flew by,
Would this party be like we thought it could be?
With Sam's spirit among us, it had to work
The devotion that carried us would be the key.
When finally the special day arrived,
People gathered from near and far.
The Marriott became "Mary's Place"
Here we would honor our beloved star.
Friday night's reception was in the Hub Lounge,
Where nerves soon gave way to delight.
It finally had happened, our group was in heaven
Sam's music in the background, a magical night.
Our talented stars gathered late that night
Singing and playing, preparing for their dream
Bonding with each other at that special session
The magic worked, they were an amazing team.
Saturday brought more amazement to the fans,
Who would roll through those hours in glory
Sam's family assembled and began to share
Beautiful memories and family stories!
We hung on every single word,
The session was an emotional one
As we heard firsthand about Sam's early life
About the love and the laughter and the fun.
We broke for lunch at the Hard Rock Café
In our new attire, our group got looks.
And once the staff spotted our Sam t-shirts
The jukebox music was changed to Sam Cooke's!
Back at the Marriott, our meeting resumed,
The fans displayed treasures in an orderly manner.
Books and magazines, albums, pictures, CD's
All spread out under our first year's banner.
Saturday evening we met for the banquet,
The Garden Terrace was the place.
Everyone showed up in their 'Sunday best'
The excitement shone on every face.
The room was lovely, a beautiful scene
With flowers and balloons of blue and white,
As people were seated, the festivities began
It promised to be a magical night.
The blessing was given by Reverend Jones,
Sybil's words came straight from her heart.
Reg's dad thrilled us with 'That's Heaven to Me'
So far we were off to a wonderful start!
Doncella read words that meant so much
As Toni shared 'This little light of mine'
Agnes and Paula spoke with flair
Their love for Sam showed in every line
David & L.C. added their thoughts
David Washington shared with us, too.
The thoughts and memories they shared with us
Were so special, coming from those Sam knew.
Dinner was served with Sam 'on stage'
He was right there with us during that meal.
The video was the perfect touch
There's no describing how it made us feel.
The evening's highlight was now at hand
A chance for our members to show their stuff.
As they performed, the crowd was thrilled
We just couldn't seem to get enough.
The night went by in a haze of delight
The hours flew by as if minutes.
With speeches and blessings and songs and tears
And, oh - our performers who sang Sam's hits!
Jack had worked hard and had everything ready
Larry was first up, and he proved he's an ace.
Nathan and guitar were a 'happy' hit
Walter sang a song that was filled with grace.
Greg wondered what's wrong with MaryLou
Roger's gospel sound was soon in our midst.
Lawrence had a party, singing along
Vel got the cousins going with the twist!
Each performer who honored Sam
Sang from their heart with such love and pleasure.
It was awesome to see, a delight to watch
We knew these were moments we always would treasure.
So much love in that little room
We wanted it to go on and on.
In fact, by the time we could tear away
The night was behind us, it was nearly dawn.
It was a blessing to be in Atlanta this year,
But if you weren't there, don't be blue.
We're heading for Chicago in 2003
And you know we'll be looking out for you!
Our fans are the best, we make a great mix
From England, Canada and many of the States.
As time goes on, the club grows in numbers
We look forward to Chicago and what awaits.
We thank God as well for those few days
Of love and laughter and light.
May the warmth that was shared by all of us
Always stay with us and forever burn bright.