Earlier this year, vocalist Terry Brown of Roanoke’s legendary band the Kings temporarily stepped down due to some health issues. Finding a stand-in substitute could have posed a problem for long-time Kings leader Larry Wheeling.
In finding a fill-in pinch hitter, Wheeling didn’t have to call Ghostbusters. Instead, he found Roanoke native Chris Keaton to sing and play saxophone for the Kings while Brown is convalescing from his illness.
The Kings were founded in 1965 by Perry Caligan, who still acts as the business owner of the band. Current leader and manager of the Kings is Larry Wheeling, who joined the Roanoke based group during 1969.
Over four years ago, I featured the Kings on a music blog message and attended one of the band’s concerts in downtown Roanoke. Here is the link for The Kings Rocking Roanoke Since 1965: https://woodsonrva.com/2018/07/11/the-kings-rocking-roanoke-since-1965/
The Kings in concert in downtown Roanoke on July 5, 2018.
While Terry Brown recovers from his health issues, the Kings have been fortunate to secure the services of Chris Keaton. I had the opportunity to interview Keaton last month, just before he and the Kings had a concert at Roanoke’s Black Dog Salvage.
Chris Keaton was born in Roanoke, Virginia and grew up in the town of Vinton. After graduating from William Byrd High School, Keaton spent a year at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond. Chris then following in the footsteps of Bob Dylan left college life to pursue a career in music.
During the mid 70s, Keaton played saxophone and toured with pop/rock bands ranging from Gary U.S. Bonds to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. He also had gigs with Jay & the Techniques during this time period.
A few bands that Keaton was a member of during the 70s and 80s were High & Mighty, Dazzle Boys and Band of Oz. Interestingly, Chris also had two separate stints performing as a member of the Kings during his younger years.
An album from the Kings: 1989. Chris Keaton co-produced this LP with Brian Wheeling. Band members (L-R), Bruce Wall, David Ferguson, Randy Wheeling, Chris Keaton, Kent Martin, Larry Wheeling and Brian Wheeling.
In 1993, Keaton moved to Nashville, Tennessee and became a business partner with another Roanoke native Tommy Holcomb. Eventually, Holcomb moved back to Roanoke while Keaton stayed in the “Music City” to venture into a new career path.
Since the mid 90s, Keaton’s career has become multifaceted. His official bio states: “Chris is a Nashville-based entertainment industry executive, award winning music publisher, artist management consultant and a 2016 Inductee in the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame.”
When I interviewed Chris last month, 3 words stood out to me that describe Keaton’s current profession: connector, influencer and encourager. Keaton utilizes various forms of social media during his day-to-day activities.
One social media avenue Keaton uses is podcasting. He describes his “Random Acts” podcast, “of kindness, stories, a song or two, seeds of hope and love, and the randomness of it all through the eyes of Chris Keaton.”
Another fascinating venture of Keaton’s work is with the fashion industry. For a number of years, Chris has been a member of Macy’s Style Crew as a “brand influencer.” As a result of his Macy’s gig, Keaton published a book in 2020 called “Dapper.”
Published at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, “Dapper” was written by Keaton and the text is supported by photographer Keith Charles. The book conveys, “Serious tips on being a dapper gentleman tempered with a dash of humor.”
Two years ago, Keaton was a guest on Larry Dowdy Mic Side podcast and talked about his book “Dapper” along with some of his past musical performing career.
Versatility and Chris Keaton go hand-in hand as he has been a long-time voting member of the Recording Academy (Grammy Awards) and is a reviewer for an Internet country music site.
2016 was a memorable year for Keaton as he was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. Working with the beach music group Band of Oz, Keaton composed an award-winning rendition of the song, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” for his induction.
Considering all of the activities that Keaton has been involved with during the past few years, the influencer hasn’t performed many in-person concerts. However, that changed a few months ago when Larry Wheeling asked Chris to play with the Kings on a temporary basis.
The current 2022 lineup of the Kings:
Mike Feamster –Drums
Brian Jones– Bass
Melody Irby — Vocals & Keyboards
Alan Walker— Sax
Randy Wheeling–Trumpet & Trombone
Larry Wheeling —–Trumpet
Chris Keaton—- Vocals & Sax
With Keaton temporarily performing with the Kings, he plays saxophone and shares lead vocal duties with Melody Irby. The brass section of the band is superb.
Musically, the Kings are a pop/rock band and have a large following in central and southwestern Virginia. The band plays a wide variety of cover tunes, ranging from the 60s through songs from the past ten years.
The Kings are Roanoke’s quintessential band and have been fortunate to secure the services of Keaton on a temporary basis. Providing his vocal talents and excellent saxophone skills, make him a perfect fit with the Kings.
My assessment of Keaton can be summed up as “renaissance man.” He flows within a wide mixture of diverse areas, bringing his talents and knowledge for positive results.
Without a doubt, Chris Keaton is helping to make the world a better place by being an encourager, spreading peace, love and tranquility to everyone on his path in life.
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