An often-bluesy local vocalist tried to put into perspective the talent that will surround him at the final free Donner Park Variety Show of the season Sept. 23. A headlining, mostly veteran-and-professional all-star band will help rock much of the night away.
“I can put it this way: No one will go home feeling cheated,” Tony London said.
His words seem to ring as true as perfect pitch.
The last time London and his pals headlined the event a couple of years ago, about 400 people tried to squeeze under the Donner Park pavilion near 19th Street and Lafayette Avenue.
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“They were spilling out the sides,” London said.
Popular trio Autumn’s Dawn will open the night. And Columbus North High School’s 25th Street Jazz Singers will follow. Radio sportscaster Sam Simmermaker will serve as master of ceremonies.
Certainly, part of the latest event will unfold under the stars. But part will unfold because of the local stars, if you will. London has sung at a variety of American Pie classic rock shows through the years. And those backing him — drummer Tom Lego, keyboardist Danny Clark, guitarists Greg Hedges, Dan Mustard and Steve Rosenberg, and sax and harmonica player Jim Darnell — have played events ranging from American Pie to local music fundraisers and other gatherings.
Plus, added to the mix for the roughly 45-minute segment of the two-hour event will be young vocalist Eden Greer, contributing her version of The Animals’ 1964 smash “House of the Rising Sun.”
“You’ve gotta have some real vocal range with that song, and she’s got it,” London said. “It’s definitely impressive to hear her sing it.”
Each performer offered suggestions about which tunes should be included in a set list that could stretch to 13 to 15 songs.
London will apply his passionate vocals to Marc Cohn’s 1991 hit “Walking in Memphis” and Pure Prairie League’s “Amie” from 1973. Clark will croon Michael Murphey’s 1975 classic “Wildfire.” Mustard will present Dobie Gray’s 1973 single “Drift Away.”
“These all are familiar-but-fun songs,” Mustard said. “To me, that’s a lot of the appeal. All of these people are top notch.”
He added that having a budding-but-polished vocalist such as Greer join the fun strengthens the show.
“I think we decided to perform songs that may not have been done to death by others,” Mustard said with a laugh.
Many of the musicians either received encouragement from Donner Park Variety Show coordinator Tom Pickett through their formative years in Columbus, or they taught music at his local store at one time. So Mustard mentioned that this performance serves as just one reminder of Pickett’s impact and their gratitude for all he means to the local music scene.
“Part of this,” Mustard said, “is just being able to give back to him.”
What: Final free Donner Park Variety Show. Generally held rain or shine.
When: 7 to 9 p.m. Sept. 23.
Where: Donner Park Shelterhouse near 19th and Lafayette streets in Columbus.
Acts: Folk, bluegrass, and gospel tunes of Autumn’s Dawn; Columbus North High School’s 25th Street Jazz Singers; and Tony London and Friends doing a mix of classic rock and pop tunes.
Sponsors: Columbus Evening Kiwanis Club, WCSI Radio and Columbus Parks and Recreation Department.