Entertainment

When Elvis Comes to Town

People of all ages come to Matthews to enjoy the music of Elvis, but the majority are 50 or older. Many sing along with the often-familiar tunes. Eyes closed, they are transported back in time; back to their youth, and a simpler time when this music was their music.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

On a handful of nights each month, people walking by Jonathan’s Restaurant (10630 Independence Pointe Parkway) might catch the sounds of songs by Elvis Presley, or June Carter and Johnny Cash. Maybe they’ll hear a song originally sung by Patsy Cline or Conway Twitty.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

On the nights that Elvis is in the house, it might be sung by Chad Champion (of Charlotte) portraying a younger, more energetic version of Elvis; Wayne Brockwell (of Albemarle) showing a more mature side of the actor/singer or even the more polished and sophisticated show by professional Elvis impersonator Jack Byrnes (of Mint Hill). Some nights, “Shelvis,” Helene Mueller, will perform, often with her husband, George (of Mint Hill).

On this night, the third Thursday of the month, it’s the Rock and Roll Oldies Club of the Carolinas. The 1st Thursday of the month, it’s the Elvis Fan Club of Matthews-Mint Hill. And, on the 3rd Saturday of the month, it’s Danny and Donna’s Saturday Night Showcase. There are approximately 200 total members in all these groups, but members often appear at each others’ events. Over time, this gaggle has become more like family. (In truth, there are groups just like these meeting all year, throughout the country.)

Tonight, as with most nights, it’s more than a dozen newbies and old-time performers belting out the tune of their choice. Everyone gets respect and their due. More than 80 people are eating, laughing and intermittently watching the performers. Tonight’s headliner is Wayne. But, at one point, he’s joined by former Monroe resident, Josh Clough, 50, back in town from Arkansas with his Elvis impersonation (and his Elvis-hair).

Josh is passionate about this role, swinging around in fine Elvis fashion, finally hitting the floor with a signature Elvis move. He apologizes to the crowd for his apparent rustiness, he says, but this doesn’t seem to stop him from being in the moment, or them from enjoying his spontaneity and passion.

It’s a part of history that’s a dying thing. We will probably not have as big a following as the years fade away. This will probably be the last generation where we have this big of a following and commitment to Elvis and Oldies music.
— Danny Jordan

In each and every case, the few-minute spotlight is theirs…in this moment in time and with this song. Performers patiently wait while the headliners sing, then the remainder of the group performs in the order they are registered. Since this is karaoke night, each has the benefit of the nearby computer scrolling the lyrics, although most don’t seem to use this extra help.

As nearly always, people of all ages are in attendance, but the majority are 50 or older. Many sing along with the often very familiar tunes. Eyes closed, they are transported back in time; back to their youth, and a simpler time when this music was their music.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Recently, long-time DJ, promoter, booking, and productions, Danny Jordan (the Danny of Danny and Donna’s Saturday Night Showcase) has taken up the mantle for these shows. At 60 years of age, he is one of the younger members of the group – a group he passionately loves and loves to promote. “I love all of them,” he said.

“We’re all keeping Elvis and the Oldies music-tradition, alive….I’m kind of trying to preserve the Elvis and the Oldies-image and give them a place to showcase themselves,” Danny said. “It’s a part of history that’s a dying thing. We will probably not have as big a following as the years fade away. This will probably be the last generation where we have this big of a following and commitment to Elvis and Oldies music.”

Back at the restaurant, long-time members are quick to discuss where they were when they saw these late-great headliners; who they may have met in person and who still knows someone related to these favorite, well-known singers.

While this might be fun, the fun is often used for the greater good – helping those out in the community. Many volunteer their time in nursing homes and at specialty events. Often they rotate between groups throughout the region. Each evening, a bucket is passed around for donations; one-half of the money goes to the headliner, the remainder goes to that Club.

“These guys are really serious about what they do,” said Danny. “They go to nursing homes, raise money for NC Special Olympics…we raise money for people who are having financial issues. We do that when needed.”

Often shows are put together just to raise money, but at the end of the day, this remains pure old-fashioned, old-time family entertainment.

“We’re a bunch of old(er)….guys who have been in the entertainment business,” said Danny. “Now we’re just kicking back and having a good time with people who enjoy the same kind of entertainment and music.”

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Matthews Adorned for Christmas

Shop owners and residents around Matthews have adorned the town with shiny baubles to celebrate Christmas; others have decorated with a winter theme. We’ve put together a quick tour of some of our favorites. See if you recognize some, and if we’re missing something extra special, comment below.

Caroline Kramb: The Hidden Strength of a Snowflake

Photo credit: Ally Henning

Photo credit: Ally Henning

When the curtain goes up for the “Nutcracker,” danced by the Matthews Ballet and Dance, at the McDowell Community Center, one dancer in the group will be happy to be alive, well, and again dancing in this year’s production.

Matthews resident, Caroline Kramb, has been dancing with this group since she was four years old.  She is now 15 and has taken on such roles as Angel, the lead – Clara, Chinese, Ginger Child, Waltz of the Flowers, Candy Cane, Spanish, Gold Angels, Party Girl and Soldier.

This year, as in previous years, she will exude the joy and passion that dancing invokes in many. “Caroline is a dedicated student with a passion for dance,” said dance studio Program Director Amanda Sheppard. “She loves performing onstage, and is always a joy to watch.” This year, she will dance the part of “Snowflake.”

Also, as she has in previous years, Caroline will be grateful for this opportunity. However when she performs, many in the audience will be unaware of her ongoing serious medical struggles, her courageous approach to her illness, and her willingness to share her story in an effort to fundamentally help others.

Approximately 2 1/2 years ago, at the age of 12, Caroline developed a severe rash and became extremely tired. What her family thought would be a common trip to the doctor turned out to much more serious. Her bloodwork showed that she had a rare blood disorder called idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP).  Systems include low platelets and chronic bleeding. “We were in utter shock,” said her mother, Brooke.

Upon diagnosis, Caroline was rushed to Levine’s Children’s Hospital for a short stay and subsequent 18 months of treatments including infusions and heavy doses of steroids – protocols that left her feeling weak, tired and sick.

“It was hard for me with dancing, just going to school and just living my normal life,” said Caroline. “I had to push myself much harder than the other girls. (Although I knew) I am just as healthy and strong as the other girls… (I had an) autoimmune disorder. I looked good, but you couldn’t tell I had to work harder.”

At points, she missed days of school after eight-hour treatments needed every six to eight weeks – “all of that was very emotional,”  she said. She was also banned from (her) competitive swimming and all activities for which there might be a propensity for getting hurt (should she fall, hurt or bruise herself, it could cause internal bleeding). Both she and her mother, Brooke, said she felt “embarrassed” to not be able to do things that other kids could do, and longed to just “be like others.”

With that in mind, she ardently chose to continue her weekly dance lessons and maintain her participation in the annual Nutcracker productions.

“I just get really excited for the Nutcracker,” said Caroline. “I’ve had dance in my life longer than anything else I’ve ever done. Being able to (dance in) the Nutcracker every year (gives me) a sense of assurance. When I was a lot sicker, a lot weaker, I still had that event to look forward to, to participate in.”

To her dance teachers and fellow dancers, keeping this routine was paramount to keeping her spirits up. “I know that dance is (Caroline’s) “happy place” and her way to escape her illness,” said Sheppard. “She shows such amazing resilience for someone so young. I think dance has given her the strength to never give up but to always remain determined and focused.” 

Photo courtesy Michael Strauss Studio

Photo courtesy Michael Strauss Studio

According to Brooke, the Nutcracker and Caroline’s continued participation in dance lessons (two hours/week for dance classes; up to five hours a week during Nutcracker rehearsals), as well as her family, friends and faith all “helped her cope as well as thrive.”

During her second stay in the hospital, in the chemo-bays, she saw young kids playing but realized that older children had nothing to do with themselves during this stressful and difficult time. The “lightbulb” went off. Caroline said to her mother, “For my birthday, I want to invite my friends, but I want them to give donations so we can make our ‘bags.’ ”

The “activity bags,” as they were called, were intended to be filled with “things to do.” To date, she has made and delivered close to 100 bags and also made several hundred bracelets to pay for the bags, all of which are donated to children/teens also undergoing treatment at Levine Children’s Hospital.  

Caroline has also become an ITP activist.  Two years ago, she started her own Instagram page called “World Free of ITP,” which she created to “express my feelings…I would talk about when I had to go to the hospital and my thoughts about the journey - to (help others) understand how real this disorder is.”

Photos by Brooke Kramb

Photos by Brooke Kramb

Last summer, she applied for and received a scholarship to attend an ITP conference in Cleveland, Ohio, where she met with other teens struggling with the same issue, and those hematologists who care for them.

“Before I was sick, I was the wimpiest and weakest person out there,” said Caroline. “I’d cry when I got shots. I wouldn’t take pills. But, after going through all that, I honestly didn’t have a choice. I had to push myself to get stronger and get over my fears. I honestly think it happened for a reason…Coming out of being sick, I just knew, ‘I just want to help other people….so they don’t have to go through this.’ ”

Caroline now wants to be hematologist. When she turns 16, she has been invited to shadow her lead hematologist at the children’s hospital.

Today, Caroline’s platelets are stable and she is considered in remission (there is no cure for ITP). She remains fixated on the goal of learning more and helping others. “Definitely the way she has reached out to others – she has done this entirely on her own,” said Brooke.

Photos by (L) Brooke Kramb, (R) Ally Henning

Photos by (L) Brooke Kramb, (R) Ally Henning

“Because I have ITP, it is like an obligation to know everything; to be informed and understand the doctors because I want to help others,” said Caroline. “I want to help understand even other blood disorders because I want to know how to give back and find other ways to help.”

For more information, contact the Platelets Disorder Support Association.

 

The Matthews Ballet and Dance Center’s production of “The Nutcracker” will be performed Nov. 24, 25, Dec. 1 & 2 at Matthews Community Center, 100 McDowell Street.  

For tickets, contact www.matthewsfun.com or call 704-321-7275.

Kristopher’s Bike Night

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

As dusk settles, around 7 p.m. and motorcycles begin arriving, Kristopher’s Sports Bar & Grill owner Robert Stringer will most likely take the microphone, together with his Dj Kristi Swanson, and start the weekly “Bike Night/Patio Party” proceedings.

This Wednesday night staple, of more than a dozen years, will go on until 11 p.m. as the best motorcycle prize is given out, the regulars (and some new ones) will come motoring in and out, and riders and customers, alike, will gaze at the beauty of the bikes under the often waning warm sun, listening to Southern and hard rock, country music and, occasionally, a requested rap song.

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“When something you love can make money and you can give to a charity, it’s a win-win situation.”

This is a chance for riders to meet, schmooze, eat and find a safe environment to even bring their families to. It has also brought in a broader spectrum of people. “Families come…kids walk around (to see all the bikes) and can (even) sit on my motorcycle,” says Robby, as he is called. Before his children went to college, they and his wife would often join him on this night.

For those customers not arriving on motorcycles, Robby sees this as a chance to allow these two communities to mingle and for some of the perceptions about motorcyclists to hopefully meld away. (Those not into the festivities can choose an inside table within easy view of the 52 TV screens including four video wall pieces – mostly focused on some aspect of sports.)

“We started this (event) when Harley Davidson took off” with their expensive bikes, says Robbie. “This brought in urban professionals and businessmen, guys who’ve been riding since they were young.” Riders range from their late 20s to 70s; in recent years, there has been an uptick in female riders, as well.

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Photo by Cyma Shapiro

Behind it all will be Robby’s firm hand keeping the event under check - he’s often found in the front parking lot providing gentle guidance for redirecting gang members wearing colors (they are always welcome, but not wearing their “club colors”). “Other bars allowed bike clubs and gangs, which I’m not against, but it intimidates your everyday customers and other bikers,” says Robby. “We did not want conflicts between (anyone).”

It is his determination that charitable organizations be represented often (Phoenix Inked, Hometown Heroes, American Cancer Society, to name a few) and allowed to sell items, take donations and publicize upcoming events. “When something you love can make money and you can give to a charity, it’s a win-win situation,” says Robby.

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He’ll also court local businesses (often motorcycle and automobile-related) to be represented by banners and their employees’ presence.

To date, Robby has had no problems with either noise issues or riders leaving the sports bar. “Matthews is a tight-knit community,” he says, adding that he’s proud of the reputation he’s built up.

On Halloween night, which is the end of their season, riders and their bikes will come decked out in their finest costumes; the restaurant and its employees will be decked out as will Robby. And, as Bike Night ends until next April, he can reflect on this current season and his next one with pride. “It’s as good as it can be – this makes the restaurant money. Bonding (my love of) motorcycles with my business is as good as it gets.”

A Peek into the Chamber's Auto Reunion & Motorcycle Show

Look for Mint Hill resident George Haynie, and his 1965 Chevy Pickup, "Tweedy Bird," in place in the no-parking zone at the roundabout in front of Matthews Public Library this Saturday.

Winner of the 2016 Best In Show Award at the Matthews Auto Reunion and Motorcycle Show, you'll find him and dozens of other competitors showing off their antique automobiles during the 28th Annual Matthews Chamber of Commerce Auto Reunion & Motorcycle Show on Monday, September 3rd 2018 from 9:00 am to 3:00 pm