BEST BETS: James lends voice to show at Schwartz

With a new recording project and a performance tonight in Dover, Doug James is moving back into the spotlight.

The Rehoboth Beach-based singer-songwriter, who has penned tunes for such artists as Dionne Warwick, Joe Cocker, Barry Manilow, Michael Bolton and Cher, will take part in tonight’s Songwriters and Storytellers show at the Schwartz Center for the Arts.

He’ll be joined by local singer-songwriter Sol Knopf and Craig Bickhardt, who has written hit songs for Ray Charles, B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Martina McBride, Alison Krauss and many more.

The three will perform their original music and tell the stories behind the music.

“I prefer being behind the scenes but I did start with a record deal and then I became a staff writer for years and years, which I loved. But I have a bunch of songs that I really believe in that are just collecting dust,” Mr. James said last week.

“The best to get them out there is to sing them myself.”

He’s performed with Mr. Knopf and Mr. Bickhardt in other Songwriters and Storytellers shows.

“They are both fantastically talented guys and Sol actually dragged me kicking and screaming back to performing. I really do love it and when you can connect with folks like you’re gathered in someone’s living room, it’s really the best,” he said.

“Although my main love has been writing songs.”

Mr. James’ songs have included “Don’t Tell Me, Tell Her” “Break It To Me Gently” and the 1990 BMI Song Of The Year, “How Am I Supposed To Live Without You,” which he wrote with Michael Bolton, who went on to record the song after Laura
Branigan originally had a hit with it in 1983.

He and Mr. Bolton were both staff writers in New York City and were asked to collaborate on some tunes.

“It turned out to be the first song we wrote together,” Mr. James said.

“CBS Songs threw us into a room together on Sixth Avenue. The room was nothing inspiring. It just had a fluorescent light and a Yamaha piano. They told us to get in there and write them a hit.

“We sat down and told jokes for 45 minutes just to break the ice. When we finally got down to work, Michael started to sing and hit a note that actually scared me, it was so powerful.”

The song was supposed to be recorded by the duo Air Supply. But a battle over the song erupted between record companies. Subsequently Ms. Branigan recorded it and it spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart and peaked at No. 12 on the Hot 100 chart in early October 1983.

“The song had spent months and months in litigation when he heard that Laura Branigan was finally going to record it, we were ecstatic.”

In 1989, Mr. Bolton recorded a version of the song for his album “Soul Provider.” The single reached No. 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts and also won him a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.

The song put Mr. Bolton on the musical map, getting him recognition for his singing, when up until then, he was best known solely as a songwriter.

“I’m pretty darn glad that our paths crossed and we remain friends to this day,” Mr. James said.

After more than a decade in New York City, Mr. James came back to Rehoboth Beach, where he spent much of his childhood.

“Once you get sand in your shoes, it’s hard to get it out,” said Mr. James, who wrote his first song when he was 6 years old and learned to play the piano at 4.

He’s continued to write songs and record from his home studio ever since.

He has collaborated with many Sussex County-based musicians over the years, including on the CD “September Rain” in 2011 that he did with Keith Mack of the rock band Scandal, who is a lifelong friend that grew up around the corner in Rehoboth.

“There are a lot of good musicians in the area. To be able to pick up the phone and play with these world-class musicians takes a big load off of my mind,” he said.

His current project, which again has him working with area musicians such as Ed Shockley and Greg Mack, he calls a “labor of love.”

“All Roads” is an all-encompassing collection of original music that covers an eclectic mix of genres. The first CD “Songs From All Roads” will be available at tonight’s Schwartz show, where he’s sure to perform some of them.

“I’m absolutely tickled at what I’m hearing. I’ve been working on this for a while and the whole thing should be available later this year,” he said.

“I’ve gone down to Nashville to record some of it. It’s not a country record but it’s got a country flair.”

He credits Ken and Ann Simpler with helping to sponsor the project.

“All Roads” is a turning point for Mr. James, which sees him moving to the forefront of performing.

“It’s important to present these songs in the best possible light. In so doing, I’ve taken a journey to turn myself into an artist again in order to do these songs justice. It’s been a long journey but it’s been a fun one. And I’ve made some wonderful friends along the way,” he said.

Tickets for tonight’s Schwartz show are $20 and can be purchased by calling 678-5152, visiting schwartzcenter.com or stopping by the box office at 226 S. State St., Dover.

Biggs Museum Gala

The Biggs Museum Gala: An Affair with the Arts is set for Saturday from 6 to 11 p.m.

Held outside of the Biggs Museum, the Biggs Gala attracts more than 350 leaders in government, business and the nonprofit community.

Attire is “creative chic” or black-tie optional.

The tented event will feature:

• Tours of the museum and “Ansel Adams: Early Works” exhibition

• Live music after dinner from Kristen and the Noise

• Live piano performance during dinner

• Gourmet hors d’oeuvres and dinner from Caffe Gelato

• Open bar

• Photo booth

• Live and silent auction

For more information and tickets, visit biggsmuseumgala.org.

Milford Museum tours

In other museum happenings this weekend, The Milford Museum is offering several walking tours through summer.

Participants will gather at the Milford Century Club at 18 N. Church St. at 9 a.m. on Saturday. Local historian David Kenton will lead the tours which will provide general information about Milford’s early history. Tours will last about two hours.

The North Milford tour will make stops at the Old Red Mill and peninsula site on the Riverwalk, Parson Thorne’s home and cemetery, the early tannery district on Mill Street, Milford’s first main street along N.W. Front Street, Joseph Oliver’s homesite behind Walnut Street and early Milford merchant homes. The tour will finish with a walk along Walnut Street to discuss early stores and the Mispillion River wharves.

A second tour on Saturday, June 10, will highlight the history of South Milford. Participants will gather at the Milford Museum at 121 S. Walnut St. at 9 a.m. The South Milford tour will make stops at Henry Hudson’s homesite (library) and proceed to early shipyards owned by William Scribner, James H. Deputy, Carlisle & Revel, Lank & Black, Abbott and Vinyard.

It will continue past the early Milford Ballpark and Fireman’s Carnival grounds and around the Causey Mansion to the L.D. Caulk Company’s original plant. The walk will conclude with a discussion of Milford’s railway depot, lumber yards and mansions along Causey Avenue.

Participants are encouraged to wear comfortable shoes and bring a bottle of water. Reservations are required and may be obtained by calling the museum at 302-424-1080. The cost of the tour is $10 which is payable in advance or the day of the tour.

The Milford Museum is at 121 S. Walnut St., Milford. It is open 10 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and 1-3:30 p.m. on Sunday. Closed on Mondays and holidays. Admission is free. For additional information, call 424-1080.

Honor Guard Band Bash

Harrington American Legion Post 7 Honor Guard presents the sixth annual Band Bash with nine bands Saturday from noon to 10 p.m.

Tickets are $5 with drink specials, food and $10 all-you-can-drink draft beer.

This is an outside event. Attendees are encouraged to bring chairs.

All proceeds benefit local veterans projects.

Call 398-3566 for more information or stop in for tickets at 17448 S. Dupont Highway (U.S. 13 South), Harrington.

Now showing

New this weekend in theaters is “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword 3D” and Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn in the comedy “Snatched.”

On DVD and download, starting Tuesday are “XXX: Return of Xander Cage” with Vin Diesel and “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter.”

To share news of your entertainment venue, group or event, contact Craig Horleman at 741-8224 or chorl@newszap.com.

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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