Native son brings the blues back home

Published 5:40 pm Friday, October 13, 2017

Local schools have been celebrating their homecomings, but it was a homecoming of a different sort that had people on their feet and cheering Thursday night downtown in the Camellia City.

Greenville native Ric McNaughton returned to his hometown to perform on the stage of the Ritz, kicking off the Greenville Area Arts Council’s 36th season.

McNaughton, a 1978 Greenville High School graduate, took his enthusiastic audience on a musical odyssey with his band as he shared his memories of growing up in Butler County, learning to play the guitar and enjoying jam sessions with family and friends.

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“There is something really great about getting to play music right here on Commerce Street,” McNaughton said. “This is something Nancy (Idland) and I have been working on for a couple of years and I’m so glad to be here.”

During her introduction of McNaughton, Idland, the GAAC’s artistic director,  remarked on how special it was to begin the arts council’s 2017-18 season with homegrown talent like McNaughton.

Blues classics by the likes of Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughn; honky-tonk hits by another Butler County boy, Hank Sr., Santana’s cool jazzy sounds and rock and roll oldies McNaughton said he loved to listen to long ago on his mama’s record player: all were part of  Thursday night’s concert. 

McNaughton, who took a hiatus from performing as a young adult in order to care for his family, said he didn’t really start focusing on the music about which he is most passionate—the blues—until he was in his 30s.

“So see, you late 20-somethings out there, there is still hope,” he said with a grin.

Before McNaughton and his band took the stage, a pre-show party held outside on the blocked-off street drew patrons in to enjoy seasonal refreshments and more local talent. Father and son Steve and Ben Norman, along with Chad Edwards, played and sang together to entertain the crowd. Later McNaughton invited the three, along with Keith Gibson and McNaughton’s brother, Rennie, to come up and join him for the final song of the concert, the gospel classic, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.”

Thunderous applause and a standing ovation for McNaughton and his band soon followed.

The next GAAC concert is slated for November 9 with the acclaimed female country group, Sweet Tea Trio.

“We will have another great pre-show party that night, too, only it will be in the lobby right across the street from the Ritz,” said Idland. “Come on out for another fun musical evening in downtown Greenville!”