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ECA concert: ‘Sammy D from Tennessee’

Elation Center for the Arts presents, “Sammy D from Tennessee,” a concert of original, acoustic folk rock and roots music, 7 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, at the Pagosa Lakes Clubhouse.

In a 1988 concert photo of Arlo Guthrie and Sammy D, Sammy D’s grin beams forth like a blast of sunshine. It’s the same vibe you get when you meet him today. There’s warm feeling surrounding Sammy D, a feeling that’s instantly contagious through his music.

A professional musician, with a warmly accessible personality, Sammy D has performed his special blend of folk, folk rock and ballads, for many years, in his home state of Tennessee. Having just built himself a cabin in our neck of the woods, Sammy D is now a dual citizen. His plan is to spend part of the year in Pagosa and part in Tennessee. This will be his first concert in the Southwest.

Sammy D grew up in the ’50s, in a thriving center of American folk music. Raised on a small farm near Nashville, Tenn., life was forever altered, at the tender age of 3, upon hearing “You Ain’t Nothing But A Hound Dog,” on the radio. Being immersed in a home and community environment full of folk music — with vast local television programming, with prominent folk and gospel musicians — had a defining effect on what would become Sammy D’s personal mission: to bring forth uplifting music into the world.

One of Sammy D’s favorite kinds of songs to write, is a love song. He’s also into humor and balladry. Here’s a gentle line from his song, “I Believe”:

“I believe we must come to an easy understanding

that we are here to help each other along

and in the process, to shed some love and kindness

and for all of our voices, to sing a peaceful song.”

Born Samuel David Williams in Gallatin, Tenn., Sammy D has been a staple on the Nashville and Memphis music scenes since the early 1980s. At his more informal gigs, he tends to play a lot of folk rock from the ’60s and ’70s. At his concerts, it’s all about Sammy D’s original material (with maybe a few Jim Croce tunes thrown in for spice). Croce and James Taylor are two of his favorite songwriters.

When Sammy D was first getting his music gig off the ground, he was given an assist from the folks at Graceland (the organization in Memphis, responsible for preserving the legacy of Elvis Presley, and where Sammy D once worked as a manager). Graceland loaned him a sound and lighting system for his early forays into the music business.

A recording artist with several CDs to his credit, Sammy D has been writing songs since he was a teenager. By that time, he had already been in the thick of music for quite a while. “My folks listened to the Grand Ole Opry every Saturday night,” he said, “so I was exposed to that type of music for as far back as I can remember. We lived on a farm, right outside of Nashville. We had a little green Philco radio and they would turn it on the Grand Ole Opry.” His family attended music and dance events — for clogging and square dancing — where plenty of talented bluegrass and country musicians were featured.

You can hear samples from Sammy D’s CDs on his Web site:

Come hear a fine singer from Tennessee, and meet a fine artist new to our midst.

Advance tickets for “Sammy D from Tennessee,” are $12, available online at and at the Higher Grounds Coffee Company. Tickets at the door are $15. Young people 18 and under are admitted free of charge.

Please help us continue the tradition of our concert intermission/social by bringing a dessert to share. ECA is also putting out the call for volunteers to help with concert setup and cleanup.

Pagosa Lakes Clubhouse is located at 230 Port Ave. in the Vista subdivision of Pagosa Lakes. Take U.S. 160 to Vista Boulevard; turn north on Vista, then left on Port. The clubhouse is at the end of Port in the PLPOA complex.

For more information, call 731-3117.