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Ellis Hall “The Ambassador of Soul” leaves symphony audiences worldwide wanting more

ELLIS            Photo credit: Peter Kind/Peter Arthur Photos

Ellis Hall is known as ‘The Ambassador of Soul” for many reasons.  Hall is a prolific singer, songwriter, and musician that plays every instrument, has a strong 5 octave vocal range and was the lead vocalist/keyboardist for soul-funk band Tower of Power. He performs with most elite symphony orchestras worldwide including: His first being the Hollywood Bowl under the direction of his mentor Ray Charles. Since then he has performed with prestigious 81-piece orchestras including the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra with Marvin Hamlisch conducting to playing with the Boston Pops Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Detroit Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Rochester Symphony Orchestra, and most recently the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

 Ellis’ first orchestra concept show was “Ray, Motown and Beyond” featuring such hits as Motown’s Heard It Through the Grapevine and Tower of Power’s Some Days Were Meant for Rain. With the second half of the show paying tribute to Ray Charles featuring hit songs like, I Can’t Stop Loving You, Unchain My Heart, Hit the Road Jack, and Georgia on My Mind. In September 2016, he will debut his second show, “Soul Unlimited” (conducted by Jeff Tyzik) where he “Ellis-izes” songs from David Bowie’s Let’s Dance to Something by George Harrison (which Ellis recorded on his CD Straight Ahead featuring Billy Preston on organ).

Born in Savannah, Georgia and raised partly in Claxton, GA. Ellis has been blind since he was 18 years old, but that doesn’t stop him from is mission in life.  In fact, it has been the driving force behind the creation of a 3,800 songs catalog full of Soul, Gospel, Blues and Pop compositions. Among these works is the official song for his hometown of Claxton Georgia. He has worked along side other greats such as Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor, Natalie Cole, Patti LaBelle, Toby Keith, Herbie Hancock, George Benson, Bobby Womack, George Duke, Sheila E., Kenny G and many more. In addition, he was one of the lead vocalists of the California Raisins.

Ellis has also successfully had his hand at Hollywood, recording and performing songs for live action and animated films such as “The Lion King 2,” “Shrek 2,” “Chicken Run,” “Invincible” and “Bruce Almighty”. The Ambassador has even taken acting roles in “Big Momma’s House” (Martin Lawrence) and the crime drama “Catch Me If You Can” (Leonardo DiCaprio). Along with all of these amazing films that he was a part of, Mr. Hall was nominated for an Ovation Theater Award for his first stage role in The Gospel At Colonus” where he not only sang and acted but also walked the stage and stair props with nearly no assistance.

Hall has a sense of humor which is uncanny, When people ask me about my blindness, I tell them, ‘I didn’t pay the electric bill on time…so they cut the lights out on me!’” Says Hall as he make fun of himself.

For more detailed information on the legendary Ellis Hall explore his website @ www.ellishall.com

 

L.A’s “Master Blaster” producing a film to document the history of Black music of Los Angeles

Mohammad Ali with Toom Reed.

Mohammad Ali with TV/Radio Host Tom Reed.

Legendary Tom Reed loves the history of black music so much he wrote the book on it, The Black Music History of Los Angeles, It Roots: A Classical Pictorial History of Black Music in L.A. from 1920-1970. Now, he wants to produce a documentary film, a project he says is so important that it should have been done decades ago.

“It’s a sad commentary when the Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and his Dept. of Cultural Affairs turned us down for a grant to do the film project,” said 80-year old Tom Reed, manager/producer, Black Accent on L.A. a 501(c) nonprofit organization. “It’s a sad situation as he, the mayor of the City in 2016 doesn’t want us, our history,  and our music documented. Mayor Garcetti said he didn’t want to do it, because it wasn’t important to his so-called audience.”

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One of many original images autograph in Tom Reed’s collection like this one of Elvis in Culver City, Ca.

“But to millions of people in this community, white, Hispanic, Black and Asian, a big understanding of African American Music is important,” Reed said. “Everyone knows who Little Richard was and is, many people know who T-Bone Walker is and was, and many folks know about Nat King Cole and his daughter, which are all a part of Black Music history in Los Angeles.”

Reed also said it is a sad day, because it is so hard for him to raise the funds needed to complete the film, which has about 10 hours more of filming before it’s done. “I’m trying to put together such a great documentary about great African American vocalists and musicians like Dexter Gordon, who was nominated for an Oscar for his role in the movie, “Round Midnight,” a classic movie about a jazz musician. So many musicians in this city played great roles as it relates to the music of LA,” Reed said.

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Tom Reed, the “Master Blaster” holds his book in his lap. He’s looking for help in completing his documentary film based on the book, “The Black Music History of Los Angeles, It Roots: A Classical Pictorial History of Black Music in L.A. from 1920-1970.”

Reed worked in radio for some 14 years at KGFJ, 1966-69; KMET, 1969-71; XPRS, 1971-73; KDAY, 1973-76. He was born and raised in St. Louis, and moved to L.A. in 1959. His first gig was on the air at the Los Angeles City College radio station. Additionally, Reed attended UCLA and Windsor University.

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Aida Mayo, pres., MAYO Communications poses with Tom Reed in his home and studio.

While working in Kansas City he was the reporter for “Down Beat,” Reed said the legend of his nickname “The Master Blaster” was created while he was sitting in a Kansas City bar many years ago, and a patron was teasing him, saying, ‘You’re gonna get blasted outta here.’ Reed then said, “’You can’t, because I’m the Master Blaster.'” Reed later moved on to KPRS/AM&FM, Kansas City where the name stuck. In the mid-’60s Reed worked at WLIB-New York and WJLB, Detroit before coming into Southern California.

In 1969, Reed was elected president of the Western States Chapter of the National Association of TV-Radio Announcers.  A 1973 Arbitron survey revealed that KDAY radio was Number one among teens. Reed said, “This was the first time in Los Angeles radio history that a black station or radio personality was No. 1.” Between 1976 and 1979, he became the assistant advertising manager and music critic for the Los Angeles Sentinel newspaper. In 1978, he went back to school and earned a master’s degree in communications science at Windsor University. Reed also did some doctoral work at USC’s Annenberg School of Communication according to online reports. He is a member of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences.

IMG_2290Reed has fulfilled a lifelong dream by documenting the rich history of black music in Los Angeles with the 1993 publication of a book called The Black Music History of Los Angeles – Its Roots. He often refers to his own firm roots to strong family values: “My dad was a policeman and my mom was a school teacher. My cousin, Elston Howard, was the first black ball player for the New York Yankees.”IMG_2299

When asked what inspired him and why he wrote the book he said, “We I had to do it, because LA is a city that has tremendous amounts of black music as it relates to soul, Jazz, Rhythm and Blues, and spirituals,” he said.

IMG_2300Reed was the first African American to win an Award of Excellence from the Greater Los Angeles Press Club three years in a row for his TV entertainment reporting. Since 1990 Reed has earned five Angel awards for excellence in media for his program “For Members Only,” the longest running locally produced African American program in L.A. television history. The shows have aired on KSCI/Channel 18.

CBS2 Anchor Pat Harvey described Reed as the “L.A. broadcaster who is all but synonymous with AM radio.”  The Master Blaster “has had an impressive career,” she said.  Reed was known for playing the latest hits and becoming a prominent voice on the LA AM dial. “I would call you a visionary,” Harvey said. When Harvey ask what kept Reed’s passion for the business over five decades he said, “the creativity of people, and what they do and what they say. All of that is important in terms of media. It’s important in terms of life. Living gives you life, life gives you living. I’m a visionary and I’m still looking for it and I’m still listening to it,” Reed said.

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Dr. Alan Cowen with Tom Reed, “Master Blaster.”

“We were the first in this city to do specials and documentaries on Dr. King, Malcolm X, the Black Panthers. We were the first,” explained Reed. “Music wise we had already had a legendary position in the music world,” says Reed, “For some reason people have blocked out LA as a music capital. But how can you do that when people like the Coasters, right here in this city became giants? Jesse Bellman one of the giants of rock and roll. Lou Rawls was out of Los Angeles. Sam Cooke was out of Los Angeles.” Black music and music labels — like Duotone and artists like the Penguins, found major success. LA quickly became a melting pot of art, music and culture.” It was like an apex for new record companies, new and old record companies. White and black record companies. and Latino record companies,” said Reed.

IMG_2294Reed’s book is a powerful look into Los Angeles black music pop history featuring autographs to the author by various legendary music stars and other prominent industry figures. The tribute project included rare, early photographs of the musicians, the clubs, the record stores, the labels and many stories behind the history offered through 50 of the most important years of Los Angeles’ musical landscape.

“I’m hoping this book will turn into a PBS film series someday,” said Reed. This must have book, which offers countless hours of enlightening enjoyment and education, will likely be used in local universities and libraries around the country. If you are interested in investing in the film project contact Tom Reed directly at 818-894-8880.