On Saturday, October 10, Twin Cities native Johnnie Brown will grace the stage for his biggest performance of LOVE TKO: A Tribute to Teddy Pendergrass, along with original members of the Pendergrass Band, Sam Reed and Greg Moore.
For the past five years Brown has performed and gained recognition for his impersonation of Teddy Pendergrass, who passed away in 2010.
“I did my first two shows before he died,” said Brown, “because I was really trying to hurry up and get those shows tightened up to get to Philly [so he could] see me.”
Thinking back to his first show, which took place at Arnellia’s in St. Paul, Brown recalled the place being packed. “We had to go get tables from downstairs,” he said, thinking back to how well the community responded to the show and its concept.
“I can give you Teddy,” said Brown, with a huge grin on his face. “We — [the band], can do Teddy. We can do 42 songs and take a request… Teddy’s music fits me.”
In the interview with MSR, Brown thinks back to singing and having fun with his friend and former roommate. “He knew all the lyrics but I had the voice,” Brown said chuckling. “He would tell me the lyrics and I’d sing them. We would have parties and he’d say, ‘Johnnie sing’ because he knew it would get the party going.” Brown added that he and this roommate performed in multiple karaoke events, and one particular singing competition paid out $300.
“One day he told me, ‘They’re doing a sing live event to get a woman for $300,’” said Brown, explaining that it was a competition where all the contestants were men singing to the same woman who would choose the winner by the way he sang to her. “Before I could finish singing, all the guys that were behind me walked off stage,” boasted Brown.
Brown not only recalls how he started, but he also has visions of where the show is going and the goals in place for the show.
“[Teddy’s] last show was in L.A., [and] I want to reproduce that whole show,” Brown continued, adding that he called Billy Jolly, the musical director of Pendergrass’ final show and left him a message. “I told him, ‘I can give you Teddy,’” said Brown.
To date, he has not received a returned call from Jolly, but he’s not upset about it. Brown knows that one day he will get his call returned. The growth the show has had over the past five years — making it to a headline Saturday night show on Hennepin Ave. — speaks to the demand and where the show is headed; Brown has no intentions of slowing down.
“Kingston Charles Productions is [named after] my son; my baby boy’s name is Kingston Charles. I’m putting his name everywhere. That’s what I’m doing this for… It’s about him. That’s why I’m doing a lot of this is to find common ground for him,” said Brown.
To buy tickets to see Johnnie Brown and original members of the Teddy Pendergrass Band visit www.thecowlescenter.org/calendar-tickets/love-tko.
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Khymyle Mims is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.