CULTURE- FRIDAYS UPDATE <span class="Apple-converted-space"> </span>From the get-go: Bootsie learned from the masters
There are few people more qualified to lead a tribute band through the Motown catalog than Staunton resident Bootsie Daniels: the sexagenarian crooner grew up in Roanoke and remembers in his youth enjoying the wealth of talent that visited the city.
"When I was in Roanoke, all the stars used to come to the Star City Auditorium to perform," he says. "Roanoke was the mecca for black entertainers." Although Daniels was too young to get into the shows at the time, he says he made every effort to perch outside one of the venue's windows and watch the performance anyway.
"I always wanted to pattern myself after these guys," he says. "Who better to learn from than the pioneers? It's like going to college for free."
At an age when those with more mundane aspirations would be plodding through an undergraduate curriculum, Daniels moved from Virginia to Cleveland to pursue a music career and soon found himself opening for R&B legends like Wilson Pickett.
"I didn't know you were supposed to hold back when you opened for these guys," he laughs. "They were hollering 'We want Bootsie!' even when Pickett was on stage."
Daniels says he didn't take it well when he was asked to tone it down for the next show. "I don't know how to hold back," he sighs. That's because he has a conscience as an entertainer.
"You give them 110 percent, even if your dog has just died," he says. "Grieve later; you always have to be professional and be polished. These people paid to come see you entertain, and that's what you have to give them."
Nevertheless, his current routine is a little less flamboyant than it has been in the past. "I used to do a routine like James Brown used to do: the suitcase and the cape and the whole bit. I used to jump over six chairs and do a split," he says. "Of course, I was 16 then; I wouldn't try it now. I might sit down in one and count to six."
But even in cases where his music career has been temporarily sidelined by renal failure or injuries from a car crash, Daniels manages to flip it into an artistic opportunity; "When I write another blues song, I'll have a good hook," he says of the latter. That's probably the best lesson anyone could hope to learn from a makeshift Motown conservatory like his.