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Tales Worth Sharing


Tribute to local historians cancelled, but stories should continue

(Photo Left) (L to R) Sonny Driver, Sonny Hopson and Bruce Webb. Photo courtesy of Bob Lott.

Sadly, Teamwork Media Group International has cancelled its evening-length documentary  tribute to three Philadelphia entertainment pioneers and historians.

In footage prepared for the event, one of the evenings subjects, Sonny Hopson, is totally monopolizing the interview.

 That’s not surprising. Hopson, as a disc jockey for WHAT 1340 AM from 1965 to 1986, carried the moniker, “The Mighty Burner.” Writer A.D. Amorosi, in a Philadelphia Weekly article, called him, “the best friend black music ever had.”

Hopson’s signature flair is evident in the film footage. So too is a certain cynical resignation.

“I’m getting too old,” he says. “I’m walking funny, talking funny. I’m about ready to stay home and don’t do nothing. … You know how it is when you get old, man!”

“I know how it is,” volunteers fellow event honoree, record store owner Bruce Webb, drawing laughter from the third “pioneer and historian,” newspaper publisher Sonny Driver.

Continues Hopson, “I done did everything in the world that I can do here: seen everything, heard everybody, heard everybody play. What the hell am I gonna do? There’s nothing to do. I did everything.”

For the event, “The Unsung Legends Tribute to Sonny, Bruce and Sonny,” which had been scheduled for the Philadelphia Clef Club of Jazz & Performing Arts on Oct. 21, Hopson was to help “dish the dirt, unearth and share the truth, insights and history on the entertainers and entertainment that came through Philadelphia starting in the early 1940s,” according to a news release.

Driver managed recording artists and founded SCOOP newspaper, which still exists after some 65 years. Webb was a successful promoter who later opened a legendary record store whose old-school vinyl selection still draws customers from throughout the world.

Driver, in the filmed interview, recounts juggling his managing duties and the newspaper, “I used to manage Bunny Sigler who just passed. … It was too much. I ended up concentrating on SCOOP.” He notes he passed on deals with Flip Wilson and Bill Cosby. “I just gave it up, for some reason or other. Something told me to stick with SCOOP. Thank God I did.”

“They were the movers and shakers behind the scenes,” said Bob Lott, CEO and Executive Producer of TMGI and director of the tribute, “the people who helped make Gamble, Huff and Bell the history makers they became and still are today. The primary goal is to do our part in keeping the memory alive here in Philadelphia.”

On Saturday, Oct. 7, the heartbreaking decision was made by the organizers to cancel the program, given the health and condition of all three men.

“That was the reason to do the event because of their aging health conditions,” said Lott via telephone. “But now we feel that it is the best decision to cancel under the circumstances.”

Still, their stories are worth sharing and their impact worth relishing. So, a final full-length documentary will still be completed, and it will be worth waiting for.

 

Tales Worth Sharing
Sheila Simmons - Contributor

Sheila Simmons brings many years of writing and communications experience to her work for Liberty City Press. She began her professional writing career at the Philadelphia Daily News, where she covered Business, City Hall and Education.

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