Stars shine bright at Colorama
HUDSON - Colorama Music is the labor of love for owner Les Payne, an entrepreneur whose previous successes included construction, carpet companies, bowling alleys and picture framing. Payne's passion for music eventually led him and his wife, Karen, to create the Colorama Premiere Performance Club and Recording Studio. The establishment is in an unassuming complex in an industrial area on Denton Avenue, east of U.S. 19. What's behind the doors of Colorama's two buildings is what makes this business different. The club offers dinner shows featuring all kinds of music by local and national acts. In the recording studio, local and touring artists come to record or rehearse."It's truly special. There aren't many showrooms like this anymore; they're dying," Payne said. "We offer a full dinner or buffet with a show using unique lighting and the best sound available. We also pay attention to our customers' needs, and cleanliness is our No. 1 priority." Having "poured enough concrete," Payne said their goal with Colorama is to enjoy their work. "You rarely hear a bricklayer say, 'I had a great time today,' " he said, "but lots of musicians have fun at work. They go through so much to perform for so little, yet they 'play' and when they go home they can say they had a great evening. It's a unique breed of people that we deal with here." That unique breed includes local and national acts that perform at dinner shows, use the club's professionally equipped stage for rehearsals or book studio time to record their music. "We include pretty much all kinds of music," Payne said, "From oldies and doo-wop to jazz, blues, contemporary, classic rock, country and folk. It depends on what I'm inspired to do next month." One frequent performer, Bobby Palermo, known as "Florida's Neil Diamond," is recording an album in the Colorama studio he hopes will be released for Christmas. Singer-songwriter Louie Palma just released his CD, "Just Louie, Naturally" also recorded at Colorama. The club has resumed Original Music Night. This free show features local musicians showcasing their own compositions. "You never know who will drop in," Payne added. "Bobby Lewis ("Tossin' and Turnin' ") did a show with Donn Jett. The Edsels (a doo-wop group) stopped by on their way to a Sarasota gig and sat in with Stan Prinston." Colorama favorites include: oldies band The Satellites; boogie-woogie pianist Tommy Johnson, whose current YouTube video has more than 2 million hits; Cleveland artists the Kraker Brothers; and folk-rocker Lenny Emory. New Year's Eve features classic rockers Eddie Toye and The Rockaways. Payne took great pains to install state-of-the-art sound and lighting in the performance club and the latest high-tech sound-engineering and recording equipment in his studio. He consulted with local experts and his son-in-law, Paul Kraker, pastor of the arts at Grace Church in Strongsville, Ohio. Rich Buckley, of the classic rock group The Stringer Band, did the installation. Studio production is controlled by two Spring Hill residents, recording engineer and producer Kevin Knoll and live-sound engineer and lighting designer Buckley. The overstuffed living room furniture in the performance club's foyer sets a welcome tone. The hallway is covered with photos of favorite Colorama performers. A sea of small tables, many laid end-to-end, stops at the dance floor that edges the large performance stage. A full liquor bar is to one side. Payne takes the helm of the control room, where sound is mixed and lights are activated. He periodically adds smoke and laser lights to accent the rhythm, turns on disco balls, and highlights individual performers. A re-creation of a New York graffiti-covered hallway, spouting wisdom like "stay in school," "rock and roll," and "forget about it," ends at a similarly-decorated smoking room. Next to the performance club is the recording studio. Kevin Roahrig of Dynamic Records makes professional beats for hip-hop and rap recordings. Roahrig recently produced a rap song for Payne's daughter, Cleveland schoolteacher Laura Kraker. "Integers" bewails the problems math students have with integers. The publishing company is donating 20 percent of profits back to the urban schools. The studio's state-of-the-art equipment is nestled amid comfortable living room-style accommodations that include a widescreen TV, complete with video games, and a full bar. Performers who have rehearsed at the Colorama studio include R&B and pop-rock singer Gary U.S. Bonds, rock 'n' roll great Freddy Cannon, pop rocker Gary Puckett, R&B great Frankie Ford, and Tennessee rockers the Chris Muti band. Studio time costs $50 per hour for recording with an engineer. Rehearsal time is $25 an hour for up to 5 people, plus $5 per additional person per hour. Show tickets are $5 or $7.50 for preferred seating. Their newly expanded menu runs $8 to $14 and includes appetizers, entrees and desserts. Meals are managed by Terri Murphy of the Denton Avenue Deli. The club is available for private functions. Colorama's doors open at 6 p.m. for cocktails. Dinner is served beginning at 6:30 p.m. and shows start at 8 p.m. Events are ticketed. To guarantee seating, call (727) 863-7539 for reservations. For information, go to www.coloramamusic.com.