Nitty Gritty: The Musician's Technique
by Guest Columnist Allan Nicholls
Hit Parader - April 1970 issue

Allan Nicholls and then wife, and fellow cast member, Kathryn Ann Wright with the Editor of Hit Parader magazine.

Allan Nicholls talks about singing in this month's column.  And well he should since Allan is singing every night in the title role of Claude in Hair.  Prior to becoming a leading actor and singer in Hair Allan was in Canada at the forefront of the rock scene there.  Editor

I have been singing lead with a rock group for the last six years and before that, I spent three years playing drums, guitar, piano, and saxophone in a group.  The years that I spent playing an instrument in the group, I always felt the urge to do more, to contact the audience more, and some nights I used to move my drums up to the front of the stage.  I wanted to be a lead singer!  One night at a debutante party my manager, who owned and set up the drums, sat down at them and told me to was a difficult task at first because we were basically an instrumental group, but I was finally a lead singer.

I spent all of my leisure time at an R&B club in Montreal where the caliber of entertainment was high.  I saw Bill Haley,  The Fendermen,  J.C. Davis,  Joe Tex,  The Righteous Brothers,  and Booker T. & The M.G.'s.  Watching the lead singers in these various groups and borrowing ideas that suited me created a style for me that I felt really good performing.  I learned some great microphone tricks from Joe Tex and Little Charles, voice tricks from The Fendermen, and I learned how to groove on a bass line from Booker T.  I don't want to sound as mechanical as this must sound, because of the way I am trying to capsulise what has happened to me over the length of my career.  My thing on stage as a lead singer has always been to have a good time with the group and the audience, to get right into the songs (if it's a happy song to show I feel it;  if it's a heavy song...make the feel heavy and when it's slow and sad, give it to the audience that way).  I have always believed that the people came to see us, to hear us, and to find out what we had to say, and the only way to tell them was to get into each song and give it meaning for them - because in a lot of cases, they are only going to hear the song once, where you deliver it every night you play.  Because of the varied bookings I have played on the past five years, I learned to deliver and entertain the audiences in different degrees.  When we were playing a small intimate room, I could joke around with the group and with the audience with little "in" jokes, and I could do quick visual things, and make it really together by getting close to the people - but when we were doing the big arena concert shows, it was a matter of performing heavy songs with a lot of big visual movements and always some humor.

In all the jobs I've played I always thought that the most important thing to accomplish was contact with the audience.  If we did it with a song, then we would create more of a closeness with talking and communication, and if we didn't do it with a song, then the talking and communication usually got through to them.  That's where it's at, you know, to get through to the people...and I always felt great when I heard the first applause and even better when the last one came about.  In closing, I would like to say that the best way to perform as a lead singer, as far as I'm concerned, is to entertain your group, give it all, and the vibrations will move right off the stage to the people in the audience.

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