Woe to those who nod off while Tom Joyner is in the house.
By DEBORA SHAULIS
YOUNGSTOWN -- Fans of the "Tom Joyner Morning Show" got funky with James Brown, got registered to vote and, in one case, got embarrassed during the radio personality's live broadcast this morning from Edward W. Powers Auditorium.
"James Brown, get up, get up!" chanted an energetic Joyner, his sidekicks and Brown's band in beckoning the Godfather of Soul to the stage just after 6 a.m. An estimated 1,600 people were on hand and happily complied.
Joyner's radio show is syndicated in more than 100 markets nationwide, including on WRBP-FM 101.9 of Youngstown. On average, about 8 million people tune in daily. On Fridays, the morning show becomes a "Sky Show" because Joyner takes it on the road. Southwest Airlines is one of his major sponsors.
Brown joins in
Joyner traditionally invites a musical guest to perform at "Sky Shows," which is what brought Brown to town. Three days after the release of his new CD, "The Next Step," and less than 12 hours after he introduced pop singer Britney Spears at the MTV Music Video Awards in New York, Brown was dressed in a gray suit and acting very businesslike during a sound check shortly after 5 a.m.
Brown made an old-school entrance after two introductions -- one by Joyner, the other by a member of his entourage -- and a drumroll.
Dressed in black from head to toe with a smattering of rhinestones, Brown did some of his signature dancing by twisting on the heels of his shiny black boots and twirling behind his microphone.
He stuck with his classics for his first set, with songs ranging from "Get Funky" to the slower "Try Me," an early hit, to which Joyner and co-star Ms. Dupree slow-danced onstage.
Joyner and his crew also danced as energetically as Brown's four backup singers.
"The Godfather created the party, and he has always been about purpose," a sweaty, breathless Joyner told the crowd after Brown left the stage.
That's when activist-minded Joyner's "Party With a Purpose" got into gear. Local representatives of NAACP, who were wearing bright yellow T-shirts and carrying clipboards, began wading among the picture-takers in the aisles to distribute voter registration forms.
Joyner and his cohorts also got into the act, and Joyner even encouraged friends of nonregistered voters to point them out. Joyner also encouraged his nationwide listening audience to register by telephone.
Local sponsors and community, civic and social groups had displays in the Powers lobby as showgoers arrived.
Admission to the "Sky Show" was free. A line began to form Thursday afternoon outside Powers. By 5 a.m., the line stretched from the main entrance at Powers to the doors at the Voinovich Center state building down the block on West Federal Street.
All kinds of people showed up. There were suit-and-tie people, casual folks, the trendy kind. Many were happy to be there despite the early hour; they danced and sang at their seats even before the show began.
Joyner warned them that there would be trouble for anyone who was caught sleeping. One young adult man sitting near the front of the stage was sleeping and that was pointed out to co-host Myra J.
Soon the entire morning show crew was swarming around him, his face was projected on two video screens above the stage, and he awoke to hear Joyner addressing him from the stage and telling him to wipe the drool from his cheek. The man was taken onstage and given a Tom Joyner travel mug, but he was clearly embarrassed and left the auditorium for a while.