Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

December 14, 2012

'Yule be swinging'

Local native brings standards to his holiday show next week

Lee Ward
The Independent

ASHLAND — John Eric Booth got into the swing of his career when he discovered jazz standards.

A Wayne County native, he grew up listening to the pop music of the 1970s and ’80s but didn’t sing in front of people. He always loved music and loved to sing. He entered a talent show when he was a senior at Wayne High School but was disqualified.

“They thought I was lip synching,” he said with a laugh. “Nobody knew I could sing. I guess that’s kind of a compliment.”

There’s no doubt it’s Booth doing the singing and he plans to take the stage in Huntington soon.

Booth will present his Christmas show, “Yule Be Swinging!,” at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21 at the Jeslyn Performing Arts Center in Huntington.

Never exactly driven to be a singer, Booth worked at various jobs and kept an interest in music, listening to a  “mish-mash” of  different kinds of music, but mostly pop.

During his stint in the Air Force in upstate New York, he started singing in public and writing songs.

But it was when Michael Buble broke through that Booth’s  career changed.

“I was working in Nashville repairing copy machines,” he said.

Buble was experiencing a surge in popularity and Booth began listening to the songs he sang. Soon, he was researching and making connections, finding his influence in Dean Martin.

Then, he made an on-line friend in Pat Longo, who has been a band leader since the 1970s.

Longo invited Booth to visit him in Hollywood, and he did.

“He fostered me  and mentored me,” Booth said. “I went out there. He took a chance on an unknown and I got to rehearse with his band. That’s how I cut my teeth on performing with a big band.”

Booth also produced a weekly, one-hour swing show called Swinging Song Book, which was broadcast from an Internet site in New York. He also has performed shows of jazz standards in Hollywood, New York and Las Vegas.

He said the activity has helped him branch out more in the last eight months and he’s performing more than ever.

“We’re playing a lot of small, restored theaters and we’re very well received,” he said.

Usually, he plays with a trio: Jeffrey Thomasson, his music director and guitarist; Rebecca Harrison, bass guitarist; and Cliff Riley, drummer.

For the Christmas show in Huntington, Booth will add a trumpet, saxophone, trombone and piano.

He also will have a guest vocalist: His daughter, 14-year-old Erica Booth, who has sung with him all her life.

Booth pointed out much of the holiday entertainment will be over by the time his show is scheduled, so he said he believes it’s perfect timing. He said her’s looking forward to it.

“There will be be nothing around the Tri-State this year like this,” he said. “I really love Christmas time and I love all those classic songs.

“It’s going to be a really fun, relaxed evening,” he said.

John Eric Booth will present “Yule Be Swinging” at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21 at Jeslyn Performing Arts Center at 1030 4th Ave. in Huntington. Reserved seat tickets are $15 and $12 for seniors, students and children and may be purchased at JohnEricBooth.com or (304) 638-5195.

LEE WARD can be reached at lward@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2661.