By Malcolm Pitt
Meeting Lionel for the first time was simply magical and I believe it was just meant to be. I was stood in the VIP area looking up at Lionel Richie at the ‘Print Works’ in my home town of Manchester and while everyone else around me was dancing, for me, time just stood still. I asked a big guy I presumed was Lionel’s manager if I could meet him; he said “nobody meets Lionel”. So, to cut a long story short I took fate into my own hands. As Lionel finished his set the big guy put a towel around his neck and led him off stage. I managed to follow them and suddenly I’m in a lift with the band going up… to where, I had no idea. The door opened and I let the band lead out and I followed. They disappeared through a door and I didn’t know what to do. Then the door opened and a man cautiously weighing me up and down asked me what I was doing, it was Lionel’s manager Barrie Marshall, I apologised for being there and spotting the big guy coming out I felt sorry for breaching his security, especially after telling me that “nobody meets Lionel”. Barrie Marshall very kindly allowed me to explain, so I tried reassuring him I wasn’t some kind of nutter and that I just wanted to meet Lionel to say thank you. I was ready to walk away realising how bad it looked when Barrie said, “wait here”. After a moment, Barrie invited me in and unbelievably Lionel Richie was walking towards me. I remember for some reason I started to take my glasses off and he did the same. We hugged and I was speechless. He said he thought I was his cousin from Alabama standing in the crowd below him. I told him about my show and he was amazed. We continued to chat and Lionel said he was flying to Lisbon Portugal that evening and the next time he was in Manchester we should hook up… His words not mine, ha-ha.
It would be ten years before we would hook up again, this time at the BBC where we did a show together and I would surprise him by wearing one of his original Commodore suits. Two years later and our paths would cross again back stage at the Birmingham NEC where I gave him pictures and reviews of my show and it was at this time that he was to give me his blessing and endorsement… “Brother Malcolm… Keep It Up”. He was a few minutes late going on stage that night due to us chatting and as I was being led from back stage into the arena I stopped to look for my seat number and the crowd in a small section up in the Gods started to clap and cheer, surely not… The security guy said “they think you’re Lionel”. I laughed and took my time searching my pockets for the ticket and the cheering caught on like wild fire. The following year I appeared at the London Palladium on ITV with Lionel and he recounted our meeting in Birmingham as we laughed and chatted like two regular guys.
In early 2017 I was approached by Chris Lloyd and Peter Anderson who are the producers and founder members of the smash hit show ‘Talon – The Best of Eagles’. They spoke with great passion about me fronting their new production ‘The Lionel Richie Songbook’. The show would be backed by a world class band handpicked by the great Jonny Miller plus the Talon technical support and marketing machine. Now I have many years experience having performed all over the world and I instantly sensed chemistry between us and, as the conversation progressed I felt myself buying into their vision. A deal was done, rehearsals began and on the 2nd February 2018 opening night arrived. A few weeks later, Chris called me to give me the news that ‘The Lionel Richie Songbook’ had been nominated at the ‘National Tribute Music Awards’ for ‘BEST NEWCOMER’, and so, on American Independence Day at the Leicester Athena, Jonny and I joined Chris and Peter for a posh dinner at the black tie event. “The nominees in the category ‘Best Newcomer’ are…” My heart and mind were in a race to the finish; “and the winner is… The Lionel Richie Songbook”.
What a night! Now I must remember to drop Lionel a line and ask him to come and check us out. See you all soon. xxx