By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
Such is the life of a gospel superstar.
Last month, Franklin became the second-ever entrant into the Gospel Hall of Fame, but don't expect any MTV-style posturing from the pint-sized choir leader who has sold more than 10 million albums and occasionally appears on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
"I'm sitting at a Subway and picking my teeth while I talk to you," says Franklin, who began leading a choir at Fort Worth's Mt. Baptist Church when he was 11. Since then, he has built an enormous career spiking traditional gospel with hip-hop beats and his own call-and-response style. The 19th Annual Stellar Awards, airing Saturday on KDAF Channel 33 at noon, includes a tribute to Franklin presented by none other than Smokey Robinson. Not bad for a kid who once cruised with a gang before finding salvation in song. "The honor is, after 11 years, to still have a platform to speak into people's hearts and lives," says Franklin, who lives in Dallas with his wife and four children. "Awards for me are just difficult. It's not my comfort zone. I made a promise a long time ago to never do what I do for [awards]. I gotta distance myself from that."
While he may underplay his own tribute, he does wax enthusiastic about the event's performers, like Tonéx, whom he calls "a phenomenon." "I'm gospel music's biggest fan," says Franklin, who also hosted the awards, taped January 11 in Houston, with luminaries Yolanda Williams and Donnie McClurkin, both of whom appear on Franklin's solo effort, The Rebirth of Kirk Franklin. But at the end of the day, Franklin believes that praise goes to God, not to himself. After all, even gospel superstars attend PTA meetings and extract that doughy Subway sandwich bread out of their teeth. "The stage is 35 minutes," he says. "Real life is more than that, but we don't develop those skills. That's why marriages don't last and your kids end up in rehab." He laughs. "I just don't want to be on that VH1 special."
And he said, "What about 'Breakfast at Tiffany's'?"
And I said, "I think I remember that song. And as I recall, I think neither of us liked it."
And he said, "Well, that's one thing we've got."
By Monday, the famously overplayed song by Dallas' Deep Blue Something, now firmly wedged in my head, still hung strong at No. 10, alongside the new Green Day single. What is going on? Is there a renaissance afoot? "Well, it's a snappy little ditty," said drummer John Kirtland. But, he added, "Where's the check?"
"That's when the lady of the house puts the pot roast in the pressure cooker in the morning and goes out drinking and dancing all day," says Phil Bennison. "When her husband comes home, dinner's ready."
Sounds like a plan. Well, that's the idea behind the daily "pressure cooker" gigs 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at K C's II, a dive bar at 6525 Northwest Highway, where Bennison, a.k.a. "Homer Henderson," plays bass with Perry Jones & the Pleasure Cookers. The idea was to lure in some ladies with cheap drinks and country swing. But, Bennison admits, "All we've been attracting is grizzled veteran types right now."
Instead, Bennison is the one whoopin' it up. "Bloody Marys are $2 each. I had about five of them today," says Bennison, who also admitted he was speaking to me while lying in bed. (It was 4:30 p.m.) But it still sounds like fun. "Come on down for a drink some afternoon," he says. "You'll see some authentic people down there. Boy, will you see 'em."