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Playing the blues for a good cause
Our Neighbor benefit concert brings renowned musicians to Brenau campus
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Beatin’ the Blues
A benefit concert for Our Neighbor featuring Jack Pearson and Sandra Hall, plus local artists Peggie Hoskins and Donnie Whitehead
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Pearce Auditorium, Brenau University, 500 Washington St., Gainesville
How much: $25-$50
More info: 678-617-5527

When Sandra Hall was just 4 years old, she got up in front of her granddaddy’s church and started singing.

Accompanied by her grandmother on piano, she and her older sister soon learned they were quite the act and polished their pipes in front of the congregation. When she was 12 and her sister was 13, they took their act to a local Atlanta nightclub, Club 400.

"My grandmother was the chaperone," said Hall, who still lives in Atlanta, the town where she was born and raised. "My grandmother, she kept us together. We couldn’t go to the bathroom by ourselves. She didn’t mind us doing the performing, but nothing else."

Years later, Hall has honed her singing like a finely tuned instrument. And on Friday night, Gainesville audiences will be able to hear her belt out blues standards, along with many original numbers, when Hall performs for the Beatin’ the Blues concert benefitting Our Neighbor.

Local singer/songwriter Peggie Hoskins and the Red Dirt band will open the show, along with Donnie Whitehead, the saxophone player for The Jesters.

They will be followed by singer and guitarist Jack Pearson, who will play an acoustic set and then join Hall for the final set of the show.

Pearson is a longtime session musician from Nashville, who has worked with notables such as The Allman Brothers, Delbert McClinton, Jimmy Buffett, Lee Ann Womack and Faith Hill. He has four CDs and has played on dozens of other bands’ albums.

Marty Owens, executive director of Our Neighbor, said when she heard Hall sing, she knew she had to include her in the benefit show.

"We heard from others that she was a wonderful entertainer," Owens said.

In the 1960s, Hall formed the all-female group The Exotics and opened shows at the Royal Peacock Club in Atlanta. Her career so far has allowed her to share the stage with Otis Redding, Bo Diddly, the Temptations and Etta James, among others.

Hall said she is looking forward to performing a duet with Pearson, who she hasn’t worked with on stage before. And there are a few songs she is always looking forward to performing.

"I like doing ‘Let the Good Times Roll,’ ‘Sweet Home Chicago’ — I do that one a lot," she said. "I still do standards, and I do my original work; my standards," she said.

She’s also a fan of B.B. King songs, and said she particularly enjoyed singing "Change is Gonna Come," by Sam Cooke, on one of her CDs.

Her most recent CD was recorded in Italy, where she travels each summer to sing at festivals there and across Europe.

"I do the festivals there during the summer," she said. "And I’m getting ready to go back there Nov. 22."