With Need Your Love, KJ Sanchez returns to the King Records docudrama to present more music and more stories from Little Willie John, R&B’s unsung hero.
Your show Cincinnati King made its world premiere at the Playhouse in 2018. What was it like bringing the story of King Records to life in the studio’s hometown?
It was amazing. Each time I sat in the house with our audience, I could see someone nodding their head or gently elbowing their friend/spouse they had come with, as though recognizing parts of their own history that they cherished. There were other times in the play when I could tell that the audience was hearing a part of their shared history that they did not know, or did not know the full story, and it made the air in the space electric. And then at the end, when we cover the end of his life, there were always quiet sobs, at the painful truth.
Stanley Wayne Mathis, Ralph Huntley, Terrell Montgomery and Richard Crandle in Cincinnati King.
What elements of that show will return for Need Your Love, and what new elements can audiences look forward to?
They can expect the same quality music — we have the same band coming back! What is new is we hear about Little Willie John’s childhood in Detroit, how he got his first record with Syd and so much more about his time and life. I had the unbelievable good fortune to interview Little Willie John’s sister! I spoke with Mable John, and she told me some great stories that we will share.
What’s your personal favorite song by Little Willie John? What draws you to it?
“All Around the World.” His first notes just ring out like a beacon. And the lyrics are great: “If I don’t love you, baby, grits ain’t groceries, eggs ain’t poultry and Mona Lisa was a man.”