As an executive producer for television, films and music, Robert Deaton makes magic happen when collaborating with megastars, including a who’s who of Nashville: Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, Kelly Clarkson, Martina McBride, and Eric Church, just to name a few.
Actress Elizabeth MacRae reflects on her Hollywood career with fond memories of working with director Francis Ford Coppola and actor Gene Hackman on the 1974 mystery thriller “The Conversation.” She has acted in nine feature films and dozens of television series — from “Gunsmoke” to “The Andy Griffith Show.” But she is perhaps best known for playing Lou Ann Poovie, the Southern-sweet girlfriend of actor Jim Nabors’ goofy Gomer Pyle.
A musical visionary, Bill Curtis was performing rap years before it became an official genre and global phenomenon. As founder of the Fatback Band, the drummer created an original sound combining funk and disco in the 1970s and ’80s. The band’s hits include “(Are You Ready?) Do the Bus Stop,” “I Like Girls,” and “I Found Lovin’.” Its 1979 single “King Tim III (Personality Jock)” is widely considered the first commercially released hip-hop single.
Deaton, MacRae and Curtis credit Fayetteville — their hometown — with nurturing their talent and stoking their dreams, making them believe anything was possible.
On Saturday, Fayetteville will celebrate their achievements when Community Concerts, the region’s longest-running arts organization, inducts them into the newly renamed Fayetteville Performing Arts Hall of Fame. The ceremony will begin at 7:20 p.m. in the Crown Theatre, just before Community Concerts 87th season finale, a show by Grammy Award-winning R&B trio Boyz II Men.
Formerly known as the Music Hall of Fame, the name was changed this year to better reflect the wide range of homegrown artists who have made their mark in entertainment, according to Bill Kirby Jr., president of Community Concerts since 2009 and emcee of the induction ceremony.
“This is a big honor for the inductees, all who have left their gifts on their hometown,” Kirby said.
MacRae, 87, gets choked up with emotion when talking about the honor in a video. She is touched.
Curtis, 90, smiles and says he, too, will always remember his hometown as the place where it all started.
Deaton, 61, adds that It means something a little extra when your hometown honors you: “it’s like telling the 15-year-old, ‘You did good.’”
Up close and personal
Kirby says Fayetteville has always sparked creativity.
Robert Deaton could not agree more. Deaton also will be in town on Friday night for a by-invitation-only screening of his documentary “Stoned Cold Country” at Cameo Art House Theatre. The documentary is billed as “Nashville’s Love Letter to the Rolling Stones.”
“Growing up in Fayetteville, there was always a big focus on the arts. I could act in plays, play in the orchestra or work the lighting,” Deaton said in a phone interview from the Nashville area. “There was always something going on.”
Add to it that his father was in the radio and TV business, with three shows on WECT-TV Channel 6 in Wilmington — one of them being a country music program with live performances. From a young age, Deaton remembers being on a set and just knowing he would go into entertainment. Everything he did was to prepare for his future.
He ended up playing in garage bands.
“I tried to play guitar, but it was my friend (and bandmate) who would end up being the world’s greatest guitarist,” he said of Jimmy Herring of Widespread Panic.
Deaton recalls his days as a creative kid “in a hurry to grow up” while attending the old Alexander Graham Junior High School and Terry Sanford High, from which he graduated in 1980.
“I had a number of teachers and influencers in such a creative community,” he says, adding that one teacher in particular, Alice Arrington, encouraged him to keep reaching higher.
And so he did. The day after graduating from high school, he packed his Toyota to the gills and drove 500 miles to Nashville.
Once there, he sought out mentors, taking classes and workshops from masters of their craft, including photography and audio engineering. And he made connections. He and another fearless visionary, George Flanigen, started a video production company and ended up producing more than 500 music videos. Two of them won Country Music Association Video of the Year awards: “Independence Day” by Martina McBride and Brooks and Dunn’s “Believe.”
Deaton and Flanigen also won two Emmy Awards for ABC’s “Monday Night Football” opening.
Since 2007, Deaton has been executive producer of the CMA Awards on ABC. He is at the helm of “CMA Fest” and “CMA Country Christmas,” annual network shows that are consistently high in the ratings. He produced “Sports Illustrated: 50 Years of Beautiful” on NBC, as well as the “Soul to Soul Las Vegas” residency for Tim McGraw and Faith Hill.
He was executive producer of “The Passion” with Tyler Perry for Fox Broadcasting and currently is the executive producer of the Billboard Music Awards show on NBC.
It’s important to always expand and keep reinventing, said Deaton.
Or, as his friend the late Waylon Jennings advised: “Son, you’ve got to keep doing stuff that nobody can deny.”
For ticket information for Saturday night’s Boyz II Men concert, preceded by the Fayetteville Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony, visit the Crown Complex website at crowncomplexnc.com.