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Levitt AMP Concert Honors Ralph Shelton

Free Concert at Barber Park Honors Businessman and Philanthropist Ralph Shelton, Who Died in February

Billed as “Greensboro’s Tribute to Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Levitt AMP concert on June 4 is sponsored by James and Debra Smith of Smitty’s McDonald’s

To kick off the second half of the 10-concert Levitt AMP Greensboro Music Series, ArtsGreensboro announced that the concert on Saturday, June 4, will honor Greensboro businessman and philanthropist Ralph Shelton, who died on February 19, 2016.

A well-known businessman and the founder of Southeast Fuels, Shelton did his best every day to make the Greensboro community stronger, to give a voice to those who couldn’t speak for themselves. Unassuming and low-key, he cultivated a unique way of building bridges between the local African American and white communities.

For this work, in 2004 Shelton was recognized with one of Greensboro’s highest honors, NCCJ’s Brotherhood/Sisterhood Citation Award. The recipients of that award—first presented in 1966—represent an honor roll of people who have fought bias, bigotry, and racism and worked tirelessly to make our community better for all.

Shelton’s work was never done. He left a career at Burlington Industries to found Southeast Fuels, which he built into one of the top minority-owned companies in the country. He and his wife, Christine, also were among the earliest—and most generous—supporters of Gateway Gardens and the new Hayes-Taylor YMCA, both adjacent to Barber Park, where the Levitt AMP Greensboro concerts are presented.

Ralph knew how important it was to be passionately involved in our community, and to give others the encouragement they needed to also become involved.

James “Smitty” Smith, who owns Smitty’s McDonald’s with his wife, Debra, was encouraged by Ralph to participate in—and to give back to—our community. “Years ago, Ralph pulled me aside and urged me to become involved in the community,” Smith said. “My wife and I took his words to heart, and we’ve never looked back. That’s why we are so thrilled to sponsor this concert in Ralph’s honor. He was a man who did all he could to make our community strong. We want to keep that passion alive and spark that kind of commitment in other people, just as Ralph did with us.”

Saturday’s concert begins at 6 pm at the Barber Park amphitheater. Hosted by O. Henry Award recipient Logie Meachum, it is a tribute to gospel singer-songwriter Sister Rosetta Tharpe, often called the “godmother of rock and roll.” Local Greensboro musicians Laurelyn Dossett, Vanessa Ferguson, Lalenja Harrington, and Jasmé Kelly will join Meachum in celebrating Tharpe and her music.

Following Saturday’s event, the Levitt AMP Greensboro Music Series will continue with four more concerts at Barber Park:

  • Sunday, June 12 – Presented in partnership with Music for a Sunday Evening in the Park (MUSEP):
    • Piedmont Triad Jazz Orchestra, with featured vocalist Nishah Dimeo at 6 pm
  • Sunday, June 19 – Presented in partnership with Music for a Sunday Evening in the Park (MUSEP):
    • The Suffers (Gulf Coast soul) at 7 pm, with
    • Caleb Caudle (traditional country) opening at 6 pm
  • Thursday, June 30:
    • Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba (West African dance) at 7 pm, with
    • Super Yamba Band (West African Afrobeat, and psychedelic funk) opening at 6 pm
  • Saturday, July 9:
    • The Broadcast (rock ‘n roll and Americana) at 7 pm, with
    • Molly McGinn & Quilla (Americana and electronic) opening at 6 pm

In January, the Levitt Foundation announced that Greensboro was one of 15 small-to-mid-sized towns and cities across the country to win a 2016 Levitt AMP Grant Award of $25,000 in matching funds to present a free concert series. In an effort to inspire and engage communities across the country around the power of creative placemaking, the Levitt Foundation invited the public to choose the Top 25 Finalists through online voting.

ArtsGreensboro encourages supporters to share news about the Levitt AMP Greensboro Music Series by using the hashtags #LevittAMPgso and #getAMPedgso on social media.