By Sam McDonald, dailypress.com
NEWPORT NEWS — A Grammy-winning band of brothers on Tuesday brought their soaring musical talent back to one of the places where it first took flight, Denbigh High School in Newport News.
“We used to come here in a school bus. Today, we came in a tour bus,” said a smiling Roy “Future Man” Wooten. “That kind of puts it in perspective. It’s nice.”
Today, he and brothers Regi, Joseph and Victor are Nashville-based musicians known for supporting stars such asWhitney Houston, Steve Miller, BeBe and CeCe Winans and Béla Fleck. In the 1970s and early 1980s, all four brothers graduated from Denbigh High.
This fall, for the first time in many years, The Wooten Brothers came together as a touring act. A show Monday night at The Jewish Mother in Virginia Beach gave them a chance to return to the Peninsula and their old jamming grounds.
On Tuesday, before a crowd of a few hundred students in the school auditorium, the brothers played a short set that included Donny Hathaway’s “This Christmas,”James Brown’s “Sex Machine,” and a rip-roaring jazz-funk instrumental. There was a dazzling, acrobatic bass solo from Victor, some snazzy unison dance moves and a solo performance of the Denbigh alma mater, which Regi wrote as a student all those years ago.
Stepping away from the instruments, the brothers offered the students nuggets of advice, encouragement and inspiration. Work hard, stay positive, they said, and you will achieve.
“The most important lesson you can learn in life is to cherish what you have when you have it,” Joseph told the audience.
High school memories will become precious in days ahead, said Joseph, whose primary gig is playing keyboards with the Steve Miller Band. “Cherish this time,” he said. “You don’t know how much it’s going to mean to you.”
Victor, celebrated as one of America’s foremost electric bassists, shared advice from his mother, who was a guiding light in the Wootens’ musical development.
“Our mother taught us to put everything into anything we do,” Victor said. “She would not let us do anything halfway.” Victor said that he and his brothers are considered successful, but they are simply following the same path they started on when practicing for hours in the garage of the family home on Tillerson Drive.
“Our parents let us know that success was nothing we had to wait for,” Victor said. “We were already successful.”
Regi Wooten, an innovative guitarist and the oldest of the brothers, stressed personal discipline and responsibility.
“Not to brag, but none of us swear, none of us drink, none of us smoke … I want to let you know that it’s possible to do that,” Regi said. “It takes a lot more strength to be good than it does to be bad.”
Denbigh High Choral Director Arlisa Harrison Powell knew the Wootens when she was a student at Denbigh in the late 1970s. She was elated to have them back. “These gentlemen plant a good seed,” she said.
Powell said she realized that some students didn’t fully appreciate the magnitude of the Wootens’ achievements.
“But down the road, they’ll be able to say, ‘That was special and it came from my high school,'” Powell said. “I want them to see that they can do it, too.”