DALTON ROBERTS PERFORMS
By Naman Crowe
The Summerville (Ga.) News
The best way to get a glimpse of Dalton Roberts' uniqueness and what
sets him apart from the average, commercial entertainer is to invite him
over to the house for dinner with a relaxed group of friends.
That's what members of the Summerville-Trion Optimist Club found out
Friday during a luncheon at The Tavern. Roberts was the featured
speaker. And he spoke, but mainly he played his guitar and sang his
songs, decorating them
with anecdotes and recollections ranging from the comical to the
uplifting and spiritual.
At times he had them laughing with such songs as "Don't Pay The
Ransom Honey, I've Escaped," which made it to #8 on the country
charts back in the early 70s, a little ditty about a gay dog named
Bowsey Wowsey which got him in hot water with a talent director but a
standing ovation from a Grand Ole Opry audience; and a political satire
about our 13th US President, Millard Fillmore.
He did a delightful Christmas song based on the idea that with love,
every day would be Christmas, which he wrote to help raise money and
awareness for the Orange Grove Center in Chattanooga. A video with
Roberts and the mentally challenged youngsters performing the song
together is expected to be aired by one of the country music networks
Part politician, preacher, humorist, musician, singer, songwriter and
storyteller. Put all those ingredients together, along with a dash of
poet and country troubadour and you're getting close to a description of
But that still doesn't quite capture the man who has performed on the
Grand Ole Opry and who, a few weeks ago, opened for Junior Brown, one of
the fastest rising and most electrifying new stars in country music.
Roberts, with just his old pal Al Harvey and a couple of acoustic
guitars, still managed to hold that rambunctious audience in the palm of
his hand, leaving them wanting more.
He has been performing professionally for most of his life and has that
rare ability of knowing how to read an audience, regardless of size or
venue, and make the adjustments necessary to please even those with the
most persnickety of tastes.
After first bringing out the laughter and then softening the heart, so
to speak, of the Optimist audience, Roberts opened his own heart and
shared with them a story about the difficulties he had in writing a
gospel album a few years ago.
He had made a promise to write the album as a way of raising money for
wheelchairs at the Hamilton County Nursing Home, but when the time came
to do it, he was dry and couldn't write a thing. So he went to his
mother for help.
Nora Velma Roberts – a spiritual woman and a wonderful poet – simply
asked, "What's the first thing you do before you sing a song?"
Roberts answered that he tuned his guitar.
"Well, maybe you had better get yourself in tune with the
Lord," she replied, asking him, "Have you asked the Lord to
help you?" Roberts confessed that he hadn't. "Well, you just
ask him. I'm sure He will help you."
Roberts took his mother's advice and in no times had enough songs to
fill the album. The one he performed for the Optimists was "I
Wonder What He Wrote In The Sand." Again, the importance of love
for one's fellow man was at the heart of it.
And come to think of it, that's what is at the heart of Dalton Roberts
and what makes him so special as an entertainer. His heart. That and his
willingness to open it up to strangers. There were some Optimists during
his last number Friday with lumps in their throats and tears in their
can attest to that.
Roberts, the son of a minister, retired a year or so ago from his job as
county executive of Hamilton County, after 16 years of service and at
the height of his political power and popularity.
He still puts in his two cents now and then through a weekly newspaper
column. When he's not performing, he takes life pretty easy, feeding his
birds, meditating and writing in his journal.
Writing songs and performing, which he is doing more and more these
days, is really the main reason he decided to retire. He wanted to
fulfill a lifelong ambition of being able to make a living doing what he
likes to do best.