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Not playing the fool

Cuba Gooding the elder appears at Robinson.


Cuba Gooding isn’t always sure the caller on the other end of the phone will know he’s not the guy who won the Academy Award for best supporting actor in “Jerry McGuire.” Of course, that’s his son, who owes a lot to dad in the talent end, it seems. Dad may be a granddad several times over now, but he looks nearly as young as junior on the cover of his CD, the first released by Gooding or anyone else from his R&B hit group the Main Ingredient in 25 years. “Begin With the Family” includes some smooth ballads — Gooding possesses a terrific, high-rangy tenor voice — as well as a remake of the Main Ingredient’s biggest hit, “Everybody Plays the Fool.” “The way things are going politically and economically or financially, I don’t think they got it the first time,” Gooding says of the 1972 song. Gooding has been through Little Rock in recent years touring with similar inspirational musicals, and he’s back again this week along with actors Clyde Jones and Ted Mills for two shows of “Girl He Ain’t Worth It” at Robinson Center Music Hall. He will perform songs from the CD as well and will have it available for fans. “It took three years to do this album,” he said earlier this week. “Every song represents what I believe. I think all of the problems in the world begin with parental training. And love songs are what I’m about, too.” When Donald McPhearson, the original lead singer of the Main Ingredient, was dying of cancer, Gooding replace him in the lead role. RCA, the band’s record company, wasn’t sure what to do with the group, which had a few minor hits but nothing termed a blockbuster. A country songwriter had passed along a tune to Charley Pride, the only other black artist on the RCA label at the time, and Pride ended up turning it down as not being country enough. Gooding thought the group could put a “cute arrangement” to “Everybody Plays the Fool.” “Not only did that song become No. 1, but I’m still earning a living from it,” Gooding said. “Wherever you are Charley Pride, thank you very much.” The Main Ingredient followed up its big hit with another chart buster, “Just Don’t Want to Be Lonely” in 1974. Gooding wrote 75 percent of the new CD, and says he’s simply trying to bring back the style of lyrical, more melodic music as an alternative to hip-hop and rap. “I don’t think our style of music will go away, but it needs a jump start,” he said. “Rap and hip-hop allow kids to express themselves, but melody and lyrics will remain supreme.” Showtimes of “Girl He Ain’t Worth It” are 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Tickets are $16.50-$25. “The two reasons why they hired me, they take the Sr. off and people think they’re seeing an Academy Award-winning actor,” he said, laughing, “or they have me singing a hit song and they can put it on the marquee. But I know, you can’t sell a secret. I’m doing everything that I can do to make people realize I’m still in the business. One of my grandchildren saw a billboard for the show recently and said, ‘There you are, Grandpa. Go, Grandpa, go.”

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