By James Beaty
James McPherson says he hadn’t picked up his guitar in months before he took part in a special project in the Chicago area last week.
Now, he’s planning on picking it up a lot more often.
McPherson, 25, is the retail wireless consultant for the U.S. Cellular office in McAlester. He’s among 10 musicians who were selected from across the nation to perform in a national promotional campaign for the company.
As part of the campaign, McPherson and the other musicians used Twitter to deliver direct responses to complaints about the wireless industry. They did it by addressing the issues with lyrics set to the melody of the Travis Tritt hit “Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares).
Unbeknownst to him at the time, McPherson had been recommended to send in an audition recording for the campaign. He said the recommendation came from Tommy Arens, of Tulsa, a sales director for the company, who had previously worked with him and knew of his musical background.
“He knew from his time in this area that I could sing,” McPherson said, adding that Arens let him know about the auditions.
McPherson auditioned with his version of songs by two vastly different artists: “Simple Man,” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, and “She’s Got a Way,” by Billy Joel.
He sent in his audition and soon received a reply.
“They sent me an e-mail saying ‘You’ve made it to the second round,’” McPherson recalled. He also received a request to sing some lyrics to the tune of the Travis Tritt song, “Here’s Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares).”
McPherson said he had heard the song before, but didn’t know it.
“I put my spin on it, kind of jazzy, bluesy, rock,” he said.
McPherson sent that in, then he said he heard a few weeks later that he’d passed the final round and would be flown to Chicago to make some recordings for the campaign.
“Once we got there, we were taking responses from non- US Cellular customers,” said McPherson, referring to complaints made via Twitter.
Joined by a team of writers, he and the other nine singers would record their responses to those complaining on Twitter about other wireless companies. The writers would draft the responses, then he and the others would sing them, McPherson said.
The idea was to challenge people to think about their relationship with their wireless carrier and to show them how different things can be when their carrier is passionate about serving them, according to U.S. Cellular.
McPherson and the others recorded the songs in an office-type setting, with other workers occasionally walking by or stopping to listen.
“We were on the eleventh floor of a building,” McPherson said.
After the songs were recorded, “They were uploaded to You Tube,” McPherson said.
“Everybody was really cool and pleased,” McPherson said. “I think everybody had a good experience.”
McPherson is a 2005 McAlester High School graduate, currently taking college courses.
“I was pretty shy, growing up,” McPherson recalled. “I always sang, but I did it when nobody else was around.”
Something happened at MHS to change that, however.
“In my senior year of high school, I tried out for ‘Hello Dolly,”’ said McPherson. He landed the role of Cornelius, and found out he liked performing.
“Once I did ‘Hello Dolly,’ it made it a little more comfortable for me,” McPherson said.
He credited his McAlester High School band instructor David Steidley, with teaching him a lot about music. McPherson played trumpet in the MHS marching band and jazz band.
McPherson said when he sings these days, he sometimes tries to phrase the melody the same way he would have if he had played trumpet on the song.
“That’s where I get a lot of my style from,” he said.
He may be onto something. Frank Sinatra, considered by many the greatest male singer in American popular music history, has famously said he obtained his vocal style by trying to emulate the phrasing played by famed big band leader Tommy Dorsey on his trombone.
McPherson returned to McAlester last Thursday and is hoping to start performing more in the McAlester area.
“I’ve always had a love of music,” McPherson said. As for his recent experience, “It’s definitely inspired me to keep writing songs,” he said.
He said his wife, Margherita McPherson, is extremely supportive.
One of the best things about the recording experience for McPherson: “I’d never been to Chicago,” he said.
Editor’s note: McPherson’s videos can be linked at:
Here is the link for McPherson’s audition video: https://MAFilexfer.mullen.com/message/37dJkhfmY1LkqNU62nBuPi (Click on the file labeled “James”.)
Contact James Beaty at email@example.com.