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updated: 10/7/2013 3:09 PM

Vintage Elgin folk singer returns to the stage

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  • A poster advertising the Don Skelton concert of Nov. 10, 1973. Ticket prices were only $3.

      A poster advertising the Don Skelton concert of Nov. 10, 1973. Ticket prices were only $3.
    Courtesy of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren

  • Folk singer Don Skelton will return to the stage Friday, Oct. 11.

      Folk singer Don Skelton will return to the stage Friday, Oct. 11.
    Courtesy of Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren

 
By Jim Lehman

In the early 1970s, almost any Elginite who loved folk music knew Don Skelton.

People were drawn to his warmth and humor, his expressive voice, his fine guitar work, and most of all the depth of his songs.

Skelton always had a feeling for the goodness and the uniqueness of people, and he gave voice to this in songs about hope and struggle and delight and about the interesting quirkiness of human beings.

For years he was a staple at the Grocery Store, a small bar featuring live music, perched on the hill on Washington Street next to the railroad tracks where now there is only grass and a parking lot. Or he could be found at the Colloquy Coffeehouse at 330 West Highland, a community venue for young adults established and supported by a group of Elgin churches.

In 1973 Skelton was featured in two concerts sponsored by Colloquy at the Hemmens. He headlined the concert on Nov. 10, 1973. Skelton's appearance Friday, Oct. 11, at the Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren Coffeehouse will be one month short of 40 since that Hemmens concert.

After the Hemmens concerts, Skelton had a brief stint in the music business. Among his many appearances, he was the opening act for the well-known singer Anne Murray at a 1976 concert at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. Even after he left the business, he continued to perform occasionally, and several times was booked into the Highland Avenue Coffeehouse. But gradually he stopped and it's been many years since he's been on stage.

A few years ago Skelton retired from his career as a schoolteacher, contractor, and building supervisor. Recently, he decided to come back to his music. The Oct. 11 Highland Avenue Coffeehouse will mark Skelton's return to public performance.

This will be an emotional and sentimental moment for Skelton and for his friends and fans, all of whom are a bit older, but this coffeehouse concert will be more than an exercise in nostalgia. Skelton has been studying guitar and working hard on new material. Yes, there will be the old songs his fans will love, but there will be much that will be fresh and new and some things to entice the generations who never knew the excitement and dynamism of the folk era.

The performance will be at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 11, at the Highland Avenue Church of the Brethren, 783 W. Highland Ave., Elgin. There will be two sets, no cover charge, and light refreshments will be served. Donations are appreciated. For information, call (847) 751-5124.

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