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Two Hagerstown men advance to state Senior Idol Competition

January 26, 2013|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI | alnotarianni@aol.com
  • Jessie Marie Shaw 74 of Hancock sang "Peace In The Valley" Saturday afternoon during the Maryland Senior Idol Contest held at the Bridge of Life Church in Hagerstown.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

“This is my first time singing. I hope I can do a good job for you. Watch this. Take it away,” Jerry Mullenix said.

Following a brief instrumental introduction, Mullenix began to sing the words, “Wise men say, only fools rush in.”

Before he had finished the first line of “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” the crowd of more than 200, visibly impressed by his deep velvety voice, broke into screams and applause.

Mullenix was one of 13 contestants to compete Saturday in the local Maryland Senior Idol Contest sponsored by the Washington County Commission on Aging at Bridge of Life church. Not only did he “do a good job,” but he walked away with the idol title.

The Hagerstown father of two and grandfather of one has been married for 42 years and worked as a magician for 20 years before deciding to try his hand at singing.

When he took to the stage wearing a bright floral Hawaiian shirt and a lei, the gray-bearded Mullenix said he was not trying to chase the snow away, but to represent Elvis Presley’s performance of the song in the film “Blue Hawaii.” The crowd cheered and swooned as he finished singing, leading master of ceremonies Lou Scally to recommend a costume change.

“If you win this thing, we are gonna get you a satin suit and a couple of scarves so you can sing hunk of ‘Burning Love’ down there,” Scally said.

The “down there” to which he referred was Bowie, Md., where Mullenix and first runner-up William R. Divelbiss, also of Hagerstown, will compete at the state-level competition on April 3.

Divelbiss, 65, introduced his delivery of “Honey,” a 1968 Bobby Goldsboro hit that mourns a deceased lover.

“We all have a honey or we all have a sweetheart,” he said. “Some of them are with us and some of them are gone. This one is for all of those who have lost them.”

Divelbiss nailed the conversational phrasing of the song, sharing it as a touching narrative.

Other standout performances included Jessie Marie Shaw of Hancock playing guitar and singing “Peace in the Valley” with a pitch-perfect youthful timbre; Ellis Duffey of Hagerstown strumming, crooning and once even growling a polished, rhythmic “I’ll Go to My Grave Loving You”; and deaf singer Warren Wolf Jr. of Hagerstown presenting a dynamic and impassioned rendition of “There Is A Balm in Gilead” in sign language.

Rebecca J. Mills, Mike Cunningham, Brenda Boyd, Roger L. Powers, Florence Kee Cooper and Vickie L. Sampson, all of Hagerstown, Barbara A. Perrott of Clear Spring and Charles E. Everhart of Sharpsburg also competed.

Ruth Brown of the Commission on Aging said the contest is a testament to the vitality of area seniors. Judges Blanton Croft, Kamini Patrick Heisler and Chris Copley rated contestants on stage presence, connection with the audience, song selection, voice quality, ability to project and remembering lyrics.

Sandy Johnson, 66, of Hagerstown, said she didn’t know anyone who was competing. She just went for the entertainment. Her favorites were Mullenix and Powers, who sang Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams.”

“There were some very good singers. I was surprised,” Johnson said.

Arthur and Beth Martin, 82 and 84, of Greencastle, Pa., said they were partial to Mullenix, Wolf and Kee, who sang “His Eye Is on the Sparrow” a cappella, but that judging would be difficult given the number of talented competitors.

“That one man who was singing was 89, so I said, ‘These seniors, they are senior idols,’” Beth Martin said.

The couple said it was great that people still were singing as seniors.

“When you get to be our age, you just thank the Lord you can put your feet on the floor in the morning,” Arthur Martin said.

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