Doing what she can to honor R&B's robust heritage
Staff photo by Anthony Smedile Vannessa Gaston, president and CEO of The National R&B Music Society, hangs out with members of the R&B group Ray, Goodman & Brown at her Galloway Township home.

GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP - The smiles, laughter, conversation, hugs and handshakes make it seem as if Vanessa Gaston decided to host a family reunion at her home here.

Gaston, 48, isn't playing host to relatives, but R&B and soul-music stars she heard on the radio growing up.

They include: Billy Brown, Al Goodman and Kevin "Ray" Owens of Ray, Goodman & Brown; The Ultimate Persuaders featuring Richard Poindexter; and Gerald Alston, who performs solo and as the lead singer of The Manhattans with Blu Lovett.

Gaston is the president/CEO of The National R&B Music Society, which is dedicated to preserving and promoting R&B's history, honoring the legacy of artists and setting a solid foundation for present and future musicians. The group focuses on the R&B and soul music from the late 1960s through the early 1980s.

The gang left Gaston's house last month to head to Gardner's Basin, where The Ultimate Persuaders and Ray, Goodman & Brown performed as part of Atlantic City's free summer-concert series. The next show in the series, Aug. 29 at Gardner's Basin, features Soul Generation, Full Force and Force MD's.

In 2007, Gaston started blogging on a thread at called "Awesome Soul Ballads."

Gaston said early last year that the people on the thread needed to start an organization because they really knew their music. William Blackshear, owner of Timeless Tracks Records in Roselle, Union County, came up with the idea of a National R&B Music Society. Besides lining up acts for Atlantic City's free summer concert series, the group has held two barbecue and dance parties in Roselle.

The society's second annual gala and awards ceremony will be held Dec. 11 at the Sheraton Atlantic City Hotel.

"People will spend money to be entertained, but they are selective. There is a huge audience for this music. People love R&B," said Gaston, whose organization is only based on the Internet at this point. "We have the artists. We have the music. We (even) have the music the artists don't have."

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For more information on the National R&B Music Society, visit:

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