HOUSTON -- In an announcement that shocked the insular world of alternative newsweeklies, John Lomax, music editor of the Houston Press, has announced that he is leaving his position immediately to pursue a professional singing career. "I have to do what's right for me, and I feel that I belong on stage at this point in my life," Lomax said. "It's my calling, it's my destiny, and I just want to make people happy with my voice."
The catalyst for this stunning turn of events was apparently a recent Houston Press Christmas Party, where Lomax shyly took the microphone for a three-song karaoke set. No one in the room was quite prepared for what came forth from Lomax's vocal chords. The melodious tones that brought him instant notoriety.
Beginning with Hank Williams, Jr.'s "Family Tradition," Lomax effortlessly transported the crowd from a Mexican restaurant to a rowdy honky tonk, brandishing a drink and cigarette in hand to underscore the song's subtle lyrics. He later performed Marty Robbins's "El Paso," a tragic tale of doomed love south of the border that had the mostly Hispanic waitstaff openly weeping. "Dios mio!" one women was heard to exclaim to no one in particular. "He has the voice of a God!" Finally, Lomax finished with a lush rendition of Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are," dedicating it to his wife. As she gazed longingly at him from the front row, eyes moist with emotion, Lomax put an extra feeling in the lyrics "I don't want CLEVER conversation. I NEVER want to work that HARD."
"He's a master of phrasing, I could tell right away. Sinatra has nothing on him," noted Press music writer Bob Ruggiero, also in attendance. "Now I know how John Hammond felt the first time he heard Bruce Springsteen sing." And while Lomax hails from the influential family of musical historians, he is the first of the bloodline to cross the barrier to the stage.
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Houston Press publisher Stuart Folb, while sad to see Lomax go, wished him luck in his new career. "I would be the most selfish person in the world if I kept John in his damp cubicle here at the newspaper," Folb noted, dabbing his eyes in a rare emotional display. "He has the power to make people happy, and God knows we really need that in this country right now."
Already, offers have come in from big names in the music industry like Quincy Jones and Bob Ezrin who want to produce the inevitable debut CD. Lomax is fielding offers to headline major concerts from Donnington Castle to the KLOL Jingle Jam. Rumors have also circulated that members of U2 are looking toward Lomax as a replacement for current lead singer Bono. When reached at the band's favorite pub in Dublin, U2 guitarist the Edge offered only a terse "No comment! I just hope John likes his Guinness!"
As for his own reaction to this stunning and fast change of events, Lomax himself was characteristically modest. "Sure, I can carry a tune a bit, but I'm no Gino Vanelli. I just hope I've made the right decision."
Well, if the number of John Lomax fan sites that have recently popped up on the Internet are any indication (www.lomaxishot.com), they're saying "You have, John. You have."