By Bob McMahon
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"I couldn't help being influenced by his style, but I kept trying to fight it because I really wanted to play jazz," Fisher admits. "But Albert let me do jazz instrumentals before he came onstage -- tunes like 'Milestones' and 'So What' -- so I was happy."
Fisher's blend of jazz and soul soon caught the ear of Leo Gooden, an East St. Louis politician, businessman and singer (and, some say, gangster) who ran a club called the Blue Note. His band, Leo's Five, included drummer Kenny Rice, organist Don James and sax players such as Charles "Little Man" Wright and Hamiet Bluiett.
"Leo was looking for a guitar player, and he asked me to sit in with Leo's Five," Fisher explains. "That was a dream come true for me because the only jazz radio station I could get when I was a teenager in Little Rock was KATZ. My favorite show was Spider Burks broadcasting live from the Blue Note. So I ended up playing there with great musicians like Oliver Nelson, Sonny Stitt and others who sat in when they were done with their gigs. On Sundays, there would be jam sessions, and younger guys like David Sanborn and Michael McDonald would come and sit in. I couldn't believe I was getting paid money to play jazz at that place!"
Initially Fisher composed "The Third Cup" for a Leo's Five recording, but Gooden's unexpected death changed those plans. Fisher decided to go ahead and record his music at Oliver Sain's Gateway Studios. The initial 45 single of "The Third Cup" became a hit, and Fisher's recording career began.
"I think the time is finally right for me now musically," Fisher concludes. "Just like Johnnie Johnson's time finally came -- maybe the same thing is happening for me. But music's not our whole life. Christina and I are involved with helping kids by getting them involved in media and doing TV PSA spots through the Youth Media Network. We're rebuilding our community theater here in Centreville, which burned two years ago, and hope to have it running again by the end of the summer. And I'm hoping to set up regular music concerts there and maybe do a college-campus tour. So the journey goes on: You just try and be yourself ... and hope at some point the recognition comes."