Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Aiken Rocks Out On AOL Sessions

Animated design by Cindilu2 spotlights OMWH webisode promos.

OMWH Songs Run Gamut

AOL Session Surprises Viewers

When Clay Aiken took a much-deserved "couple" of days' rest, he left his fans a very special parting gift to tide them over until the possible fall tour -- a five-song live performance from his new CD, On My Way Here, airing now on AOL Sessions and surprising many new viewers with its variety.

SPAMALOT NETS 3 AWARDS! -- Congratulations to Clay, Hannah Waddington, and Spamalot for winning the 2008 Audience Awards for Best Replacement Male, Best Replacement Female, and Favorite Long-Running Broadway Show!

See for a complete list of theater fan favorites announced Friday. Winners will be honored at a private ceremony Monday.

Recorded in Los Angeles on May 13, the AOL concert-interview became active Tuesday and overnight vaulted to the 1-2 positions of Most Recent, Highest Rated, and Most Viewed videos on Sessions.

To link to Clay Aiken Sessions, click on the Joaquin Palting picture below. After each song, click on NEXT.

Photo links to AOL Sessions.

EIDN Leads Viewer Poll

Although "Ashes" leads in the number of views, the current poll on the right sidebar indicates the songs rank in popularity like this: "Everything I Don't Need," "Ashes," "Something About Us," "Where I Draw the Line," and "On My Way Here."

Besides the poll, the sidebar includes a 10-photo slide show of pictures by Palting and more about the album in "The Story":

Clay Aiken epitomizes what 'American Idol' is capable of. The former special-education teacher is now a multiplatinum recording artist, but he doesn't consider himself a musician. He is an entertainer, a role he is very comfortable with when he visits the AOL studios in Beverly Hills to perform songs from his new album, 'On My Way Here.'

A natural when the cameras are on, Aiken displays the inner ham he says has always been there. And that comfort has only been heightened during the five years between original albums by his role on Broadway in 'Spamalot' and multiple TV appearances, including variety shows like 'A Clay Aiken Christmas.' Following his performance, Aiken spoke with AOL about the new album, his growth in the past five years and his unashamed lack of musical expertise.

In the Q&A portion on the left sidebar, Clay answers four questions about tour plans, how OMWH is different from his previous album, what he has learned during the process of creating this album, and the difference in performing theatrically as opposed to performing in concert.

Special thanks to ClayIzzaQT for these clickable screen caps from the AOL Sessions videos:

Rock, R&B, Timeless Romantic

Below are links to specific songs and some of the comments viewers have posted:

Ashes: Listened to this song 10 times and really like it. Downloaded it from iTunes to put on my iPod. Who would have thought Clay could rock out? Lovin' these few songs, can't wait to hear the rest ... Great song! Can't wait for a tour! ... I like the beat of this song ... Love the song on the CD, love it more here, will love it even more live!

Everything I Don't Need: This is one of the sexiest songs I have ever heard! ... Great song, great singer! I'd like to hear more songs like this from him ... Thanks to Kipper for this amazing song. Clay's soft touch on this R&B song is perfection. This guy can sing ANYTHING!

Where I Draw the Line: This song gives me chills. His voice is haunting and encapsulates the melody beautifully ... I really like this song. Clay sings it with such feeling. This would be the perfect song for radio ... This has been one of my top favorites right from the snippets.

On My Way Here: I can see why this is the title track of the CD. The song just flows, and I love the lyrics ...I love Clay's voice on this song. He just soars. I love the meaning of this song, and I love Clay's emotion in the song. Great hook!

Something About Us: This song is so unbelievable that it takes my breath away. So romantic, so effortless when he sings it. A song that reminds me of the old standards like Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett ... A timeless romantic song, and it showcases Mr. Aiken's voice superbly ... Sigh ...

Fans Help Create 'Buzz'

In addition to the AOL Sessions, savvy CA fans are streaming from a variety of sites. Daily routines generally include the song "On My Way Here" at AOL and the Yahoo video of the same song.

All the Interet activity helps create "buzz," and it's paying off. In his 442nd consecutive week on the list, Clay was #3 in the May 27 Lycos 50. The week's big story, of course, was the new American Idol, David Cook (#35).

The "Davids" duel is the first time two male contestants have competed on American Idol since Ruben Studdard beat out Clay Aiken in the show's second season in 2003.

PHOTO INTERLUDE: Featured graphics in this clickable interlude are by Amazing_CA, AOL Sessions screen caps, 1; Amazing_CA, photo by Aiken4Clayscrew, 2; and Artz11, 3.

An Entertainer at Heart

During the Sessions taping, Clay spoke briefly with
Popeater. Here is an excerpt:

"I don't really consider myself a musician so much as I consider myself just an entertainer," says the man who finished second on 'American Idol,' sold millions of records and now stars in the hit Broadway musical 'Spamalot,' when he stopped by the AOL Studios for his Sessions taping.

Clay Aiken knows his place in the entertainment pantheon and he's just fine with it, thank you very much."

Montages Feature OMWH Songs

As previously reported, fans are advertising OMWH songs via montages. Among the latest are Falling featuring Dancing with the Stars contestants from various seasons by ChaChaTrusty; "Weight of the World" in IronMan HIS Perspective by 1agerard; The Real Me in Gerwhisp's wave videography from the coast of Portugal; and Yollie950's Legends accompanied by "Something About Us."

See the May 21 blog --
Montages Broadcast Aiken Tunes -- for others, which feature "On My Way Here," "Grace of God," "Something About Us," "Sacrificial Love," and "The Real Me."

A Reminder to 'Go Green'

Grandson Kai reminds everyone to help save the planet in the clickable photo above. He and his grandmother are having a blast getting to know each other.

Kai is most intrigued with my computer. So far he has been content to punch a few keys, but he definitely has his sights set on the bright blue on-off button at the back. He really wanted to help write this blog; and actually he did ... when he finally fell asleep, LOL!

Have a wonderful week, Clay Nation!


RELATED TAGS: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Kai Joins Clay Aiken Fan Club

Surrounded by toys from friends and family, grandson Kai has been meeting Carolina relatives since he departed the plane on Wednesday. (Photo edited by Sally)

'Thumbs Up' for OMWH

Grandson Meets Carolina Clan

Hello, Clay Nation

This is Kai checking in from Carolina. It's great to finally meet you in my grandmother's blog, especially since I'm posting this report from her computer.

My mother and I flew in Wednesday, and I saw more people in one day than I have in my whole lifetime. My Mom says I was a big flirt, but I was just being friendly.

Since meeting my grandma, I've had the best time climbing all over her, watching the Noggin channel (my kind of shows 24-7), meeting members of the clan, and playing with some of the electronic gadgets around here. We also like to give each other kisses, hugs, and raspberries.

I love my grandmother's laptop; but when I almost deleted the "My Computer" icon, we immediately moved onto the telephone and an old remote control. I admit I am addicted to punching buttons.

The baby grand piano in the living room just might be my favorite new discovery. I get the biggest kick out of sitting on anyone's lap and creating songs with my palms. Grandma Caro says my songs are very close to music written by some modern composers. Who knew?!?

And of course I have listened to Clay Aiken's new CD, On My Way Here. That guy can really "sang" --plus he's from North Carolina! Now what could be finer?

For some excellent information on OMWH studio musicians, see berkley's current blog: Clay Aiken's 'On My Way Here' - Measuring The Gap Between the Critics and the Truth. While I have my grandmother totally occupied, stay tuned to Clay's Daily Double for all the latest news.

I read this journal back home, so I know how y'all like to right-click on Clay's pictures. Amazing_CA, a really sweet lady who, with my fairy godmother Sally, sent me a playpen when I was born eight months ago, provided the graphics for this CA interlude.

PHOTO INTERLUDE: Featured in this clickable interlude are three graphics by Amazing_CA. The photographers include Bigappleforclay, 1; Eric Ogden, 2; and Claylilly, 3.

Mom and I just missed the big spring recital on Sunday. On Thursday, my grandmother taught violin/viola lessons, and I enjoyed meeting her students -- two good-looking high school girls and a guy. Friday she taught piano lessons in another city; and when she returned, the next-door neighbor was mowing our front yard.

NDN came in to meet my Mom and me. He is a really nice guy and invited me to come over anytime to meet his cats. He's a bachelor and told us a very funny story. While living in Florida, he and his brother visited a family with a newborn. The baby had been passed around from adult to adult -- wow, can I ever relate to that! -- but never woke up during the entire four hours!

Mr. NDN only knows about baby kittens. Curiosity finally got the best of him, so he asked, "At what age do they open their eyes?" HEEE!!!!!

Hope y'all are doing well. I'm looking forward to Memorial Day because I will meet some twin cousins just five years older than I, and we are going to have lots of fun getting to know each other.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend, Clay Nation!



Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Montages Broadcast Aiken Tunes

ON MY WAY HERE: Since May 6, Clay Aiken has promoted his beautiful new CD from the East Coast to the West. Graphic by Amazing_CA.

LAP & LACIE Take Charge

Montages Feature OMWH Songs

Clay Aiken's incredible new CD On My Way Here is an eclectic collection of beautiful songs, which many are sharing via superb new montages created by his talented fans.

LAP (laptop): So what do you think of that lead, Lace? I don't usually have to write these things; I just punch in the words.

LACIE (external hard drive): Right on, Lap! I think we should lend the busy Caro a hand and upload a new blog for her.

LAP: Caro is all over the place preparing for Wednesday's much-anticipated visit by her daughter and grandson Kai, so this is the least we can do. The plane arrives at 2:35 p.m. TODAY!

LACIE: Actually, we haven't blogged since the middle of February. OUCH -- that
girl is cleaning everything in sight, including us!

LAP: Some friends helped her rearrange furniture Monday, so we were offline from Sunday night until noon Tuesday.

LACIE: Hrumph, I noticed she plugged you in first.

LAP: But when she needed to download a montage, she punched your number.

LACIE: For those wondering about Sunday's big spring recital, everything went very well and the place was packed, so we hear.

Spring Recital in the Round

LAP: Not only were there friends and relatives in front of the students, but an equal number had to sit behind them, too.

LACIE: Recital in the round! HEEE!!!!!

LAP: Of course, we weren't present, but afterwards we heard Caro talking to students and parents and responding to email. Instruments represented included piano, violin, viola, cello, flute, and oboe.

LACIE: About half the 20 students were playing in their very first recital. I bet Bach, Mozart, and the gang would have been as pleased as the teach.

LAP: Uh huh, and everyone did the "hippopotamus" bow. Works like a charm every time!

LACIE: At the end of the recital, two students gave their teacher lovely flower bouquets.

LAP: A thunderstorm hit the area just as the recital ended. Caro was the last one out, and you can picture her with two huge bouquets, all her accompaniments, extra programs, music left by students, etc.

LACIE: She wisely waited for the storm to pass, walked to her car with her umbrella, and drove under the breezeway to load all the rest. Now that should catch everyone up on the big weekend musicale.

LAP: Sunday night Caro discovered several montages fans have created with songs from Clay Aiken's new CD, On My Way Here.

LACIE: Nobody sings like Clay, and I just lurve his blond hair! (Swoon!) Where's that church fan?

LAP: Sheesh, the Aiken Fog just moved in on Lacie! We'll be right back with the montage info following this photo interlude. Actually, I'll be back. Lacie will probably be down for the count after these graphics.

PHOTO INTERLUDE: Featured in this clickable interlude are graphics and photos by six visual artists: Amazing_CA, photos by Shineinnc, 1 and 5; Amazing_CA, photo by tiggy52wiggle, 2; Ambassador of Love, photo by Eric Ogden, 3; and ChaChaTrusty, photos by Eric Ogden, 4.

Montages Enter 'Viral' Arena

LAP: Clay's fans are sharing YouTube links to various OMWH montages so that others can hear his spectacular new songs. By emailing the links to friends and family, they are actively participating in an effective form of viral marketing.

LACIE: Just leading 'em down the path, IMO. Most people love the songs once they hear them, and his voice is the best!

LAP: The first one we recommend is a montage set to the title track by Aspiegirl. You can link to "On My Way Here" at YouTube with the cover photo below.

Photo links to "OMWH" montage by Aspiegirl.

China Earthquake Paired with GOG

LACIE: Northernguychina's slideshow of the recent earthquake in China was set to Clay's "Grace of God" by Renegade79. You can view it at YouTube: Grace of God.

LAP: Clay's songs really lend themselves to the Dancing With the Stars Show. First, here is
Apolo and Julianne: The Reunion accompanied by Clay's passionate "Something About Us," created by Betty897x.

LACIE: In a montage by musicg57, DWTS Season 6 contestants dance the Viennese waltz to another new CA song, Sacrificial Love.

LAP: And Yollie950's new montage, Reveal Me Completely, is set to another album song, "The Real Me."

LACIE: There is so much news we aren't covering -- OMWH cracking the Mediabase AC Top 30, Clay's interview with Steppin' Out Magazine in which he talks about his Idol fame and Broadway future.

LAP: Don't forget all the Clay-Ruben comparisons with Season 7's AI final two and the important voting going on at

Audience Awards Voting Continues

LACIE: Everyone needs to cast his/her vote for Clay in the 9th Annual Audience Awards at Singerman is nominated for both Favorite Breakthrough Performance (Male) and Favorite Replacement (Male).

LAP: Don't forgot Hannah Waddington as Favorite Replacement Female and Spamalot for Favorite Long-Running Broadway Show.

LACIE: Voting continues through midnight May 29, and winners will be announced the next day.

LAP: It is important to choose one winner in every category, and you can only vote once from your email address. Here is the ballot. Go, Clay, Hannah, and Spamalot!!!

LACIE: While we get to know Caro's grandson Kai, be sure to keep up with all the news at
Clay's Daily Double.

: Something tells us our little visitor will be writing his own blog during the month in Carolina.

LACIE: He sure can't post one without you, Lap; so I guess we'll help him out. He is our cousin, right?

Kai, the blogger! -- Graphic by Sally

LAP: I notice that Vibajajo requested a pix of Kai holding the new CD. We'd better put that on Caro's TO DO list. We also made a list of blogs that she will be visiting.

LACIE: As always, we've enjoyed catching up with all you Clay fans. Thnx for stopping by the Carolina corner

: We are letting the "vacationing" Clay Aiken have the final word with this graphic by Amazing_CA/photo by

Have an awesome week, Clay Nation!


RELATED TAGS: , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Clay & Co. Wrap Up West Promos

EAST TO WEST -- The initial East Coast leg complete, Clay Aiken's promotional appearances for his new CD, On My Way Here, this week have a decidedly western flavor.

OMWH Debuts with 94k!

Aiken Shines on Leno Show

NOTE: Many updated links, info added since original upload. This is Spring Recital Weekend and countdown to Kai. Thnx for stopping back by! -- Caro

The West Coast phase of On My Way Here Promo Week got off to a rip-roaring start on Monday's Tonight Show with the quick wits, genial personalities, and comedic timing of singer-actors Clay Aiken and Jack Black interacting at center stage.

At times, host Jay Leno just sat back and watched his guests hop from topic to topic. Turns out Jack is a Monty Python aficionado, and Clay talked about his recent run in the Broadway's "Spamalot," demonstrating his newly-acquired British accent. Clay and Jack even sit on one foot the same way.

Tonight Show Caps - Gerwhisp

Clay & Co. also performed a beautiful rendition of the album's lead single, "On My Way Here."

If you missed the show, downloads are available at
Clack Unlimited. You can also watch Clay's interview and performance at

Leno graphic by Amazing_CA


May 13 AOL Sessions Live (taping) - Will be active May 27.
May 13 OMWH Video Premiere (Yahoo Music)
May 14 Good Day LA - See interview here.

RR blend by Amazing_CA

May 16 The Rachael Ray Show (ABC) - See Web Exclusives online, and download Clay on RR here.

JKL blend by Amazing_CA

May 16 Jimmy Kimmel Live (ABC) - Download the interview and OMWH/Ashes (partial) performance. The songs have been posted at the Music Kimmel Channel on YouTube, and the interview is here.

Fans everywhere have enjoyed the hot celebrity pictures from Pacific Coast News Online. One catchy caption: Clay is "on his way" to lunch ... with his iPhone.

OMWH Opens in Top 5

Father Maynard (Spamalot): "....and the number shall be THREE...not four and not two except if followed by THREE..."

First week sales numbers are in, and OMWH came in at #4 with 94,071 CD's sold. First reports from Hits Daily Double were 92,887 units and a #3 ranking. This marks the fourth consecutive CA album to debut in the Top 5.

LW TW artist / album label power index % change

-- 2 TOBY KEITH UME/SHOW DOG 100,527 --
-- 3 CLAY AIKEN RCA/RMG 92,887 --

Credit goes to Clayniac2 of The Clayboard for tying the Father Maynard script to the CD sales chart. So Father Maynard's now famous lines about the number "three" almost pre-determined first week sales.

Top Internet Album

HDD #3, Soundscan #4, Internet #1

In Wednesday's Nielsen SoundScan tallies, Clay (94k) placed fourth behind Neil Diamond (146k), Toby Keith (103k), and Madonna (94k). See the story at Billboard Chart Alert. Only 100 CD's separated Clay and Madonna, per MTV Newsroom.

According to Billboard, Clay's OMWH opened as #1 at the Top Internet Album, followed by Neil Diamond, Josh Groban, Madonna, and Toby Keith.

MORE NUMBERS: RCA Music Group released label tallies on Wednesday:

Clay Aiken's RCA Records/19 Recordings, ON MY WAY HERE debuts this week at #4 with 94,071 units sold this week, making this Aiken's fourth Top 5 debut. Released on May 6th, ON MY WAY HERE is Aiken's fourth album and his first album of original songs since his 2003 chart topping, double platinum debut Measure of a Man.

The title track and first single from the album "On My Way Here" debuted at #1 on the AOL streaming chart week of release, rocketed to #1 on the Amazon chart the week it was made available as a pre-release, and debuted at #1 on the Amazon download chart the day it was released.

For an excellent interview with Clay about past experiences and his advancing carrer, including the release of OMWH and recent Spamalot role, see Artist Direct:

Before a performance of the Broadway hit Spamalot, where Aiken stars as Sir Robin, we caught up with the double threat (he's a self-confessed terrible dancer) to talk about his new album and current Broadway experience.

In the course of our interview we found that Aiken is a straight-to-the-point, no-nonsense kind of guy, who knows what he wants and gets the job done.

PHOTO INTERLUDE: Featured in this clickable interlude are six visual artists, including Amazing_CA, photo by Robyn428, 1; MNmeesh, photo by ShineinNC, 2; Amazing_CA, photo by tsunamimommy, 3; MNmeesh, photo by ShineinNC, 4; and Amazing_CA, photo by Aiken4clayscrew, 5. Awards CD 4/5 Stars

Bill Lamb of has given OMWH an outstanding review, part of which is printed here. The entire article can be read at the site.
First, if you are a serious Clay Aiken fan, you will be very pleased with On My Way Here. The production throughout this album is wisely toned down to make plenty of room for Aiken's warm, sweet vocals. The songwriting, while not spectacular, is solid throughout.

Success in the mainstream pop arena can be a very enticing bauble for a pop singer to attempt to grab. However, adult contemporary fans and radio are more likely to embrace an artist over the long term with appreciation for a polished voice.

This is clearly Clay Aiken's comfort zone and from time to time on On My Way Here he soars. This is his niche in the pop music industry.

Top Tracks from On My Way Here: On My Way Here, Falling Weight of the World, Lover All Alone

OMWH video - clickable

Yahoo Music Spotlights Video

Yahoo Music this week featured a wonderful video of Clay recording "OMWH," complete with shots in the studio and older pictures as well.

The video can be embedded on websites, and the link emailed to people within your network. Sign in and rate the video, too.

OMWH Release of the Week

Pause and Play named OMWH the Release of the Week with this story:

A common criticism of "American Idol" finalists is that when they get into the recording studio, their talent is overshadowed by poor material selection and overproduction. There's not a hint of that on Aiken's first album of original material since 2003.

Just listen to the title track and you'll be asking too, "Why didn't he win Season 2?!" Check out: "On My Way Here," "Ashes," "Everything I Need," "Something About Us." Hear here.

Photo by Eric Ogden
Enhanced by Sally

Fans Share OMWH 'Reviews'

Every day fans pass along Not.Just.Us reports of acquaintances who have discovered OMWH. These are from the Clayversity message board, as well as comments in the Carolina blog:

SANDY: As I was waiting for my husband to pick me up at the doctor's office, I was leafing through the OMWH playlist. A woman who was on her way out caught the cover and said to me, "Where did you get that? I cheered for him on American Idol and had no idea he has become this famous until I saw an ad the other day saying he was going to be on 'The View.' I just love his voice."

I told her all about Clay's new CD and that it is everywhere. She said she will definitely be buying it. Can you imagine the CD sales if Clay were to get radio play?

BAMINTX: My daughter plays bass guitar and sings background in a local rock band. She's always admired Clay's voice but has not been all that interested in his music ... until yesterday. Since it was Mother's Day, we spent the day together and were in the car quite a bit. We listened to the CD, and she loved it, especially the upbeat songs!

I'm still somewhat stunned. Naturally, I hoped she'd like it, but she actually wanted a copy. I gave her one of mine; and she EEEEEEEE'd! She couldn't wait to listen to it in her den with the speakers full blast. She said that "OMWH" is a really good song. To her, the album is very radio friendly.

SANDY: I just got an e-mail from a Clay fan who lives outside Ottawa. She is in her 70's but LOVES Clay. She wanted to let me know that her family got her an iPod for Mother's Day and her grandson had already uploaded all her Clay music into it. Now if that wasn't one of the best Mother's day gifts! She always says that Clay makes her feel better than any of the pills she takes.

CLAYBUTTONS: For Mother's Day, I gave a copy of OMWH to my adorable landlady, who is in her 30's. She loves Clay; but with a husband, a five-year old, and job, she has little time. She is also very active in her daughter's school and is a Girl Scout leader.

She came over tonight and told me she took OMWH to Teachers Appreciation Day and played it while they were eating. She was so happy because the CD was a huge hit, and all of the teachers were raving about it and said they will be buying it. None of them knew Clay had a new CD out, but they do now.

Let OMWH be heard - it sells itself!

Fans Explope New Viral Paths

Clay fans everywhere continue to share OMWH with their network of family and friends in person, via email, on the Internet (blogs, MySpace, Facebook, etc.). Three songs from the CD are currently streaming from
Clay Aiken's My Space: "On My Way Here," "Everything I Don't Need," and "Ashes."

Clayversity's Yaknelle, whom I often quote on the "ins and outs" of viral marketing, offers these suggestions:

Gift the single to friends, to friends of friends, especially to young girls you know. You know young girls want to be in love, and he's looking good. Sales aren't the barometer of success for the artist, concert attendance is. Sales numbers make the label rich. Concerts make the artist rich.

I'd love to hear Clay on the radio, and I do think it will build slowly, but his physical appearance, humor and timing last night made him fans too. Spamalot made him concert fans. His music will make him fans. Kimmel and Ferguson will make him fans. Rachel Ray and Paula Dean will make him fans. You and I, for 99 cents can make him fans.

One of the best prices for multiple purchases of the full CD is Tower Records at $7.76 and free shipping for orders of $25 or more. Perhaps it's time for some early Christmas shopping!

Clay has been interviewed by AC/Hot AC radio from coast to coast, and many can be accessed on the station websites. Two excellent examples that have already aired are Casey's chat with Clay on
WHUD-FM and Maureen McLain's interview at WASH-FM. This is Clay's page on the WASH-FM website.

WJZ-TV has posted its satellite interview, Coffee with Singer Clay Aiken, another viral tool to share.

Kai soon on his way here!

'To Do' Calendar Overload

Next Wednesday grandson Kai, eight months old this weekend and pictured above in the Eeyore graphic by Claysmelody, will be on his way here. He and his mother will arrive three days after my students' spring recital to visit the Carolina relatives for an entire month.

Before this much-anticipated get-together, there are still paths to clear in my house and an important recital to coordinate. Do send good vibes this way on Sunday as our string students will open the concert with the Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F (not a favorite orchestra key) and close with a medley of Scottish and Irish fiddle tunes.

In between, 20 elementary through advanced students (piano, violin, viola, cello, flute, oboe) will perform solos and duets by some of the greats: Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, and Dvorak. One young pianist will present his own composition, "Song of the Sea."

Below is a clickable of Amazing_CA's opening graphic:

Have a wonderful weekend, Clay Nation ... and thnx for stopping by the Carolina corner!


RELATED TAGS: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Very Special Clay Aiken Fan

My daughter Jen with Mama Mac during a Fall 2002 visit.

Sail on, Silver Girl, Sail on By

A Mother's Day Remembrance

This blog entry is a reprint from Mother's Day 2007. Some numbers have been changed to reflect the passing year. Also, since May 2007, there are two new great-grandchildren in our family, one my daughter's son, Kai.

On July 12, 2005, my mother -- the woman who gave me life, introduced me to the wonderful world of music, encouraged me in all life's endeavors -- left behind a tired, weary 93-year-old body and sailed peacefully on to her next portal.

On this third Mother's Day since that night, my family and I celebrate a joyful life that almost spanned a century with many fond memories, a full heart, and the knowledge that this very special woman is still singing glorious harmony through her offspring and the many students she touched.

Sail on, Silver Girl, Sail on By

As a wife, mother, grandmother, teacher, musician, gardener extraordinaire, Alleen McDonald, affectionately known as Mama Mac, worked hard and lived a full life. An alto in the First Baptist Church-Wilmington Chancel Choir for 42 years, she appreciated good music and was a very enthusiastic fan of Clay Aiken.

Among the most enjoyable moments of the final two years of her life were spent watching and listening to him sing. She especially loved Clay's rendition of "Bridge Over Troubled Water," and she would have embraced his new album, On My Way Here.

Our family misses its spirited matriarch. Besides her three children, five grandchildren, and five great-grandchildren, Mama Mac was special to a large extended family of friends, former students and coworkers, as well as the caregivers at Wesley Long Nursing Home where she lived following a broken hip.

Even with 35 years in the public schools, all the successful operettas and other musical productions, Mother is best remembered in our Wilmington neighborhood as "the beach lady." On any given summer day, we would load up her old 1939 Chevy, which she kept way past its prime just for beach outings.

Picture an old jalopy, of the running board variety, bursting with neighborhood kids in bathing suits, inner tubes, fishing/crabbing gear, picnic lunches, etc., bopping down the 10 miles between Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach. Fond, fond memories!

Sail on, Silver Girl, Sail on By

One of my favorite Mama Mac stories happened during National Caregivers Week in May 2005. A month shy of her 93rd birthday, Mother was relatively cognizant 99% of the time, although she occasionally had "moments," such as contending she needed to get ready for choir practice or pack for "our trip" to Wilmington.

Awakened from a midmorning nap with a visit from her granddaughter and toddler twin great-grandchildren, Mama Mac immediately began insisting she needed to get dressed for a rehearsal. No one in the family knew that Shekina, a very special physical therapist, had been secretly rehearsing a duet with her for the nursing home's afternoon talent show; so we just assumed our matriarch was groggy and still getting her bearings.

When my sister dropped by after choir practice later that evening, proudly displayed on Mother's door was a huge lst Place Blue Ribbon. She most certainly did know she needed to get dressed to rehearse. Our mother could sing harmony at the drop of a hat, a talent she shared with Clay and one of the many reasons she admired him so much. That day she and Shekina were, hands down, the best!

Sail on, Silver Girl, Sail on By

Mother would have enjoyed the Celebration of Life in her honor at her home church, especially the beautiful baritone rendition of her all-time favorite hymn, "Amazing Grace," and the loving, light-hearted reflections by her minister.

"Mama Mac was a character in the best way," he told those gathered at First Baptist. At restaurants, she always pocketed several little pink packets of Sweet-N-Low "for the church." Annoyed or bored with a discussion, her final word on any subject was "whatevah," delivered with deadpan inflection and any number of hand gestures.

At the graveside, a "Kodak moment" that went unsnapped came when William, one of the twins, respectfully placed his father's pallbearer boutonniere on Mama Mac's coffin. His great-grandmother would have been very touched by that simple gesture.

She also would have been delighted that, despite stifling temps and typical summer humidity, there was a cool breeze blowing off her beloved Carolina coastline for her mid-July farewell.

PHOTO INTERLUDE -- Featured in this special Mother's Day respite are blends and graphics by Amazing_CA, 1; Cindilu2, 2 and 3; Sally, 4; and Katt45, 5. Mama Mac's green thumb was legendary, and azaleas were among her specialties. The close relationship Clay shares with his mother, and the song lyrics my mother dearly loved are themes woven throughout.

Students Honor Teacher

In addition to a stream of memorial gifts to First Baptist's music program, our family received an outpouring of letters from former students from throughout Mother's 35-year teaching career. Parts of three are shared here.

Dianne (Sunset Park, 1955-56): It was with much sorrow I read of your mother's death. I was able to read this because she cared enough to take the time and patience with a LDADHD girl. I only learned I had these problems 10 years ago. I remember having such a hard time not talking in class and keeping my attention on her teaching. She also encouraged my mother to be more patient with my behavior and my learning problems.

Several years ago my daughter, who was a teenager at the time and had heard me speak of Mrs. McDonald, and I saw your mother in a doctor's office. I recognized her and spoke. To my pleasant surprise, she knew me right away. It was a wonderful moment, for "my" Mrs. McDonald remembered me with all the students she had taught. She showed such interest in what I had done with my life and my daughter's plans for college.

I have been a teacher's assistant for the past 25 years. I hope that I have been able to give my students a portion of the loving care that your mother gave to her students.

Susan (Sunset Park, 1961-62): Your mother was my beloved 5th grade teacher at Sunset Park Elementary. My year with her was very special. Mrs. McDonald taught us everything from how to do research projects to how to harmonize when we sang.

The Christmas play she directed that year probably raised the bar for not just harmony but also the amount of instruments she had us playing in the background. She encouraged us to be inquisitive beyond the textbook and rewarded us for creative thinking with extra credit points. She was a fair teacher with high standards. If we pleased her, we felt very good about our efforts.

Raymond (Hillcrest Elementary, 1936-38): One of Mother's earliest students touted her influence during his Burlington, NC, school days via a newspaper letter to the editor. A music major, he later became a minister and also served as a collegiate public information director.

His 1980 letter to the High Point Enterprise was inspired by a reporter who attended an opera in Atlanta and wrote a column filled with intense derision and mockery of this art form. The letter to the editor, which ends with a paragraph addressed to the reporter (Clark), was later forwarded to our mother:

Ah, Clark, you have gone too far. And to think one of my fondest recollections of the third grade over 40 years ago in Burlington was when Ms. McDonald, the twice-weekly music teacher, arrived with records and storybooks with color scenes of ancient Egypt, and opened with her enthusiasm to us the glories of "Aida." I'm sorry that you missed such an opportunity, for it has given me a lifetime of pleasure.

Happy Mother's Day, Daughter!

Mama Mac would have reveled in her ever-expanding status of "great-grandmotherhood," which now includes two girls and three boys. Above is a clickable of daughter Jen with Kai taken during the week of his birth.

You can still send a special Mother's Day greeting from Clay Aiken by clicking on the photo link below:

Happy Mother's Day, Clay Nation!