Jun 16 2001 12:00AM By Cinde Ingram
Mitch Snow does a mean Hank Williams. Thats what musician Gil Poole told staff at the Barn Dinner Theater when they were searching for someone to play the lead in "The Lost Highways." A songwriter, performer and producer by trade, Snow says acting will offer a new challenge when he brings the story of Hank Williams to life on the Barn Dinner stage in late September.
While people remember Williams as uneducated, Snow appreciates the country music legends skill with writing words and music. He already has been practicing Williams songs to prepare for the show that will run from Sept. 26 to Nov. 18.
Snows background of capturing audiences during his Las Vegas debut and traveling across the country for years to perform music makes facing an audience easy. He rode a rhinestone-and-rodeo circuit through the West and Midwest until he realized he did not want to stay "stuck in the club rut" and exited "an endless road that goes to nowhere." He gradually worked his way off the road and into the producers chair, starting his own business in 1994. Although he met potential investors along the way, Snow declined their offers.
"I didnt want to sell heart and soul, just the talent," he said.
The Thomasville residents early memories include learning to play stringed instruments beside his father, who played with The Colonial Trio, a gospel group. When Snow was about 10, he performed on his first big stage in Winston-Salem with his fathers trio.
As a boy, Snow experimented with recording his own music and two-part harmonies by using dual tape recorders, sometimes so late at night that his mother made him quit to sleep. Rheumatoid arthritis later put an end to his fathers musical performances. But the elder Snows gift of explaining Biblical complexities to his Sunday school classes and lifes complications to his son have mellowed in their wake since his death in 1979. Back in 1977, Snow was learning from veteran stage performers like Dionne Warwick. He worked for a woman named Toni Ingram, wore rhinestones or mirrors on Elvis-type costumes as the band played casinos, rodeos and state fairs.
"A friend of mine, whose passed on now, was an excellent musician and he got me that job," Snow recalled. "He told them that I was great and I was the one to be had. Of course, I looked at me different at that time; I knew I was green and had a lot to learn. I went out there (to Vegas) and it was just a tremendous experience to be able to see things that Id only seen on TV."
After about a year of riding the Vegas carousel, he returned to North Carolina and began working with Freddie Fenders back-up band, The Country Playboys. He wrote all the songs for the band when it tried to make it without Fenders draw. After that became stale, Snow moved on and played with a few other local bands, still trying to identify which sounds were really his own.
He worked a few odd jobs and with local bands. After he joined the Easter Brothers gospel group as a musician, he worked in their 24-track MCI studio in Mount Airy. He traveled with the band on weekends and spent weekdays in the studio recording songs for groups like The Hoppers, Dixie Melody Boys and Archie Bell.
Snow served as lead singer for Southern Nights, which had been Billy Crash Craddocks backup vocalist group, and toured with them on the East Coast and Midwest. After that, he started the Mitch Snow Band with help from Marty Beck and Scott Gentry. The band acquired a following, but again life on the road took its toll.
"One of the things throughout my career has been that I hoped one day I could help somebody else who had struggled like I did to try to get up to the next step," Snow said. A graduate of Ragsdale High School, Mitch Snow says hes still enrolled in the School of Hard Knocks. Seeing him at the controls of his recording studio on Randolph Street makes it difficult to believe he still gets knocked around by life.
Some of the wisdom and musical legacy passed on by his father, Snow now shares with his own 12-year-old son Brandon. The Thomasville Middle School student now specializes in drums for the band, but follows his dads musical pattern of playing keyboards, mandolin and guitar.
"He tries to play everything he can get a sound out of," Snow said. "That would be the chip off the block."
Snow married the former Tami Lilly last June. Shes an accountant who works at Thomasville GM Superstore, but provides clerical help for his recording company and has a little musical experience of her own playing the clarinet.
Snow shares what he learned about recording to help other musicians and songwriters find their own sounds. He works with about 20 songwriters across the state. One of his songs that television viewers may recognize accompanies Sheriff Gerald Heges Cell Block F.
"When somebody brings in a song, they give me an idea of what they want and Ill get the lyrics and its kind of like theyve drawn a stick man figure," he said. "I fill it in with colors and chords, kind of a paint-by-number, I guess. It starts out as a simple something and try to treat the song with the instrumentation that it needs. ... Its like being able to paint a new picture every day."(.html)