"We wanted to see new faces, to get more people involved," said Larry Carroll, technical chairman for the telethon. "We do have a lot of new faces this year - a lot of new bands.
They range all the way from gospel to pop to rock 'n' roll to close to opera. I've even got a guy coming from Carbondale, Ill., who will be singing Latin music, which will be a first."
Anchoring the entertainment as the house band for the 24th annual Kenny Rogers Children's Center telethon, Terry Mike Jeffrey of Paducah, Ky., will be among those new faces, but he is an old hand in the entertainment business.
"I've known Terry Mike for many years and I knew when it came time to make a change that he would be my first person to go to," said Carroll. "We have done the Paducah telethon several years and Terry was always on the Paducah telethon. I asked him if the opportunity ever came up to do this one would he be interested, and he said yes."
Beginning with fall festivals and school shows at age 3, Jeffrey has been performing onstage his entire life.
With Karaoke machines still decades in the future, Jeffrey sang with Elvis records "and other popular songs of that era" as accompaniment, he recalled. "When I was three years old Elvis was a big deal."
At age 5, he started playing guitar so he wouldn't have to sing along with record players. Piano was next at age 10, followed by saxophone at 11. By age 13, Jeffrey had already made his first record.
As Jeffrey moved into his teen-age years, Elvis was still a big deal.
"If you go to the Website there's several pictures of me with Elvis when I was 15," said Jeffrey. "Growing up he was my hero - it was very exciting to meet him and he was very, very nice."
While meeting Elvis was inspirational, Jeffrey had already set his sights on playing music for a living. "That was all I ever wanted to do before and after meeting him," he said.
In high school, he made records, TV commercials, jingles and played the lead role in his senior play.
As the frontman for his own band since the '70s, Jeffrey has performed all over including shows in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Canada, the Bahamas and the Caribbean.
Among the highlights in his career is the 1997 Emmy Award songwriting nomination for work on the children's television show "Sesame Street."
"Clucky-Cluck Chicken" did not win, "but I did go to the ceremony," he recalled.One of his favorites pieces he did for "Sesame Street" was a parody of Led Zeppelin's rock classic "Stairway to Heaven" in which "Grover was climbing this big stairway ... trying to reach this huge number seven," Jeffrey recalled with a smile.
Joining Jeffrey onstage as members of his band will be his wife, Debbie, on keyboard and background vocals; and his son Adam, 26, who plays congas and saxophones.
"He's been working on and off with me for about four or five years," Jeffrey said, noting his son co-wrote most the material on his "Relentlessly" album and was key to molding the group into a Contemporary Christian band. "He kind of pointed me in that direction," Jeffrey said.
Kaye Pryor sings and plays piano-keyboards, and bass player Kevin Synan and drummer Jeremy Smith complete the band's rhythm section.
While this is Jeffrey's first year here, the telethon's cause is something that he can relate to.
"I like to see kids who are having problems achieve their goals," Jeffrey said.
Jeffrey's older brother, who is hearing impaired, "lost his hearing he was 6 years old to encephalitis," he recalled. "I just remember when I was 4, him having to go through the Easter Seals and different schools for a couple of years to train him how to communicate without hearing, so I guess I've always had a soft spot for kids who have to go through rehabilitation."
Jeffrey praised KRCC's staff for helping the children conquer their fears "and do normal everyday things like you and I take for granted."
"I think it's a great thing, I'm really glad I went over there to see the Center and some of the kids," he added. "I think that place is a cut above most of those I've seen."
And, when it's all said and done, it is all about the children.
"Without the money from this telethon, it's hard for the Center to give the help to the kids that they need so desperately," Carroll said.
On the Net: http://www.terrymike.com