Idaho

Senators Put Harmony On Disc They Hope Cd Will Raise Funds For Charity, Politics

How much would you pay for a compact disc of country western and gospel songs sung by four Republican U.S. senators?

“We’ll probably have trouble giving them away,” said Sen. John Ashcroft, one of the four Singing Senators, a group of politicians working on a CD. Ashcroft, Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi and Sens. Larry Craig of Idaho and James Jeffords of Vermont went to Nashville Dec. 12 to record 10 songs.

Now, Craig joked, comes the great debate over cover design. He said the CD probably won’t be released before February. The nonprofit recording will raise money for politics and for charity, he said.

For the past two years the quartet has played GOP fund-raisers and events in each of their home states, along with a performance in Ashcroft territory at the Charley Pride Theater in Branson, Mo.

Ashcroft’s delight is obvious. He’s usually close-mouthed - it took him months to admit his presidential aspirations, despite a busy travel schedule that included visits to primary states like New Hampshire. But Ashcroft couldn’t resist tipping a reporter to the Nashville trip during an interview about his 1997 legislative accomplishments.

“One of our songs we sing Acapulco - oh, I mean a cappella,” he yelled into a cellular phone a few days later as he was traveling a Missouri highway.

Who wouldn’t be excited about a two-day recording session in the nation’s country music capital, especially when your friends the Oak Ridge Boys leave signed copies of their signature tune (“Elvira”) as good-luck gifts?

The Oak Ridge Boys invited the senators to appear with them last September in Branson, and the groups traveled to Washington earlier to harmonize in the Capitol Rotunda.

This is not Ashcroft’s first brush with professional musicians. Ten years ago, the two-term governor sang at the Grand Ole Opry one Saturday night. He’s sung with Lee Greenwood and once, during a visit to Camp David with President Bush, sang with Amy Grant.

With one solo album and two duet albums already under his belt, Ashcroft’s no stranger to recording. The first was recorded during the 1970s while he was Missouri’s attorney general. He said his musical roots probably reach back to a long-forgotten church service when his father stood him on a chair to sing.

“It’s stress reduction,” he said. “It’s fun. It’s a great way to bring people together. Heaven knows we need a little harmony in the Senate.”

For Craig, it feels good to abandon the ritual and manners of the Senate and act instead like a regular guy who indulges in a little fantasy with his buddies, belting out a favorite song as a packed house applauds.

“It changes the whole character of politics,” Craig said. “The only answer I can come up with is that the act of singing expresses your vulnerability and at the same time is a very humanizing act. It’s different than a politician giving a hardcore political speech.”

Ashcroft searched for the right words: “It’s provided sort of a tonic of pleasantness.

“It’s been so much fun to be with each other on this basis, instead of always on such a formal basis,” he said. “I know it’s enhanced our ability to work together.”

The group’s most embarrassing moment came early on, when they were calling themselves the Vocal Majority - which turned out to be the copyrighted name of a Dallas professional men’s choir.

“We got this very nice letter from them, along with several CDs, saying, ‘Continue to use our name and we’ll sue,”’ Craig said. And thus were born the Singing Senators, “somewhat by default.”

How much would you pay for a compact disc of country western and gospel songs sung by four Republican U.S. senators?

“We’ll probably have trouble giving them away,” said Sen. John Ashcroft, one of the four Singing Senators, a group of politicians working on a CD. Ashcroft, Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi and Sens. Larry Craig of Idaho and James Jeffords of Vermont went to Nashville Dec. 12 to record 10 songs.

Now, Craig joked, comes a debate over cover design. He said the CD, which the senators will own, probably won’t be released before February. The nonprofit recording will raise money for politics and for charity, he said.

For the past two years the quartet has played GOP fund-raisers and events in each of their home states, along with a performance in Ashcroft territory at the Charley Pride Theater in Branson, Mo.

Ashcroft’s delight is obvious. He’s usually closemouthed - it took him months to admit his presidential aspirations, despite a busy travel schedule that included visits to primary states like New Hampshire. But Ashcroft couldn’t resist tipping a reporter to the Nashville trip during an interview about his 1997 legislative accomplishments.

“One of our songs we sing Acapulco - oh, I mean a cappella,” he yelled into a cellular phone a few days later as he was traveling a Missouri highway.

Who wouldn’t be excited about a two-day recording session in the nation’s country music capital, especially when your friends the Oak Ridge Boys leave signed copies of their signature tune (“Elvira”) as good-luck gifts?

The Oak Ridge Boys invited the senators to appear with them last September in Branson, and the groups traveled to Washington earlier to harmonize in the Capitol Rotunda.

“It’s fun. It’s a great way to bring people together. Heaven knows we need a little harmony in the Senate,” Ashcroft For Craig, it feels good to abandon the ritual and manners of the Senate and act instead like a regular guy who indulges in a little fantasy with his buddies, belting out a favorite song as a packed house applauds.

“It changes the whole character of politics,” Craig said. “The only answer I can come up with is that the act of singing expresses your vulnerability and at the same time is a very humanizing act. It’s different than a politician giving a hardcore political speech.”

The group’s most embarrassing moment came early on, when they were calling themselves the Vocal Majority - which turned out to be the copyrighted name of a Dallas professional men’s choir.

“We got this very nice letter from them, along with several CDs, saying, ‘Continue to use our name and we’ll sue,”’ Craig said. And thus were born the Singing Senators, “somewhat by default.”

MEMO: Cut in the Spokane edition

Cut in the Spokane edition



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