Sunday, August 10, 2014

Becoming a Diamond: Overcoming Obstacles on a Daily Basis

“Many times we are our worst enemy. If we could learn to conquer ourselves, then we will have a much easier time overcoming the obstacles that are in front of us.”  ~Stephan Labossiere

We all have obstacles to overcome. Many of us face more obstacles than others, but we all face them at some point. What distinguishes some people from others, however, is how they handle those obstacles. Basically, according to Steven Claunch, we are given two choices. We can either let the obstacle consume us and drag us down. This gets us nowhere and leaves us feeling defeated and depressed. Or we can decide to beat that obstacle and use it as an opportunity to become successful. This is definitely true in the music industry as well since there are many obstacles that aspiring entertainers are faced with in order to become successful. Each entertainer has their own story. This is certainly true of Keith Allynn, an entertainer with an obstacle or two of his own.

I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Keith Allynn for this entry after attending his concert, A Neil Diamond Tribute. He put on an excellent show; he is an extremely talented singer, but he also adds just the right amount of humor to make the entire show absolutely perfect. Although I have seen many shows in Branson, I would definitely recommend this one as one of the best. Upon first meeting Keith, you would think him to be a friendly, quiet, and extremely funny person. You would never suspect that he deals with Asperger's Syndrome on a daily basis.

Photo courtesy of Helen Flynt
For those of you that are unfamiliar with Asperger's Syndrome, it is a form of autism. According to the Autism Society's website, the biggest difference between Asperger's and other forms of autism is that those with Asperger's are capable of interacting well with others and do have good language skills. However, they tend to be somewhat awkward socially and have trouble showing emotions. Keith says during his show that one of his biggest fears is a crowd of people that he doesn't know. As an entertainer, it is important for him to find ways to overcome that fear. Prior to each performance Keith does for A Neil Diamond Tribute, he comes out to talk to the audience for awhile and answer any questions. As he often says, he does not do that for the audience; he does it for himself. By meeting those in his audience ahead of time, he is able to, as he says, move them from strangers to friends. This allows him to do things during the concert such as come into the audience and shake hands.
Photo courtesy of Helen Flynt
One might wonder how someone who has Asperger's Syndrome got into the entertainment industry. According to Keith, he always knew that he wanted to be the center of attention. His reason for this was that by being in the center of attention, no one talked to him. He wasn't expected to converse.

Keith also states that his main gift is that of mimicry, not of singing. At the age of 14, Keith went to a comedy club on Amateur Night and did impressions. As a result, he was hired as a crowd warmer for George Wallace. He did this for six years until joining the navy at age 20. He never really sang until he was stationed in San Diego. He ended up singing an Elvis song for karaoke one night. Everyone loved it, so he decided to learn over 400 of Elvis' songs and become one of the top Elvis tribute artists in the country. After 14 years of singing Elvis, Keith ended up in Branson for an Elvis competition (which he won). He was told that he should stay in Branson and start his own show. At that point, he and his wife decided to move to Branson.

Keith tells the story throughout his show of how he came to put together a show for Neil Diamond. Basically, he performed Elvis in Branson for awhile, but then he decided he wanted to put together a comedy show. He did so and came out with a show that is now called On the Road Again starring Not Really Willie. Although for a long time this show was only performed on the road, it can now be seen in Branson at the Historic Owen's Theatre. This show featured many of the voices of which Keith does impressions, including Willie Nelson, Conway Twitty, Kermit the Frog, Satchmo, and many more.
Photo courtesy of Helen Flynt
As Keith told me, Neil Diamond was never part of the music that he listened to, but his wife was a huge Neil Diamond fan. Following the advice of his wife, Keith decided to put together a tribute to the singer and songwriter Neil Diamond. He has now been performing Neil Diamond's music for six years. This is his first year performing at the Historic Owen's Theatre after moving there from the Jim Stafford Theatre.

Keith shared with me that he loves to perform both comedy and Neil Diamond. With comedy, it's a different show every time. You never know what you're going to get. With Neil Diamond, he gets to pay tribute to one of the greatest songwriters of all time and perform music that has become very special for both he and his wife. For him, it is all about getting to share his talent with his audience. He repeatedly tells his audiences that it wouldn't matter if there were two people or two hundred people in the audience; them being there completely makes his day. He loves to perform and is comfortable on stage. If it weren't for him being able to overcome his own personal obstacles on a daily basis, he would not have the opportunity to be doing what he loves each and every day.