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In search of the soul of Charlotte

It's everywhere, you just have to look for it

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Nick Karres' Double Door Inn. Just before Christmas 1973, Nick Karres (at left, surrounded by staff) opened the Double Door Inn to a city that had been waiting for a consistent, first-rate live music club. Karres proved to be an astute and bold booker, presenting everything from Charlotte's first reggae show to full-tilt blues legends, and soon the Double Door was the club for music lovers. Today, Karres' baby is the city's oldest live-music venue, still presenting top-notch talent and, at least equally important, doing it in a soulful atmosphere that mixes a downhome vibe with a love of great musicianship. (John Grooms)

Park Road Books' Sally Brewster (above). These aren't easy times for independent bookstore owners, what with Borders & Noble-A-Millions popping up on every other corner. But it's what Sally Brewster, owner of Park Road Books, loves to do. A former Random House sales rep, Brewster took over the store, called Little Professor at the time, in 1999. The name changed in 2002 but the store's long history of great customer service and a deep-down love of books is still in full bloom. (John Grooms)

Anthony Rodriguez. He's the sweet-voiced front man of one of the finest local neo-soul outfits, Organic Soul. In addition to Rodriguez, the quartet also features Spartanburg-bred multi-instrumentalist ML Caldwell, classically-trained guitarist Ryan McKeithan and Puerto Rican master percussionist Lucas Torres. Rodriguez, a native of the Boogiedown Bronx, holds it down at such local rooms as NoDa's Wine Up, uplifting his hip, multi-culti flock with a true falsetto of the kind rarely heard since Philip Bailey's 70s heyday. Organic Soul's R&B/funk/jazz with a Latin twist is definitely starting to affect the way Charlotteans get their groove on. (Kandia Crazy Horse)

Terry Creech of Slam Charlotte. Charlotte's leading poetry impresario, Creech has a fascinating backstory: Native-American of the Cohaire nation adopted by white parents; man of color raised on a tobacco farm in Johnston County, NC (the KKK's state HQ); former professional wrestler now employed at the Harris YMCA; bouncer at local clubs including Crush -- and the only poet from North Carolina (and second Native American) to appear on HBO's Def Poetry Jam. Creech, the Queen City's first slam master, very much views his life's purpose as having been enabled and enriched by moving here. His mission to "give poetry back to the people" is certainly yielding riches: he's initiated poetry programs in local schools. His Slam Charlotte team came in second at the nationals in Albuquerque, NM, this year. Slam Charlotte's monthly events, which take place every third Friday, originated at the Afro-American Cultural Center and are now a significant part of the Blumenthal's programming. Creech is the passionate figure that makes this forum possible, advocating for fellow artists and giving marginalized voices a deserved airing. If that ain't soul, I'll kiss your ass. (Kandia Crazy Horse)

Divakar Shukla (above). A native of Ahmedabad in India's Gujarat state, Shukla has rightfully been dubbed "the Carolinas' kingpin of Indian culture." Among the many media projects Shukla has a hand in, key are Saathee, a community-oriented monthly publication serving the South Asian population of NC & SC, which he publishes; Bollywood-focused cable program "Nazar Television" (on TWC, channel 9); and, as a popular DJ for WEND 106.5 FM, one of his two Sunday night shows, "90 Minutes," sheds a spotlight on grateful local bands. (He's also the brother of CL's own Samir Shukla.) (Kandia Crazy Horse)

The Kuhlmanns' Evening Muse. Singer-songwriter Lea Pritchard and studio wiz Joe Kuhlmann met in the building they would eventually turn into the hip, warm, "club-in-a-living room" music venue The Evening Muse. Lea books all the acts in the club that cozily sits in NoDA. The now-married Kuhlmanns' foresight and musician-friendly attitude has given the Muse a national rep. Lea also sings and plays guitar in the Near Misses and Joe plays bass in Poprocket and produces recordings. (Samir Shukla)

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