SC State Alumnus and Band Members are on the road to the 62nd GRAMMY Awards

(L to R): Kevin Hamilton, Charlton Singleton, Quiana Parler, Clay Ross and Quentin Baxter

When Charlton Singleton was a student at SC State University in the early 1990’s, he didn’t know that his career would lead him and his fellow band members to the 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards to be held on Sunday, January 26, at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California.

Singleton, a founding member, trumpeter and singer in Ranky Tanky, a Charleston-based quintet, had always wanted to pursue a career in music. The 1994 music performance graduate was active on campus in the Marching 101 Band, Symphonic and Jazz Band, Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Fraternity of America, Kappa Kappa Psi, National Honorary Band Fraternity and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated.  

As a student, Singleton seized opportunities to perfect his musical talents and performance skills. He performed at events across campus and often shared the stage with the Henderson Davis Players and competed in the Bulldog Apollo.

“During my years at SC State, I realized that we were go-getters. We watched performance videos, recorded them and memorized them. We wanted to be great,” said Singleton.

As time progressed, his professors began to ask him to perform at gigs in the community and with a larger audience.

“My professors worked to get me in gigs. I remember playing with Ruby Dee, Roscoe Lee Browne and Broadway star, Nikki Grant during a poetry event,” said Singleton.

He also recalls being in jazz band rehearsal one afternoon when members of the legendary Count Bassie Band joined rehearsal and provided the students with advice and musical insight.

“I was very fortunate to be a student and to be surrounded by an influential group of people. Our professors provided us with opportunities that I probably wouldn’t have experienced at any other school,” Singleton continued.

After graduating, Singleton continued his education. In the late 90s, he, Quentin Baxter, Kevin Hamilton and Clay Ross formed the Charleston jazz quartet, The Gradual Lean.  After the group parted ways to pursue solo careers, Singleton found himself in the classroom as a music education teacher. Although teaching was fulfilling for him, after seven years, he wanted a career change and performing was, and still is, his true passion.

The group reunited and brought on vocalist, Quiana Parler to form Ranky Tanky. Loosely translated in Gullah, Ranky Tanky means, “work it” or “get funky.” The band is known for its distinctive sound and musical influences, which are inspired by Gullah culture, the Lowcountry and the Sea Islands.

Ranky Tanky’s jazz-influenced arrangements incorporate traditional spirituals, dance music and children’s rhymes.

The band has toured across the United States, internationally and has been featured on “The Today Show” and NPR. Their 2017 self-titled debut album topped the Billboard, iTunes and Amazon jazz charts.

In 2020, the band is making GRAMMY history by being the first-ever Gullah album to receive a nomination. Ranky Tanky is nominated in the “Best Regional Roots Music Album” category for its second full-length album “Good Time.”

The band is currently touring throughout the U.S., Germany and Finland. With all of the traveling, accolades and performing, Singleton reflects on his experiences thus far and is thankful for his SC State experience.

“I look at all of the experiences that I’ve had traveling and meeting artists as an HBCU student, and as a professional, I find myself going back to those memories performing on campus. I know that those experiences prepared me for where I am today,” Singleton said.

The 62nd Annual GRAMMY Awards will be broadcast live on Sunday, Jan. 26, at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time and at 5 p.m. Pacific Standard Time on CBS. Ranky Tanky’s nomination category will be announced earlier Sunday during a private luncheon.

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