Former gospel prodigy returns home a budding soul star

"I'm really excited to get back to Memphis ...,"  Frankie DeCarlos says of performing in his hometown.

"I'm really excited to get back to Memphis ...," Frankie DeCarlos says of performing in his hometown.

“A Night of Family R&B Soul,” featuring Frankie DeCarlos, Angela Patrick-Holmes and J. Jordan

8 p.m. Saturday at the 1884 Lounge, 1555 Madison inside of Minglewood Hall. Cover: $12. For more information, call 901-312-6058 or visit minglewoodhall.com

Here in his hometown most people know Frankie DeCarlos Patrick as the scion of a gospel music family that includes his sister Angela Patrick-Holmes and his father, Frankie Patrick, pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church in Piperton.

But to growing legions of R&B fans around the world, he is simply Frankie DeCarlos, the Atlanta-based singer whose fans have dubbed him "the Prince of Soul".

On Saturday the two personas will meet when DeCarlos returns home for his first show here since the 2007 release party for his secular music debut, Human Man. True to its name, "A Night of Family R&B Soul" at Minglewood Hall's 1884 Lounge will feature performances from DeCarlos, his sister, who has since followed her brother into an R&B career, and their cousin J. Jordan, who also is based in Atlanta.

"I'm really excited to get back to Memphis because people have been asking me for years when are you going to come back," says DeCarlos, who also expects the show to attract his growing fan base outside of the Mid-South. "A lot of people from Atlanta, Los Angeles, South Carolina and Mississippi I know are coming, too."

For people who remember him from his gospel-singing Memphis youth, DeCarlos' current persona as a grown up and sexy secular soul man may come as a bit of a surprise.

Born in Somerville, Tenn., DeCarlos says he was born playing and singing music. But it wasn't until he was about 9 years old that he went professional, forming The Patrick Singers with his sister Angela and another cousin, Tomeka. Though they never recorded, the children's gospel group played churches all over the region.

Meanwhile, DeCarlos, inspired by soul artists like Marvin Gaye, was already awakening to the possibilities of the studio.

"I had a little four-track when I was 15 or 16 years old," he recalls. "I would pop a cassette in and record my little tapes, and that's how I started to learn how to produce records. When I was 19, I started to experiment on my church's male chorus, and we did two albums together."

DeCarlos also recorded some gospel duet records with his father, whom DeCarlos says is still his favorite singer. But inside the younger Patrick was yearning to make music with a broader appeal.

"I knew I always wanted to be a little rock star, but I grew up in a religious home so I wasn't sure how I was going to make that transition," he says. "The easiest transition was jazz, thinking maybe jazz wouldn't be so bad to the parents and the good church people. But from there I was just like, 'Forget it. Let me just do what's in me.' And I started singing R&B."

To make it easier to establish a new musical identity, DeCarlos relocated to Atlanta about a decade ago. There he made his 2007 self-released R&B debut, Human Man, which became a hit in Japan where the "Prince of Soul" moniker first attached to him.

A self-titled follow-up the next year did not do as well, however, and DeCarlos became disillusioned.

"I said I would never record again," he says of the poor reception that met Frankie DeCarlos. "It was a flop to some people, but I think it was one of my best works. I listened to it yesterday, and I was still impressed."

After a three-year break, DeCarlos says "the blood in my veins which is music" took hold of him and he released his third record, EMPIRE, last year. The album, issued on his own Chispa label, has been the biggest success of his career, winning rave reviews and making the first-round Grammy ballot in six categories, which earned him a trip to the awards show.

"I really wanted to create an album with a big sound with big horns as inspired by Michael Jackson and his Invincible album," says DeCarlos, who admits to tapping a little bit of that old gospel flavor for the new record. "I wanted to make an album with that old heal-the-world vibe."

© 2012 Go Memphis. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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