Merced County Times Newspaper
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Black History Month Concert Features Winton’s Willie Rankins

Levitt AMP Merced will present a Black History Month Concert (Virtual) on Saturday, Feb. 27, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

This special event featuring the Willie Rankins’ Starlight Band will be live-streamed by the Merced County Office of Education’s METV from the historic Merced Theatre. Find more info on how to see this event online at:

Get ready for an incredible performance of Motown and R&B classics.

In partnership with the Merced Chapter of the NAACP and the City of Merced, UC Merced Arts received a Levitt Foundation grant to host the concert.

The band is led by local Winton resident Willie Rankins.

“My first gig was at Star Bethal Baptist Church, at age 9, in my hometown of Emeryville,” Rankins says. “I was playing in the high school band while in elementary school and started playing professionally in junior high with my father as my manager and chaperone. During my teen years I added big band to my experience with Young America. …

“In 1995, I moved to Michigan for 10 years. While in Detroit I had the pleasure of working for Motown. I played and toured under the direction of Billy “The Sticks” Nicks and the Junior Walker All Star Band. I toured and backed-up Freda Payne, Martha Reeves, The Temptations, The Contours, The Four Tops and the Supremes.

“For the last five years I have been playing with the Mekesmo Band (member and band Director), The Hartfield Brothers, Dorondo, Carl Lockett, Bob Cat, Curtis Lawson, James Levi, Little Willie John Jr., The Bobby Young Experience, Picture Perfect, Willie G and the G Spots, Miko Marks, and remain on-call for the Jr. Walker All Stars. Every Sunday you can find me at Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church in Richmond.”

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