BOSTON.Â For Sharon Elliot, the â€œEurekaâ€ moment of her life came a few years ago at the National Association for Campus Activities convention, a showcase for entertainers seeking bookings on the college circuit.
â€œI was a month behind in my rent and desperate,â€ she recalls, â€œbut when I showed up to audition there were probably forty other female folk singers just like meâ€“long stringy hair, peasant dressâ€“the full Judy Collins.â€
Faced with daunting odds, she was inspired by a woman standing in line behind her practicing â€œThe Cruel Warâ€, a song from the Civil War about a young woman who cuts off her hair and joins her lover on the battle lines.Â â€œI thought to myself, I need something that will make me stand out from the crowd,â€ whose anti-war conformity hung in the air like tear gas at a peace demonstration.
SoÂ she stole the march on the woman who inspired her, launching into a spirited rendition of â€œThe Cruel Warâ€ with lyrics she improvised on the spot to emphasize the songâ€™s implicit martial theme.Â â€œIt really is about crushing the other side like a bug, so you can return home andÂ make love in aÂ field ofÂ daffodills,â€ she says.
The reaction from the audience of college booking agents was surprisingly favorable.Â â€œWeâ€™re looking for balance in the programs we offer,â€ said Maitland Jamieson of Vanderbilt University.Â â€œFor every wimpy post-adolescent androgynous wussy boy like John MayerÂ we book, we like to have someone with a more positive view of civilian casualties.â€
John Mayer:Â â€œMe and all my friends, weâ€™reÂ all misunderstood.Â They say we stand for nothing, but actually weâ€™re in favor of making a lot of money and having bodacious babes slobbering all over us.â€
Elliot walked out of the convention with a solid list of gigs, and has since parlayed her contrarian approach into a moderately successful career playing out-of-the-way colleges that have a hard time paying for big-name acts with predictably left-wing views.
At Bethany Baptist College in Otterville, Missouri, a crowd that represents over eighty percent of the total student bodyÂ crammed the schoolâ€™s gymnasium on a recent Saturday to hear Sharon open her act withÂ a cover of The Gap Bandâ€™s 80â€™s hit â€œYou Dropped a Bomb on Meâ€.
â€œSharonâ€™s message is you canâ€™t love everybody, which is what my momma always told me about dating,â€ says sophomore Krystal Muller as she snuggles next to her boyfriend Lyle Dunham.Â â€œSome people really need to be wiped off the face of the earth, or else why would God make Tomahawk missiles and stuff?â€
ElliotÂ hopes that she will soon enter the rarified altitudes of celebrity where she will be referred to simply by her first name, like PrinceÂ or Cher, and make enough from commercial endorsements to cut back on a grueling concert schedule that has her on the road for two hundred dates a year.Â â€œIâ€™m talking to Round-Up Weed KillerÂ about doing a voice over," she says.Â "â€˜Where Have All the Dandelions Gone?â€™â€