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Birmingham’s Dave Crenshaw, Grammy-Winning Musician with Vision Impairment, Makes Acting Debut  

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David “Dave” Crenshaw is back home in Birmingham starring as “Mr. Chickee” in the Birmingham Children’s Theatre “Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money.” (MARIKA N. JOHNSON PHOTO, FOR THE BIRMINGHAM TIMES)

BY SYM POSEY | The Birmingham Times

Being formally trained on multiple instruments has taken David “Dave” Crenshaw to different parts of the world to perform with some of the biggest artists like Maxwell, PJ Morton, Snoop Dogg and others.

Now he’s back home starring as “Mr. Chickee” in the Birmingham Children’s Theatre production of “Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money.” This story is based on the book by Newbery Medal winning author Christopher Paul Curtis and celebrates friendship, imagination, and determination as the true keys to success. This show will take place on the Main Stage at the Birmingham’s Children Theatre (BCT) beginning this Saturday, Feb. 17.

With all of his accomplishments as a two-time Grammy winning, multi-instrumentalist, musician, artist, producer, and songwriter, Crenshaw said this is first time acting.

“It’s new for me …” he told The Birmingham Times. “I can relate to Mr. Chickee because he’s one of the elders in the community in the play. He’s a musician and he’s visually impaired just like I am.”

In 2020, Crenshaw was officially diagnosed with low vision sight due to glaucoma. He also experiences synesthesia, which is a condition where a person will often experience one of their senses through another. For example, when a person with synesthesia hears music, they often see colors.

His songs on a previous album, the Color and Sound album, are Crenshaw’s interpretation of color through synesthesia. The songs are titled Blue, White, Brown, Gold, Yellow, Red, Green, and Orange – Check out the album here.

The visual artists were randomly assigned a color from the album to incorporate into their art installations.

Although it has been three years since his diagnosis, Crenshaw said he is still adjusting.

“There was a time I wanted to give up. I’ve been all around the world, I’ve met a lot of people, I’ve done a lot in life, so there is no need to give up now. For a year I was depressed, but I said to myself, I am not going to let me keep this down. I’m going to let God use me to motivate others who are going through this. You can still achieve and do what you need to do,” he said.

Family Of Music

Music has always been a part of his life. His father Edward Crenshaw Sr., served as band director at Ramsay High School for more than 40 years and in 2018 the band room at Ramsay was dedicated as the “Edward E. Crenshaw Room of Musical Excellence” in his father’s honor.

His mother is grounded in the Church of God “so I grew up around gospel and blues music and my father side was more into the Soul and R&B,” he said. “With him being a former musician, I came up around orchestral, symphonic music. I’m deep rooted in all types of music, especially southern music, gospel, r&b soul,” he said.

Born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama, Crenshaw attended Huffman High School. The youngest of three, Crenshaw has two older brothers, Edward Crenshaw II, and Dawayne Crenshaw. A self-proclaim lover of all music genres, his passions lie in hip hop, pop, and electronic music.

Some of his favorite artist include,” Lenny Kravis, Doja Cat, and Steely Dan. These are people I’ve dreamed of playing the drums for,” said Crenshaw,40.

For over 10 years, Crenshaw was the percussionist for Maxwell and PJ Morton. In 2019 he won his first Grammy playing on a cover of “How Deep Is Your Love” by Morton for Best Traditional R&B Performance and again in 2021 for his work on Morton’s Gospel According to PJ: From the Songbook of PJ Morton.

“Everybody that I have worked with have been great, but Maxwell gave me the opportunity to do my first major tour. He is such a cool and awesome guy to work with.”

Besides winning two Grammys, Crenshaw said another major accomplishment that he proud of is “being inducted into the Blue’s Hall of Fame as a musician [last May]”.

Showing Love

Birmingham has always been home for him no matter where he goes, said Crenshaw.

“One of my goals [is] to try to bring more to Alabama. It has been my vision to get more attention on Birmingham. We have so many talented people, who are Grammy winners and musicians who play with major artist, but there is not industry here like it should be. “

As for acting, the role in Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money, just felt right, he said.

“I’ve had offers to act before but I guess it’s something I wanted to do, something I wanted to add to my list of accomplishments,” Crenshaw said. “It’s a new experience. I found out that in the Birmingham Children Theatre’s [in its 76-year history] I am the first vision-impaired actor to [be in that role] so I look at myself as being motivation for other people who are interested in acting who are vision impaired as well.”

Performing in Birmingham has always been extra special, he said.

“This is home for me and everyone is showing me love and support and this is something I want to accomplish first at home and take it to a higher level, possibly movies and television as far as acting.”

“Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money.” Main Stage, Birmingham’s Children Theatre (BCT).

Saturday, February 17 & 24 @ 11 a.m.

Friday, February 23 @ 7 p.m.

select Wednesdays in February at 10 a.m.

For more information visit their website: Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money — Birmingham Children’s Theatre (bct123.org)