The boy’s got soul.
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TEN DAYS AFTER HE CELEBRATED HIS FOURTEENTH birthday by downing a seafood dinner and playing a concert in Milwaukee, Quindon Tarver is on top of the world. Actually, he’s on top of Reunion Tower in Dallas, sucking down a virgin piña colada at the Antares restaurant and talking about his rapidly changing life. The pear-shaped Plano native—whose professional name is just Quindon—had already begun a ninety-city tour opening for the R&B trio Immature and others when his debut single, “It’s You That’s on My Mind,” was released in early May. The following month, it peaked at number 31 on the urban music charts just as the Quindon CD was hitting stores. “Dream About You,” the follow-up single, started getting airplay in July, and three or four more potential singles should keep the record selling into next summer. No wonder he’s so happy. “I always wanted to perform,” he exclaims, pulling on his straw, “and now I am.”
Raised solely by his mother, Loretta Davis, who worked in a printing plant to support him and his two older brothers, Quindon began singing at age three at Greater Hope Holiness Church in McKinney, where his grandfather was the pastor. At home, he listened to his mom’s records: Barry White, Al Green, Chaka Khan, and anything on the Motown label. As Quindon won school talent shows year after year, Loretta began taking him to citywide singing contests she would hear about on the radio. In 1991 Quindon dominated a show promoted by Allen Walker, who had played pro basketball in Argentina before moving to Dallas to open a clothing store and manage rap and hip-hop groups. “He threw the house up, just turned it out,” Walker recalls. Soon after, Walker and Davis began co-managing Quindon, and Walker started bankrolling Quindon’s trips to black music conventions and showcases around the country. They eventually hooked up with Chris Stokes, a young producer known for his work with prepubescent acts like Immature and Smooth. Stokes engineered a deal with Virgin Records and took Quindon into the studio, wedding his classic soul vocals to state-of-the-art contemporary beats. He left enough grit in Quindon’s fluid, flexible voice to make him sound older than his years, but not so much that the little girls couldn’t relate.
At this point in his career, Quindon has three managers: Walker, Stokes, and his mom. Still, he takes a larger role in directing his career than most performers his age. He co-wrote four of the songs on his CD and shows surprising savvy when he talks about the studio. “In the future,” he pronounces, “I want to write, produce, manage, everything!” For now, however, he must settle for being a star. Onetime classmates who didn’t believe him when he said he had met Mary K. Blige or Bobby Brown now hang on his every word. And though he doesn’t see them as much as he used to, he says, “I try my best to write ’em letters when I’m not too busy.” He plans to go to college to study music, but he relishes entering the music business so young. “I like making my own money at an early age,” he insists.
Judging from the custom jewelry up and down both arms, Quindon has no trouble spending it, either. He gets by on a $250 weekly allowance, but when he turns eighteen, he’ll take over the trust fund most of his current income goes into. “My body,” he declares oh-so-coolly, slurping up the last of his piña colada, “should be laced with a million dollars by then.”