by Len Lear
When we sat down to dinner early in 2008 at Auspicious, an Asian fusion restaurant which had just opened in November, 2007, at 11 Cricket Ave. in Ardmore, about 25 minutes from Chestnut Hill, things did not seem quite so auspicious. Within minutes, every table in the restaurant was occupied, and owners Gwen Zheng and Alfred Leung were clearly nervous. (The restaurant closed in 2012.)
“This is three or four times more people than we’ve been having for dinner,” said Gwen. (The day before, items appeared in both the City Paper and Philadelphia Inquirer about the pretty new BYOB, touting the imaginative menu and relatively low prices.)
Server Sharon Little, then 27, was rushed but charming and humorous as she explained to each table that another server had called in sick. (Little was used to dealing with nervous crowds. She told us she was a singer-songwriter who performed frequently at Ardmore’s Milkboy Cafe. She said her ambition was to be a recording star and sing on a national tour.)
We were very sympathetic because she seemed like such a sweet young lady, but I could not help thinking to myself, “Sure, and I would like to win a Nobel Prize for Literature.” If I had $10 for every waitress or waiter who aspires to be a recording star or movie star, we’d be able to buy a vacation home in Martha’s Vineyard.
In center city or in Manhattan, it is probably hard to find a restaurant server who does NOT hope to be a star singer, actor, dancer, novelist, etc. So although we smiled and encouraged Sharon, I figured that her odds of her living out her dream were roughly one million to one.
Imagine my shock, therefore, when I picked up the Philadelphia Inquirer a few months later and saw a huge photo of — who else — Sharon Little, the former waitress, with Robert Plant, one of the world’s most famous rock guitarists and former member of Led Zeppelin!
The accompanying article said that Sharon had just signed a contract with CBS Records and that she was subsequently chosen as the opening act for Robert Plant, Alison Krauss and T. Bone Burnett on their North American “Raising Sand” tour. Her first album with CBS, “Perfect Time for a Breakdown,” was released on May 27 of that year. Sharon’s songwriting partner was Scot Sax (formerly of the band Wanderlust), a resident of Plymouth Meeting who was recently profiled in a Local Life article. Containing 11 original compositions, including the lead track “Follow That Sound,” the album received critical acclaim from many prominent media outlets including USA Today and Rolling Stone magazine, which wrote, “Little’s debut, ‘Perfect Time for a Breakdown,’ showcases her deep, husky vocals over country-tinged folk rock that recalls Sheryl Crow and Jewel.”
As part of her deal with CBS Records, several of her songs were also featured on CBS programs such as The Good Wife, NUMB3RS and NCIS. The song “Follow That Sound” from “Perfect Time for a Breakdown” was also chosen as the theme for the A&E series, The Cleaner.
Sharon was also featured performing the song in the show’s fourth episode. She performed another track from that album, “Spaceship,” in a sequence shot in New York’s 34th Street subway station for an episode of CSI: NY. Little continued touring through 2008 and 2009 with, among others, Chris Isaak, Al Green and Jonny Lang.
“Perfect Time for a Breakdown” reached #48 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. “Paper Doll,” Sharon’s next album, was produced by Grammy-winner Don Was, who had produced albums for the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, among others, and was released in early 2011. Select tracks, including the title track “Paper Doll” and “Shake and Shiver,” were digitally released in advance of the album, in the fall of 2010.
It seemed that Sharon was on an escalator to national stardom, but fame can be a fickle mistress. If you Google her name, you will see that she seems to have fallen off the end of the earth about five years ago. There seems to be little or no significant activity — new albums, concert tours, etc. — since then.
I have tried to reach Sharon through Facebook but without success. Last Thursday she did reply, stating that she would call me on Friday at 11 a.m., but the call did not come. I did write back Friday afternoon but again did not hear back. Her Facebook page did say, however, on Sept. 10 that “So I need some help. I’m trying to get this record finished, but unfortunately I don’t have the funds to do it. How many of you would support me in a fundraiser? I need some financial support.”
Show business can be tough, even after stardom is achieved.
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/sharonlittlemusic.