I have been waiting at St. Cecilia for over an hour. It’s pouring outside, but that’s not the reason for Stanford Lightfoot’s tardiness—he forgot about our interview. But, hey, when you’re one of the busiest concert host–comedian–do-it-all entertainers in the city, it’s easy to get off schedule.
When MC Lightfoot does finally arrive, in a black two-piece suit and a burnt orange fedora, he is apologetic. He’s been on the road with neo-soul acts Kem, Ledisi, and Musiq Soulchild as their tour host, bringing comedic energy between acts to keep audiences engaged. He’s only in town for a quick pit stop, to help his daughter with some car issues.
Anyone else would have gotten the screw face—but Lightfoot? I believe every word. He’s been my guy for 30-plus years. When he was a popular Michael Jackson impersonator back in the early ’80s—moonwalking around the Omni—he’d routinely stop by my late mom’s makeup shop in the Mall West End to get his eyebrows arched. He’d light up the room with his outfits and jokes, like he’s done thousands of times on stages around Atlanta and the globe: Canada, Dubai, Japan.
“I still got more than $10,000 in MJ costumes today,” says Lightfoot, an Atlanta native who starred in talent shows at Washington and Grady high schools long before donning the sequined glove. He was Harry the Hawk for a couple of NBA seasons and emceed amateur nights at the Blue Flame strip club for two decades. Over the years, as Lightfoot’s hosting reputation has grown (and his “King of Lit” nickname has started to catch fire), I’ve watched his number of gigs rise. He’s worked with R&B stars like Patti LaBelle, Fantasia, and Frankie Beverly & Maze. And if there’s a funk festival that doesn’t have his name attached, you want no part of it.
Lightfoot says he’s broken the appearance records at several local venues. And though I can’t fully confirm that statement, the math checks out. If Lightfoot has hosted 10 to 15 shows a year at the Mable House Barnes Amphitheatre for the past six or seven years (he has), that’s at least 60 appearances.
The performing does come at a price, though. There’s the literal one, of course, for all the lavish suits and hats. “If [fans] see the same outfits, they say I fell off,” says Lightfoot, who goes through a couple of wardrobe changes per concert. “I’ve spent a boatload of money on clothes.” And then there’s the toll all the gyrating—poppin’ and lockin’ to Mystikal’s “Here I Go”—is having on his body. “It takes a lot when you get to this age,” says the 50-plus Lightfoot. “People say, Man, I don’t know how in the hell you do all that.” He credits less alcohol, more exercise, and fishing for his physical and mental well-being.
Still, the knee brace Lightfoot is wearing at lunch hints that his joints aren’t in the same condition as they were when we met three decades ago. But this Atlanta entertainment legend has no time for that: A spirited crowd at Chastain Park—or is it Cancun this weekend?—is waiting.
This article appears in our August 2023 issue.