If you ever visit Car-Mart of Sapulpa, Oklahoma, you might just hear the Beatles playing on the loudspeaker. A little Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr can go a long way, according to General Manager Cleveland Sanders.
“The Beatles is where it all began for me,” says Cleveland, an avid musician and life-long Beatles fan. “Paul McCartney is the greatest musician who ever lived.”
Cleveland’s favorite decade for music is the 70’s. “Music was music back then. You had five guys playing instruments,” Cleveland says about bands such as Fleetwood Mac, Foreigner, REO Speedway, and other classic 70’s bands.
“Music is kind of my therapy,” says the acoustical guitar player who found his band on Craig’s List. “They needed a singer.”
The Mixers [Cleveland’s band] is a cover band that mixes it up with country, rock-n-roll and blues. Cleveland is the lead singer and they play a few times a month at local events and casinos. A proud moment was when the band played at the Hard Rock Casino in Tulsa for the first time.
He started playing music in the seventh grade as a saxophone player in the high school band. He also played in his church’s orchestra, and at age 18, he was inspired by a singer/guitar player at his church to learn to play the guitar.
Mixing music with business
Cleveland also entertains Car-Mart associates at company events. At the most recent annual meeting, he assembled a band of Car-Mart musician associates from across the company. The band’s main song, “This Could Change Everything” by Francesca Battistelli highlighted the meeting’s theme of ‘The Secret is You.’ “Car-Mart is experiencing success and the idea is to keep that success going,” Cleveland says.
Car-Mart’s leadership recently recognized Cleveland for playing at customer appreciation events and company meetings through the years. “One day, they showed up at my lot and presented me with a guitar for entertaining both customers and associates,” he says of the Taylor Acoustical Electric Guitar.
Currently, Cleveland has another proud musical moment with the release of an album, Adorations, a contemporary worship album, which will be available on Spotify, Apple Music and Amazon. As Music Pastor at his church, Cleveland partnered with his church band, Triumph Worship, for the past nine months to produce the album.
“It’s been the most challenging thing I’ve ever done in my life. There have been days where I wanted to give up on music, but it was important to get it right. But, in the end, it’s been very rewarding,” says Cleveland of the recording process.
Another gratifying aspect of music is that Cleveland’s son is following in Dad’s footsteps. Tyler plays drums in the church band and recently started playing the guitar. “He’s turning into a really good musician,” smiles the proud Father, while adding that Tyler; his wife, Jessie; and daughter, Chloe, also enjoy music by going to concerts and movies.
From music to cars and customers
Music creeps into his daily work life and influences his leadership style. He often shares wisdom from music with his associates. Cleveland quotes a line from Rapper Andy Mineo’s song, “You Can’t Stop Me” – “my biggest enemy is me and even I can’t stop me.”
Cleveland started his Car-Mart career as an Account Representative out of college in 2004. He graduated from Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Ark. with a degree in Music Education.
While at Car-Mart, he has worked in the associate development department where he taught other associates. He traveled to nearly every Car-Mart location, which Cleveland says helped him become the manager he is today.
In February 2007, he was promoted to Area Operations Manager for Car-Mart’s Region 1. In October 2007, he became General Manager at the Claremore, Oklahoma store, and in March 2016, he assumed his present position in Sapulpa.
Cleveland enjoys the interaction with his customers, building lasting relationships with them and reaching out to the community. “We’re definitely in the people business. We do sell cars, but that’s not what it’s about. Our goal is to help our customers,” says Cleveland.
“I’m proud of the fact that I’ve done this for 15 years,” concludes Cleveland of his tenure at Car-Mart. “This has been my only adult job. I’ve never worked anywhere else and I don’t intend to. I work for a company that is accommodating and generous to its associates.”
Being a General Manager is one of the best spots you can have because you help customers every day,” concludes Cleveland, who happens to be the first Car-Mart General Manager to develop a playlist for his dealership. Come visit and listen to the music.
Cleveland’s Musical Favorites
Band List – By the Decades
• 60’s – Beatles
• 70’s – Eagles
• 80’s – Guns & Roses
• 90’s – Red Hot Chili Peppers
• 2000’s – Foo Fighters
Best written song … ever
• Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen
“It defines everything that Queen is.”
Most timeless song
• Jack and Diane by John Mellencamp
“It could be released tomorrow, and it would be a hit.”
Greatest musician … ever
• Paul McCartney
Cleveland’s Playlist for Car-Mart
“These songs are about cars, driving and working hard, ‘cause that’s what we do. In this order because they flow that way.”
1. Takin’ Care of Business – BTO
2. Drive My Car – The Beatles
3. Get Outta My Dreams, Get into My Car – Billy Ocean
4. Working for the Weekend – Loverboy
5. Life is a Highway – Tom Cochrane
6. Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen
7. Running on Empty – Jackson Browne
8. Slow Ride – Foghat
9. I Can’t Drive 55 – Sammy Hagar
10. Runnin’ Down a Dream – Tom Petty
Here is a Spotify Playlist link.