I am not a big fan of amateur talent contests, so my expectations were not high as my wife and I attended the debut of the Poncan Opry last night, but the "Opry," patterned after similar shows in Branson and Nashville, made a believer out of me with a terrific show that kept our attention for two and a half hours and had the crowd on their feet at the end of the show. Kudos to Roy Sullivan, owner of Sullivan Trucking, for the idea of a monthly opry show in Ponca City and to Dave May, Dale Eisenhauer, Gary Owen, and Bucky Fowler who made the show happen.
One of the main things that made the show such a success was a ten-member house band of professional musicians. Dave May contacted Dale Eisenhauer in April to put together a house band for the opry. Dale is from Newkirk and had worked in a country dance band and had been part of Bill Brown's Oklahoma Jubilee in Shidler. Dale plays rhythmn guitar and got his son-in-law Bill Brown, Jr. on bass and drummer Chuck Case to join the band. Then Dale approached Bucky Fowler to play lead guitar and to be the musical leader of the group.
Bucky brought in Kurt Graber on steel guitar and his wife and two daughters provided vocal backups. The only thing missing was a keyboardist and the group auditioned keyboard players until they found Ronnie Jean from Tulsa. Everyone in the band has had years of opry-type experience and the group's professionalism made all the difference in the world as they provided backing for local talent from Newkirk, Ponca City, and Enid. It's a lot easier to sound good when you have professional musicians backing you up and that is what we saw on Saturday night.
Another great idea was to bring in Gary Owen from Oklahoma City to screen the local talent and to be the MC for the show. Gary is the announcer for OETA, Frontier City, and does a lot of radio and television commercials. Gary has produced and directed for a variety of broadcast and theatrical productions who has been featured on Good Morning America and in Time Magazine. In addition to being Master of Ceremonies for the show, Gary performed for the audience. Gary kept the show moving with his "corny" jokes and but the real surprise was when he did two short ventriloquism segments. Gary's talking duck and a Country and Western singing cowboy reminded us of Terry Fator who we had just seen at the Poncan a few months ago.
There were about 500 people in the audience and we are sure that as soon as word of mouth gets around town, there will be a full house of 800 for their next show on October 25. If all their shows are going to be as good as this one, we'd like to see the "Poncan Opry" become a monthly event year round.
Of course, our dream is to see live entertainment at the Poncan - either an opry, a tribute band, a community concert, community theater, or a silent film with live music - every Friday and Saturday night so that Ponca City can become a destination for entertainment tourism, like Branson on a smaller scale.
Take a look at some of some photos I took of the show. I have at least one photo of every performer. Just click on the individual photos to see an enlargement.