The Poncan Theatre had a fine kick-off for their 2009 fall season of Ponca Opry on Friday. For their season opener the opry featured performances by the "Ponca Opry All-Star Band" with a special guest appearance by Cindy Summers with her tribute to Patsy Cline. Highlights of the evening's show included Dale Eisenhauer singing a duet of "Honky Tonk Angels" with his daughter Kathy Brown and a performance by Rob Loren on the fiddle. My grandfather, Hugh Pickens, used to play the fiddle down in Bowell, Oklahoma and I told Rob after the show that "You play just like my grandfather did, only better."
The most memorable part of the show though was the appearance of Cindy Summers with her portrayal of Patsy Cline. She not only gave a flawless interpretation of the originals but between the songs she provided background for each of them. I was surprised to learn that Cline's signature song "Crazy" had been written in 1961 by Willie Nelson who at time was a clean-cut short-haired young man who went by the name "Hugh Nelson" and that Cline had originally been reluctant to record Nelson's song because she considered it too "pop." Wikipedia reports that Nelson "was a regular at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge on Nashville's Music Row, where he frequented with friends Kris Kristofferson and Roger Miller, both unknown songwriters at that time. Nelson met Cline's husband, Charlie Dick, at the bar one evening and pitched the song to him. Dick took the track home and played it for Cline, who absolutely hated it at first because Nelson's demo "spoke" the lyrics to a faster tempo than what Cline later recorded as a ballad. Cline's producer, Owen Bradley, loved the song and arranged it as the ballad it was recorded as. Still recovering from a recent automobile accident that nearly took her life, Cline had difficulty reaching the high notes of the song at first due to her broken ribs, so she came back the next day to record the vocal, which she did in one take. Loretta Lynn remembers the first time Cline performed it at the Grand Ole Opry on crutches, she received three standing ovations."
The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Summers first played the role of Patsy Cline in Wichita, Kansas in 1996 and that that at one time Summers once only knew a single Cline song. "I knew 'Crazy,' but I think everybody knows 'Crazy,' " says Summers. Fans liked how she sang "Crazy" and encouraged her to learn more of Cline's songs and work them into her act. "You can go in about any bar in the world and find 'Crazy' on the jukebox." Summers says her interpretation of Cline's music remains popular because Cline continues to be a legend. "I think great singers are that way just like great movie stars," Summers says. "They don't die because there is something about them that people like to hang on to." There will be three more performances of the Ponca Opry this year on October 3, November 7, and December 12.
There is a tremendous amount of activity coming up next weekend. My Po-Hi '67 classmate Larry Murphy and I are sponsoring Wanda Jackson, member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Oklahoma's premier pioneer of rock at the Poncan Theatre next Saturday night. The Pioneer Museum is sponsoring an open air concert behind the museum all afternoon on Saturday in honor of the Oklahoma women of Rock. Also the 35th Annual Fine Arts Festival, sponsored by The Ponca City Art Association, will be taking place at Ponca City Arts Center at the Soldani Manison on Saturday and Sunday. As if that wasn't enough, the Cherokee Strip Barbecue and Chili Cookoff is going to be going on at Lake Ponca on Saturday and the 92nd Annual Kay Country Free Fair will be going on all weekend at the Kay County Fairgrounds in Blackwell. Mayor Nicholson is also going to be having a big auction at his facility on South 1st street starting on Saturday morning that I don't want to miss. I love going to auctions and this should be a good one with lots of tools and construction materials for sale. This is going to be one busy weekend.
You can take a look at my photos from Friday night's performance of the Ponca Opry on Flickr. Just click on any of the small photo images to enlarge them. If you haven't seen it yet, drive by 2301 Donner after the sun goes down. My wife and I have spent the last month on a special project to install lights to highlight the house. We have been wanting to do something like this for a long time and finally went ahead with it when we were a Lowe's and saw that they are now selling florescent spotlights that use only a quarter of the power of regular spotlights for the same illumination. We came up with the placement of the lights and did all the wiring ourselves and I think you will like the result. This week we also got our fountain installed in our front yard with the help of Ed Whitfield and his grandson Jason. Now the challenge is going to be to design and install the lighting, so my wife and I are going over to Tulsa this week to get some ideas on how to best highlight the fountain.
See you next weekend at the auction, the arts festival, the concert with Wanda Jackson, and maybe a few other places as well.