On Friday night Rave On!, a tribute to the music of legendary '50s rock 'n' roll pioneer Buddy Holly appeared at the Poncan Theater opening the new season of musical entertainment. Billy McGuigan, a native of Omaha, Nebraska put on a dynamic performance backed by a seven-piece band that included a three piece horn section.
[Click on the photos to enlarge them.]
The Clarion Ledger reports that McGuigan stumbled on the role of Holly almost by accident. "I'd done acting around Omaha and I had sort of retired ... because nothing was really happening for me and I started playing in a band and thought, well, I'll just be a bar band singer, I guess, for the rest of my life," says McGuigan."I got a phone call one day from a theater here ... to play Buddy and I thought, ah, this would be a cool role - something different. But it ended up exploding. The night we closed the show, we turned away 1,500 people."
McGuigan says that the show, which he began performing six years ago, is not really a tribute show but more of a a one-man show that happens to have a band and considers that his role in the show is one third musician, one third actor and one third standup comic. At thirty-four McGuigan didn't have a direct connection to Holly's music which was recorded over fifty years ago but says he grew into the role. "My dad kind of raised me to think that Beatles music and '60s music was the only music that there was," says McGuigan "So '50s music to me might've been a little cheesy and I didn't think it was tough musically. But as I've played it now for the past six or seven years and seen the reaction it gets, I have fallen in love with Buddy's music and '50s music in general."
One interesting story McGuigan told the audience was that Holly, born in Lubbuck, Texas, was a big John Wayne fan and that the title for one of Holly's most famous songs was taken from a line Wayne delivered several times in the 1954 classic movie "The Searchers" that many consider John Wayne's best role. John Wayne's line from the movie that became a song for Holly: "That'll be the day."
Take a look at our photos from the Rave On show at the Poncan Theater. Click on each small photo to enlarge it - or take a look at our slide show of the performance.
Saturday night we had our second Ponca Opry of the fall season and it maintained it's usual standard of quality. I spoke to the band's steel guitar player Kurt Graber after the show, and asked him if he knew who had originally performed the song Graber performed during the show called "I'll Change Your Flat Tire, Merle" dedicated to Merle Haggard and a reply to Haggard's classic "Okie from Muskogee." Graber told me he had heard it performed by "Pure Prairie League" back when Vince Gill was still a member. I told Graber that the song was originally written and performed by "Big Brother and the Holding Company" in 1970 and appeared on their album "Be a Brother." A little google research shows that the song was written by Chicago/San Francisco bluesman Nick Gravenites while Gravenites was a member of Big Brother. Gravenites was a key figure in both the 1960s psychedelic rock scene in San Francisco and the Chicago blues scene, playing with Muddy Waters and other blues greats. Big Brother and the Holding Company are now remembered mostly for their musical association with gravel-throated rock legend Janis Joplin who began her career as a singer for Big Brother. It's amazing how these little nuggets of information can remain in one's brain for almost forty years and arise as if on command at the appropriate moment.
Bes sure and get your tickets for the rest of this season's performances at the Poncan Theater.
Top two Photos: Billy McGuigan performs as Buddy Holly at the Poncan Theater in Rave On! on October 2, 2009.
Bottom Photo: Kurt Graber performs "I'll Change Your Flat Tire, Merle" at the Ponca Opry on October 3, 2009.