General Chuck Yeager Surprises the Oak Ridge Boys: Salem, OR

August 30th, 2013

Surprised some of the Oak Ridge Boys and Band. Showed up at the Oregon State Fair in Salem a couple hours before the show.

Gen Yeager wanted to sit down so I asked the band if he could join them in their dressing room.

YES was the resounding reply as they shuffled; each jumping up to graciously and respectfully give the General their seat. So he sat down with Donny, Rex, Ron, Jeff, Chris, and I don’t remember who else.

While I got some water and soda and arranged a quick tour of the grounds, I heard great laughter coming from that room. Oh that I could be many places at once.

One of our guests had a craving for a hot dog – after we had been discussing that no hot dog tastes as good as those at a baseball game. Ask and you shall receive: the catering was serving…..Polish dogs for lunch. And for the faint of heart – yep, that would be me: regular hot dogs.

Chris Golden helped us commandeer a golf cart. Then a mini-truck and back to the golf cart with Ellie driving. We were a bit nervous given her jerky start. We definitely wouldn’t let her try reverse!

Lots of wonderful bouquets of wafting smells – cooking cotton candy, hot pretzels, and I’m not sure what else, lots of ice cream. Ellie pointed out the best one as we went whizzing by. She probably had looked at me and thought this girl does not need any more calories (hence the whizzing by).

We went inside one of the big buildings, saw big cows. I mean BIG cows. And some pretty small Clydesdales. Topsy turvy day. I was just remarking on this when we passed two regular sized – regular for Clydesdales is HUGE for horses – Clydesdales, looking beautiful in all their finery, beautiful white hair covering their hooves.

We made it to the dog show area, which had moved, just in time to be just between shows so missed the flying dogs – amateur event. Never did find out: were the dogs amateur or their owners? Flying dogs. Conjures up a lot of images.

I found out the next show wasn’t for at least 15 minutes. The informer told me they had to go – they were going to the Oak Ridge Boys concert and didn’t want to be late. I said: “I heard General Chuck Yeager is introducing them.”

His eyes got round as saucers as he stepped back stunned, gasping: “Chuck YEAGER????? Honey, we better hurry – can’t miss the beginning.”

Uh. Bye. :-)  I love that reaction!

No time for the swing ride, darn! Ellie had to pick up the Boys at the hotel. Hmmm. Boys on time for the show or me getting a ride on the whirling swing. You guessed it. The swing is still waiting, calling my name.

The Boys arrived and we chatted “back stage” – it was an open stage. We hugged and chatted. I love watching the male hug. It’s a hug and a pounding on the back. They probably call it a pat but…whack whack whack. Just to make sure no one thinks this is other than a manly close friendship kind of hug. Funny.

And I think it usually is three whacks. More and it might turn into a brawl.

Pals: General Chuck Yeager, William Lee Golden, Richard Sterban (Oak Ridge Boys)

I don’t get the knuckle bumping thing  – gotta hurt they way some people do it – too much room for error……and pain.

Gen Yeager Waiting to intro the Oak Ridge Boys

Gen Yeager went out front….and the crowd, as it sunk in, started clapping, cheering, getting to their feet….. Nice. GCY told a story or two, had us laughing and enjoying every minute. As he started to leave the stage, the Boys came on, each giving the manly male hug, whack whack whack, and Duane escorting GCY backstage – can’t have our American hero tripping over all the wires, etc. Duane and the Guys are amazing. He was so in tune. Gave the General over to me, as he heard his cue giving him about 5 seconds to get to his mike and sing his part.

We got to sit backstage – but almost onstage. What a different view. Had to be careful as I was being watched by the audience. I looked at one gal and smiled. She was so great – made it seem as though I had made her whole day. She smiled gaily back, thrilled. Which was infectious – I was thrilled.

Watching the audience, I realized the Boys don’t have to worry about forgetting any words: almost the whole audience was singing along the whole time. One fellow got so into it, he held his hand up as though he had a mike, then remembered he was in public and started clapping. Wonderful! Lots of veterans, a few of the audience were in wheelchairs. Everyone had huge grins as they sang along. Wow.

Someone said about the Boys, unlike other country singers, theirs, by hint of gospel, is always uplifting, joyful, fun. One always leaves an Oak Ridge Boys concert, singing or dancing, (if not outwardly definitely in their heart, and definitely joyful). What other song about tears/blues (Okay I sing “tears” – some day I’ll get it down and be a proud member of the singing along with the Oak Ridge Boys audience) can have you dancing and feeling better than “Gonna Take a Lot of River To Wash These Blues Away”?

Sometimes the songs are so poignant as when Duane leads It Takes A Little Rain. Joey introduced it as: “When the General is here, we sing his favorite song.”

The audience yelled out Elvira. Well, that’s one of them. Joe told them: “It Takes A Little Rain.” (Joe had once tried to substitute another very patriotic one. I had to speak Philadelphia – Joe and I are both from Philadelphia – to make my point that the other one was beautiful but it wasn’t “It Takes a Little Rain” and the General likes….you get the idea.

Cheers went up. It’s a very personal song. And personal to the Boys, too, I think, as well. And it was beautiful. As Duane sang, General Yeager grabbed my hand and held it close to him.  (I’m inclined to share this personal moment only because the whole audience could see it :-) Gen Y only let go to stand up and thank the Boys when the song was finished.

The view was amazing. I wish I had had a better camera than my phone. Too much delay so I got a lot of photos of just after the moment.

So I have a photo of just after William Lee was kicking up his heels having a great time, or getting his aerobic session in, and

a photo of just after Jeff, Rex, and Donny were doing in-sync dance movements with their guitars – perfect view for an artsy photo too! and

a photo of Richard just after he turned to sing to/acknowledge the General and

a photo of Duane just after he sang the most heartfelt “Just look at us” in It Takes a Little Rain or just after he smiled a beautiful smile at the General or

just after Joe and the General did the knuckle bump.

Ha ha. Well, you’ll just have to picture it in your imagination but here are a few:

Joey Bonsall - General Yeager Fist Bump

Chris Golden on drums

Joe Bonsall's Heel a Tappin'

One of my favorites: Joe Bonsall taps his foot differently from most: he taps his heel. I used to do that. Most people tap their toes. Why he isn’t off balance… It was hard to capture – got a lot of “just after“‘s; but I got it in three attempts with my new vantage point.

Joe led Gonna Take a River, William Lee; Before I die; Richard; all sang some of my favorites.

And after it was over, we went out a-dancing and a-singing with great joy in our hearts.

Me: It TAKES a little RAAAAAAAAAIIIIIIIIIIN…When the sun always SHI-INES, there’s a desert below…It takes a little rain…to make love grow….

Where’s the car – I’m much better singing along to the CD with Duane Allen :-)

Me: Gonna take a lot of river………WASH THESE TEARSzzzBLUES away….ummm…still learning…Gonna take the MMMM…. (catching up) ississippi, the Mango… I mean, Monongahela and the O-hi-0…..WASH THESE TE-BLUES AWAAAAAA-AYYYY!


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