Oak Ridge Boys Celebration Tour

July 4th, 2016

Another fun weekend with the Oak Ridge Boys. We were groupies  – well not very good groupies as we didn’t follow them as they zigzagged to Nevada.IMG_2192

IMG_2190We saw them at the historic Merced Theater. Visited a little before the show. The theater was full and we had the “Royal Box” as we called it. Stage left and a little elevated from the orchestra seats. Good view of the Boys and the Mighty Oaks Band.

The Boys take time throughout the night to spotlight each of the band as each gets to solo during one of the songs. Rex is hilarious though with slides and the clapper interacting with Joe Bonsall. Hard to describe it so you’ll just have to go see a show :-)

We wondered….and then there it was: Duane singing “It Takes a Little Rain” and the Boys joining in. Such great harmony. It was perfection.

I was observing the boys as I danced in my chair and after all these years, I couldn’t believe this was the first time I noticed that Richard, William Lee, and Duane Allen all hold the microphone in their left hands.

Yet, Joe Bonsall holds it in his right hand.

IMG_2186I suppose that would be normal from a staging point of view (pov); opening your body out to the audience more. But I didn’t see Joe change hands when he moved over to stage left.

I checked their wrists which suggested they were all righthanded? (Watches were on left wrists, I think). I wonder.

I made a mental note to check this new observation at the next concert in Visalia.

When Richard sang his part with a solo moment where his rich bass came through beautifully, General Yeager turned to me and said, “He’s good!” (We had figured that out long before but experiencing it anew in person is enthralling).

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Oak Ridge Boys in one of their tableaux

I love their switching it up onstage, changing positions, and especially their tableaux reminiscent of Sondheim’s musical “Sunday in the Park with George” based on George Seurat’s painting entitled “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”.

Next day, General Yeager tweeted the Boys to join us pig hunting. Food goes to the food bank. They tweeted back they were busy: Had a concert with the Beach Boys. Gen Yeager asked them to say hello to Mike Love and the Beach Boys. We had met the Beach Boys when they were inducted into the California Hall of Fame. Very incongruous but Mike was very gracious and Gen Yeager and he got into quite a conversation.

Joe Bonsall had said onstage in Merced that the Oak Ridge Boys would be singing with the Beach Boys – and what happens when bob-bob-bob-bob-bob-bob-bob-Bobbie Sue meets Ba Ba Ba Ba Babara Ann. It’s like the Beach Boys bid 4 ba’s and the Oak Ridge Boys raised them to 8 bob’s – in short, you get a lot of fun.

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Welcome cookie from City of Visalia

In Visalia, we brought friends; two couples and two kids, one of whom was adopted from Ethiopia. These two teenage daughters are so delightful and well-behaved. The older one wants to make singing a career. She is also a pianist. When I did some radio, I was informed to pronounce it pee-ANN-ist, not pee-a-nist. The correct pronunciation, the second way, sounds awful over the radio. Rex Wiseman made it even easier – piano player, he said.. :-) Rex very kindly took time to show the two kids all the instruments he plays. Okay some of the instruments he plays. “All of them” would have taken weeks and weeks. Rex is a seriously talented fellow. And the Boys were very kind in giving the aspiring-to-be-a-professional singer positive advice.

The advice they gave is exactly what the Boys have done and do, which makes them so special.

Darrick Kinslow introduced General Yeager. He told a bit of the history first and it’s special to see the wave of recognition, amazement, disbelief, until Darrick said General Yeager’s name. People jumped to their feet to give him a standing ovation. I stepped behind Gen  Yeager so as not to block anyone’s view. Darrick brought the microphone over to see if General Yeager had anything to say but General Yeager, still humble – trust me, it ain’t an act – was overwhelmed. When he found his voice, he said, “And I’m still flying.” Darrick chimed in with “Yes, and we got to fly with you, too!” Darrick sure did and so did William Lee. We tease William Lee – his hair and beard flowing out of the two-seater plane made it look like a flying squirrel!

At one point, General Yeager turned to me, referring to Roger Eaton, guitar player, and said, “I think he’s the best there is.”

I did my homework. Sure enough, William Lee, Richard, and Duane hold the microphone in their left hands. Although occasionally Duane changed to the right hand – a switch hitter. Joe: left hand.

After about the seventh song all of which the audience (including our friends and us) very much enjoyed, including dancing in their chairs, clapping, whistling and screaming approval after each one: General Yeager whispered to me if I thought they might sing his favorite song again.

Just then, as though he had heard us, Joe Bonsall told the story of being at the Country Music Hall of Fame for the Boys induction, one of the most important nights of their career, looking up and doing a double-, triple-take, seeing the General there in the “Royal Box”. Words cannot express the joy and incredulity (and looks on the Boys faces when they saw us). At the memory, Joe had a speechless moment.  And if you know Joe, that’s something! :-)

Joe continued, “We’ve known the General a long time. Ever since we celebrated General Yeager’s 80th birthday with him, we’ve been celebrating each one. Ninety-three now, right, General?”

JIMG_2195oe then said: “Whenever the General is attending a show, he “requests” us to sing his favorite song, “It Takes a Little Rain”. And  when the General “requests”…..you don’t say no…

Wow. It was amazing. Again. With Ron Fairchild playing keyboard beautifully.

The rest of the evening was rousing. When the Boys sang Elvira, the audience approached the stage and General Yeager, wanting photos, to shake the Boys hand, to dance and sing.

 

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Bub-bub-bub-bub-bub-bub-bub-Bobbie Sue was next. We eventually went backstage where the audience followed. General  Yeager graciously took photos with each and every one who came backstage.

Several had known Korky, General Yeager’s very very good friend from that area, and who had died in 2002. Each had a story to tell about Korky, a real character. I was lucky enough to get to know Korky for a couple years before he died. General Yeager used to participate in a huge BBQ celebration of the end of harvest there with Korky. Korky had been a World War II instructor pilot and a sprayer (spraying seeds or spraying nutrients on fruit trees from the plane). He also was a fruit grower. I had never had a persimmon or seen one until I met Korky.

Each of the Boys came and talked with us while they waited for the band to pack up, get some dinner, and leave; headed for their next stops in Salt Lake City and Deadwood on their way to Wisconsin.

Each of the Boys is looking fantastic. Just looking at them, and William Lee gave me his secret; I’ve been inspired to get in better shape. I was teasing William Lee. I told him: “I finally started exercising – did 40 sit-ups yesterday and my stomach hurts – why don’t I look better?” Our doc friend overheard this, looked stunned and was going to explain to me why when he looked up and saw I was kidding. Sort of.

I didn’t remember to tell William Lee but: William Lee’s niece sent me two books of his mother’s poetry. Wow! Truly special. Talent all around in that family.

I also forgot to tell him that his “Beautiful Bluebird” this evening was the best ever. Just lovely.

Always a fun time with the Oak Ridge Boys. Always worth the drive, plane trip, plane changes….

You see, I never liked country music because it always seemed depressing. Growing up n the Northeast, we used to joke we should play the country songs backwards and then they’d come out positive. I like some Gospel, but some seemed too slow and arduous.

However, with the Oak Ridge Boys, one always walks out of their concerts uplifted, singing a few bars, dancing if not actually, in one’s mind. They’re having great fun and bringing all of the audience in for the ride.

For instance, a most unusual song is Gonna Take a Lot of River – singing about blues in the most uplifting way. At the end of it, one is thinking, even if momentarily, “What blues?”

An Oak Ridge Boys concert is sheer joy. “Loving God, loving each uh-oth-er.”

c. GCYI

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