That stutterin' boy

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Last Saturday night, my sister and I took our dad to hear country music legend Mel Tillis at the Robson Performing Arts Center in Claremore.

Tillis puts on a great show. I'd never seen him perform before, so I wasn't sure what to expect. He was backed by his eight-man band, the Statesiders -- two fiddles, two keyboards, bass, guitar, drums, and pedal steel. Most of his sidemen have been with him for at least half of his half-century career. He gave them plenty of opportunities to shine, with instrumental numbers sprinkled throughout the 90 minute performance, along with most of his hits. Mel had some funny (and very slightly blue) jokes to tell, too.

Tillis said that his band is one of the last of its kind, following in the tradition of Bob Wills, Spade Cooley, and Hank Thompson. You could hear the western swing influences throughout the show, but especially in the hot fiddling of Wade Landry and Ernie Reed, who were a pleasure to listen to and were clearly having a great time with the music.

Tillis and Wills were both signed with Kapp Records in the late '60s, and Tillis is the vocalist on a couple of Bob Wills 45s recorded in March 1967 -- "Faded Love" b/w "Memphis" (the Chuck Berry hit), and "I Wish I Felt This Way at Home" b/w "Looking over My Shoulder." (A fifth Tillis vocal from that session, "Sugarfoot Rag," was released only on LP.)

The Robson PAC is an attractive venue inside and out. It's clearly modern, but the brick and vertical lines of the facade lend it some classic dignity. The main hall seats 1,024, and it looked to be nearly sold out, at $45 each for orchestra seats.

Mel Tillis will be back on the road between Thanksgiving and New Years' performing in 11 states -- from Florida to North Dakota to Arizona -- and Saskatchewan. If you're a fan of classic country, you'll enjoy the show.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on November 19, 2008 10:34 PM.

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