Country music fans frustrated with the watered-down product they find when scanning the stations on their radio have an opportunity to escape from the musical doldrums for a few hours this weekend.
The mesmerizing sounds of Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash and Conway Twitty will be reborn through Country Legends Live at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 16, at The Carson Center in Paducah. Tickets are $25, $33, $48 and $58 and can be reserved online at thecarsoncenter.org or by calling 270-450-4444.
Mandy Barnett stars as Cline in the musical production. David Church plays the role of Williams. Shawn Barker is the young version of Cash. Michael Twitty fills the shoes of his famous father.
Born and raised in Landcaster, Ohio, just a stone’s throw from Columbus, Church is the youngest of 14 children in a very musical family.
His earliest childhood memories are flooded with flawless bluegrass instrumentation and mountains of music from early country music masters. With the powerful influence from pioneers of the genre, it was only natural for him to gravitate toward the greatest of all — Hank Williams.
From the Kentucky stage this weekend, Church will cover timeless classics like “Lovesick Blues,” “Kaw-Liga,” “Jam-balaya (On The Bayou),” “Why Don’t You Love Me,” “Hey, Good Lookin”” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart.”
Church said today’s country radio has removed the heart and deleted the soul of traditional country music. He said he will never make that mistake.
“The success that I have had has come from fans that long for the traditional sound of country they have heard in the past, but no longer find in mainstream country music,” Church said. “Those are the fans that have been forgotten.”
A native of the St. Louis area, Barker joined the military five days after graduating high school in 1992. He returned home after serving two-and-a-half years in the Army and was quickly enthralled by a new phenomenon — coffeehouse music.
He purchased a guitar, practiced hard and was soon performing at the same venues where he had been a spectator just a few months earlier. He loved dabbling with the ‘60s-rock sound and stumbled onto a career one Halloween when a friend dared him to die his hair black and dress up like Elvis.
Through the next five years, he would travel coast to coast, singing and acting like the rock ‘n’ roll king. When Holly-wood was making a movie on “The Million Dollar Quartet” — artists Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis from Sun Studios — Barker sent in his audition tape for the part of Elvis and a tape for the role of Cash.
Barker won the job as Cash, studied his new character for a solid year and then had to back out of appearing in the movie due to scheduling conflicts. He has perfected the vocals and mannerisms of the iconic singer and proves it with his rollicking covers of hits like “Ring Of Fire,” “A Boy Named Sue,” “I Walk The Line” and “Folsom Prison Blues.”
Twitty grew up in the Mississippi Delta. While still a teenager, he established a huge following singing in Memphis area clubs. In 1972, he was persuaded to move to Nashville to sing country music when he was just 18.
It was the same year his father teamed with Loretta Lynn to win the first of four consecutive Duo of the Year awards from the Country Music Association.
Conway was 59 when he died unexpectedly of a stomach aneurysm in 1993. By that time, Michael Twitty had been working professionally in the music business for more than 20 years. He decided to design his own tribute show to his father after watching other artists struggle trying to pull off the feat.
Twitty honors his father’s musical legacy with songs like “Hello Darlin’,” “Touch the Hand,” “The Rose” and “You’ve Never Been This Far Before.”
A Tennessee native, Barnett worked at Dollywood for two years before being discovered and migrating to Nashville. She was just 12 years old when she was signed by famed producer Jimmy Bowen and sent shockwaves through the in-dustry with her cover of Cline’s signature tune “Crazy” on the Grand Ole Opry.
Barnett was the 19-year-old vocal star of the two-person musical “Always… Patsy Cline,” which sold out shows in 1994 at the historic Ryman Auditorium, the Mother Church of Country Music. The show was reprised for a series of performances in 2009.
Asylum Records released Barnett’s self-titled debut album in 1996. It was produced by Cairo native Kyle Lehning. She switched to Sire Records in 1999 for the critically acclaimed “I’ve Got A Right To Cry” album, which included the final four tracks ever producer by Owen Bradley.
VINCE HOFFARD can be reached at 618-658-9095 or email@example.com.