Friday, August 10, 2007

A REAL Entertainer

(originally posted 04-22-07)

I hear the two biggest acts, concert-wise, in country music nowadays are Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw. Personally, I wouldn’t pay a dime to see either one, but that’s just me.

Country music has changed a lot. I’m not exactly sure when that happened, but I think it was sometime in the late ’90’s. Cuz I was going along, happy as could be, listening to country radio; then all of a sudden something changed on me. I was content listening to George Strait and Diamond Rio and Mark Chesnutt, and then things got really out of hand. I blame Faith Hill. Not for any particular reason; she just happens to be my scapegoat of the moment. But I seem to remember that she had one of her interchangeable songs on the radio, and the DJ’s were discussing it and talking about how it really wasn’t country, and lo and behold, it did cross over. And then everyone jumped on the bandwagon and changed country music from country to “pap”. And that’s where they lost me.

The trouble is, it’s not even good pap. It’s crap. Oh, you can look back on some of the pop songs of the ’60’s and say, “Well, that song was just a bit of fluff”, but I guarantee you, whatever song it was, it was 100% better than the stuff that’s being played on country radio right now. Anyone who claims to be a country fan right now is to be pitied. Because they have no clue what real music is like, and in their naivete, they actually think that what they’re hearing is GOOD music. It’s a real shame. I pity the fools.

So, that leads me to the topic at hand - a REAL entertainer.

When I was about 5 or 6 years old, my mom took me to my first concert ever. It was at the Grand Forks Armory, and the entertainer was MARTY ROBBINS. Obviously, I have scant memory of that time, but I do remember some aspects of that concert. I remember that he really had a good time — he had a couple of guys who sang harmony with him on some of his songs, and he brought them up to the mic and he was goofing around with the guys, making the audience laugh, but still he never lost sight of the song, and he performed it magnificently. I will venture a guess and say that the song was “El Paso”.

When the concert was over, Marty sat at a table and signed autographs. My mom tried to kind of push me up to the table to get a signature, but I was shy, even at that age, so I refused to go.

So, with my rudimentary math, I am estimating that this was 1960 or 1961.

So, fast forward a few years, with the advent of cable TV and The Nashville Network, and it was possible to see Marty on the tube quite regularly.

The thing that struck me about Marty was his JOY of performing. He would sit at the piano and do his songs with that soulful voice that he possessed, but yet he would have these asides that he would throw at the band members, saying silently that this wasn’t rocket science; this was FUN. This man loved to entertain. He lived to entertain. He wanted people to have fun. He understood that this was ENTERTAINMENT. He had those white Nudie suits with the rhinestones; he had that handlebar mustache. He was HOT.

In the late ’70’s, I got another chance to see Marty in concert. I think it was the late ’70’s because I remember having two young children that I brought along with me, as well as my mom and dad. This was the Red River Valley Fair in Fargo. The seats weren’t the best; we were kind of far back. But there he was, in his white rhinestone suit with that white piano, and did he work the crowd! He was hilarious. He interacted with people in the front row. He made gentle, but funny jokes at their expense. He made fun of himself. This was a man who knew what it meant to PERFORM. And he loved it and we knew it.

I think I may have some pictures somewhere of that concert. I’ve seen a lot of concerts in my day, and I’ve forgotten a lot of them. This one, I remember.

It wasn’t long after that concert that Marty passed away. He was in his prime. Mid-fifties, I think. The last song of Marty’s I remember being played on the radio was, “Some Memories Just Won’t Die”. Fitting.

Anyone who claims to love country music should go to YouTube and look for Marty Robbins videos. Take a look at how a REAL entertainer entertains. I’m not even going to go into his superb songwriting abilities, nor his beautiful voice. What I remember about Marty Robbins is, he loved to entertain. He understood his audience.

He was a one-of-a-kind.

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