I went to my first country concert fifty years ago with my Dad seeing the Singer Ranger Hank Snow perform live in Kitchener, Ontario. Afterwards, I distinctly remember staring all the way home at Hank's signature on the albums we purchased, which were a cherished part of our collection for many years.
I have been fortunate over the past six decades to attend many concerts and be entertained by most of the legends of country music. A favourite artist has always been Dolly Parton. The first time I saw Dolly in concert was in September 1971 at The Western Fair in London, Ontario with my Uncle Ron & Aunt Winnie (who was a even bigger country fan than me. Aunt Win was in the crowd at the London Gardens in 1968 the night Johnny proposed to June!) At the fair, Dolly was performing as part of the Porter Wagoner Show, singing lots of great duets and some of her own songs like The Coat of Many Colors.
In the mid eighties, next time I attended a Dolly concert was in Edmonton as part of the sell out mega tour with Kenny Rogers and Sawyer Brown.
I had the pleasure to meet Dolly backstage in 1989 when she performed at the Jubilee Auditorium in Calgary. Dolly in person is just like she is on stage...down to earth, funny and sweetest person you'd ever want to meet.
Thanks to my good friend Jim Cressman and his Marketing & Artist Relations Director, David Langley from Invictus Entertainment, the show promoter for the current Cross Canada...Dolly Pure & Simple Tour, I was graciously provided a ticket to review tonight's Calgary concert for Rodeo Country.
Not much changed in my twenty seven year break between Dolly performances and that is a good thing. The Saddledome was transformed tonight into a two and half hour plus family reunion with Dolly holding court telling stories and singing songs about her family and life set to music from a fifty year career in country music. Dolly told of her love for her mommy and daddy and eleven brothers and sisters grown up in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Then telling about leaving on a bus the night after high school graduation bound for a career in music in Nashville, vowing not to return home until she achieved stardom.
With the sparse but superb backing of a trio of musicians, Dolly together with the their acoustic backing surprised many in the audience as her musical talents were showcased on fiddle, banjo, autoharp, dulicmer, guitars, grand piano and saxophone.
Throughout the concert Dolly easily moved from storytelling, poking fun at her trashy looks to showcase a wide variety of musical styles from down home mountain country, to a 60's protest tribute done in a Peter Paul & Mary style (highlighted by a show stopping take on The Night The Drove Old Dixie Down) to the mega hits Here You Come Again, Nine to Five & Islands in the Stream.
Dolly's encore was I Will Always Love You for which she talked about for the love for what the she does and the love for her fans.. Without a doubt, the love for Dolly Parton is mutual and universal.
Hurry back, Dolly....here's hoping it's much sooner the next time.