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Country and bluegrass music filled the Farris Theatre when Mary Lou Baker and Friends played to a crowd of 400 on Sunday, April 19.
This show was a benefit for the Children’s Miracle Network. In October, Mary Lou and some of the same performers raised more than $2,000 for the American Cancer Society.
The opening song was “Love’s Gonna Live Here Again,” and Mary Lou put her heart and soul into it as she always does. That led the way to an enjoyable afternoon of live country and bluegrass music.
Sharing jokes, introducing the band and performers, Mary Lou had an instant connection with the audience, many of whom have known her for years.
The atmosphere was relaxed and neighborly, just the way Mary Lou and the band like it. It was more like just a good old ‘down home’ get-together.
From acoustic music featuring some fancy fiddle playing by Bill Warner and Jody Bowman, to the merry mandolin by Glen Jenkins, to the ‘electric’ portion, the audience continually joined in with the performers laughing at jokes, singing along and tapping their feet. Clint Easley tickled the ivories on the baby grand piano with “Unchained Melody” as an added bonus.
Performers included Walt Wiegand, Norman Martin, Bill Warner, Glen Jenkins, Caroline Rogers, John Gresham, Brenda Bennett, Ellie Stigall, Allison Haynes, Roscoe Sexton, Jody and Judy Bowman, Bonnie Skalland, Clint Easley, Willie Summers, Richard Hulse, Mary Caton, Gary Arnold, John Sharp, Raelyn Rucker, Clyde Charles, Rick Horn, Aly Weber and Bill Fricke.
The numbers selected were as much of a variety as the performers themselves, representing traditional to modern country and bluegrass.
Whenever there’s musicians gathered, there’s going to be some stories shared. When John Sharp prepared to sing Hank Williams’ “Kalija,” there was story behind that song. Hank himself was at Sharp’s house many years ago and sang a song he’d ‘just written.’ After hearing it, Sharp told others, “He wrote a song about a wooden Indian! He’s going to fall flat on his face!” This wasn’t Sharp’s only elbow rubbin’ with the stars. He has opened for such stars as Waylon Jennings and Doug Kershaw.
The show lasted nearly three hours, and the audience was very appreciative. Richard Hulse was pleased with the turn out and that they were able to raise $2,159.24 for Children’s Miracle Network.
Of course, no show could go on without the songwriters and lyricists, the musicians and technicians, the performers or the theater staff. Hulse also wished to thank, “the 25 businesses that donated money to offset production costs for the programs, the theater and the advertising.”
“Everybody did so much. The fact that so many were more than happy to come on the show – I couldn’t get them all on,” said Mary Lou. “It’s just overwhelming the response we got, and we thank our audience too.”
As their program stated, “But most of all, to our audience – without you we would not be here, and without us you would not be here…so we need each other.”
Photo: Jody Bowman, left, and Bill Warner play the fiddle together onstage at the Farris Theatre last week as part of the Mary Lou Baker and Friends show (Submitted photo)