STORY : Ken Spooner / PHOTOS : Anne Spooner
MEDLEY3 FOR GEORGE IV Arranged & Performed By Ken Spooner
SONGS : A ROSE & A BABY RUTH - John D. Loudermilk
WHY DON'T THEY UNDERSTAND- Joe Henderson
ABILINE - Bob Gibson, John D. Loudermilk
EVEN THO - Willie Jones, Curt Peeples, Webb Pierce
I have played a lot of shows, concerts, dances what have you, since my first gig in April of 1961. Big places, Small places, Famous places like The Peppermint Lounge in NYC and infamous dives like The Boogaloo where while escaping the full fledged fight going on inside, I had to DIVE under my car with guitar in hand to avoid the bullets flying in the parking lot! Over 53 years of performing, I've done TV, Radio, and even THE RYMAN AUDITORIUM !!! ..... just when you think you've done it all, along comes something like Viva NashVegas, but the thing is , there isn't very much like the Viva NashVega Radio Show. The closest thing to it, I can recall was the The Chili Shack Show, that I used to do in my early years in Nashville.
I took in my first Viva show just a few months ago when my new pal, good old Thom Bresh aka "The Breshman" was the featured guest. If you never seen Thom work live, put him on your bucket list. You can get a good idea of what he does at Bresh Digital TV on you tube. Even before the show got underway, I knew I wanted to play it sometime, the vibe is great and it's really FUN. VIVA NASHVEGAS is the brainchild of George Hamilton V, an artist I met around seven years ago, and the son of recording artist and legendary Grand Old Opry star George Hamilton IV, who I first became aware of 57 years ago and met 27 years ago. That story of George IV & me from way way back is located here
After Thom's show, we hung out there and I got reaquainted with George V and met his lovely wife Lillian, who co produces this Olde Tyme Extravaganza. I told George I'd love to play VIVA NASHVEGAS sometime. He said sure, I'll be in touch. Well there's a saying that I think is attributed to John Lennon, "Life is what happens to you when your making other plans" Somewhat ironically I am writing this story on the evening of December 8th, 34 years after I was doing a live radio show on station WMNF in Tampa, Florida, when the news came across the teletype that John Lennon was murdered in front of his apartment house in NYC. I recall changing my last song of the evening and playing Pete Seeger's "Where Have All The Flowers Gone" instead.
It wasn't a week after I took in that show Sept 3 , that the Life is what happens meme, took a very dark turn on the Hamilton Family and the incredible amount of friends and fans of George IV worldwide, because Even Tho, he was as fit and trim as any 77 year old gentleman has a right to be, he suffered a severe heart attack and only survived for about another week. It was Guitarslinger, Thom Bresh or Bluegrass Bassist, Jere Cherryholmes, who said to me, "Who would of ever thought, someone as laid back as George Hamilton IV, could have a heart attack?" I think I replied with a line I have been living by ever since I heard it over two decades ago . "You Want To Make GOD laugh?.... tell him your plans for tomorrow"
At George's memorial service held at the Ryman on September 23, George V told me he was planning to do a VIVA show dedicated to his father in early December and could I play "Why Don't They Understand" on the show on my 12 String guitar. My reply was something like " That would be an honor, George, a true honor. And so with that in mind, I started preparing for it. The medley you are listening to, is what I came up when I made my debut this past Saturday, December 6th 2014.
The reason I put "Why Don't They Understand" into an instrumental medley is, because the featured guest on the Song Salute to George Hamilton IV, was none other than John D. Loudermilk. a true legend of a songwriter, who besides writing dozens of hits for all types of arists, was instrumental in several of George IVs biggest hits, like the million seller "A Rose and Baby Ruth" , "Break My Mind", "Abeline" and a great friend to George for over 60 years., For me, there was instrumental connections I had to his work, having played his signature guitar instrumental, Windy & Warm for over 52 years now, having sang for the very first time (instead of just playing with my high school dance combo) , well over 51 years ago ,"A Rose & A Baby Ruth" , and then there was folk legend Bob Gibson , a writer who along with John D created George IV's signature song Abilene. I developed a strong connection way back during the folk era with Bob and like Roger McGuinn of The Byrds and many others, got hooked on 12 String guitars because of him, In the 1980s Bob & I actually became friends and even wrote some songs together. As a capper, add in the fact that the first time I ever met George V who I call Gee Vee around 2008, one of the people we talked about besides his Dad was... Bob Gibson. The first meeting I had with John D. Loudermilk and his lovely wife Susan, just a few months ago, right after the Ryman memorial concert for George IV we also talked about Bob Gibson.... then Susan brought Connie Smith !! a Country Hall Of Fame member over to meet me, just because I knew Bob Gibson! .... So Suddenly these three songs took on multi definitions to me of the word INSTRUMENTAL.
Now knowing there would probably be a large amount of players on this show, thereby limiting stage time. I set out with a lot of dilligence to arrange the three tunes in a short medley, also hoping to surprise Viva' s ringmaster George V, who constantly surprises everyone, both performers and his audience with his whirlwind dervish stage craft, antics and his impromptu lightning fast mind,
that throws one liners and puns around the stage like confetti. And true to his nature, it was George V who gave me an 11th hour surprise, when asked heme that instead of just playing Why Don't They Understand, could I instead accompany NashVegas cast regular Carol Ann Turney, who truly has an angelic voice. I said of course I could, I would love to. But now I had to reveal my little surprise early and tell him what I had been rehearsing and arranging for weeks and really would of despaired to scrap it. The simple solution was... LET'S DO THEM BOTH , after all the average Viva NashVegas Radio Show runs two hours. That's "WHY" I got to go on first and much later do a reprise with Carol Ann at the shows windup... UNDERSTAND ? . I also came up with another surprise for Gee Vee , but more about that later. Now it is ....
DAVE SPAULDING & WILL COVINGTON, GEORGE' S CO - HOSTS & WINGMEN
David aka "A Man Of Constant Leisure" , has a great announcers voice and a strong sense of showmanship. Will Covington is Mr. Laidback with a persona that cojures up some of the Mayberry Mellowness that used to exist when Andy & Barney would sit around and talk in the evening. These guys are a show unto themselves.
WAITING TO GO ON...AS THE AUDIENCE GETS PRE FLIGHT INSTRUCTIONS FROM WILL RE: APPLAUSE, (THE MULTI CLAP SIGNS GO UP EARLY & OFTEN THROUGHOUT THE SHOW) OTHER COVINGTON CAUTIOINARYS & TIMELY TIPS ARE; CELL PHONES OFF, WHERE THE EXITS ARE,WHERE THE BATHROOMS ARE , DO NOT USE YOUR SEAT FOR A FLOATATION DEVICE ! IT'S GONNA BE A FUN FLIGHT , SO BUCKLE UP & ENJOY YOURSELVES
GEORGE DOES FUN INTERVIEWS AND ALWAYS MAKES YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE. HE IS A WHOLE LOT LIKE HIS DAD
MEDDLING THROUGH A MINE FIELD , WHILE DAVE MOODY & DAVE SPAULDING LOOK ON
AND MY BREAKFAST SHOWN COVERED UP IN THE FOREGROUND, GETS COLD. THE 12 STRING HAS THE REPUTATION OF BEING A FINGER BUSTER & PLAYING A TUNE LIKE WHY DON'T THEY UNDERSTAND, WHICH WAS WRITTEN ON PIANO BY JOE "MR. PIANO" HENDERSON IS ASKING FOR TROUBLE.
COUPLE THAT WITH THERE WAS NO TIME FOR A SOUND CHECK ... IT WAS LET HER GO BOYS, AND SO I DID, STUMBLING ABOUT 3/4s OF THE WAY THROUGH, WHEN A VERY SQUEAKY DOOR ALONG WITH A SPOTLIGHT IN MY EYES DISTRACTED ME & MADE MY FINGERS LAND ONE FRET AWAY WAY UP ON THE NECK DURING A TRANSITION.
I WAS SAVED BY THE CLAP SIGNS, THE GRACE OF GEORGE IV's SPIRIT AND A LIFE LINE I LEARNED FROM JETHRO BURNS YEARS AGO... . WHEN YOU HIT A CLAM & CAN RECTIFY IT ....YELL OUT
JOHN D. LOUDERMILK
AKA Johnny Dee, Who chose not to perform this day, but regaled us with stories about his sixty year friendship with George IV. Looking on is his wife Susan and Jimmy Moore a legendary Nashville Music Industry photographer.
John and Susan's son Mike proceeded to turn the place upside down, with his fire on the frets guitar pyro technics. He took his Dad's tune Windy & Warm into the Tropical Heat Zone.
PETER COOPER & AL "That kid from Brooklyn" GOLL aka Mr. Dobro
DAVID SCOTT & PETER COOPER
Multi talented Peter, cooled things down a bit after Mike, with a fine rendition of Ten Degrees & Getting Colder, one of the several Gordon Lightfoot songs George IV recorded over the years. Then later he returned to the stage with magician David Scott, who was wearing an IV armband. Photo below shows George IV & Gordon in the recording studio around 1965.
ANNE E. DeCHANT
George IV had a strong bent for Canadian songwriters and was one of the first Americans singers to record their tunes, including being the very first person to record Joni Mitchell's "Urge For Going" which was rendered magically here by Anne.
CAROL ANN TURNEY
There is never a shortage of Fair & Tender Ladies at VIVA , and cast regular Carol Ann is singing proof of it. Here she is rendering the timeless folk ballad "Come All Ye Fair And Tender Ladies"
All songs performed were at one time done by George IV, who had great taste in the material he chose. Ralph McTell's "STREETS OF LONDON" was certainly no exception. It was a staple in my songbag way back in the 70's, and Even Tho I hadn't sang that one since, I found myself singing it along with Kathryn and not having to even think of one word. It was a magical day.
David is one fine guitarist and singer and all around entertainer. He told a very funny story of what it was like to tour in eastern European countries with George IV back when the iron curtain was still hanging over them. It was a rainy day Saturday, but the sun was shining bright in Kimbro's Cafe as David rendered a my t fine arrangement of another great Lightfoot song George IV recorded " IN THE EARLY MORNING RAIN"
CREATING SOME UNDERSTANDING OF THE MYSTERY OF LIFE
Carol Ann sang WHY... like she knew it all her life. We had just one run through back stage and I knew it was gonna fly. What a thrill it was to play it with her, and to perform it for the one person in the audience, who I knew it had to mean the most to ... Mrs. Adelaide Peyton Hamilton , who was engaged to George IV back when the song was on the top of the charts in December of 1957 They were married in June 1958.
"TINK" aka Mrs. George Hamilton IV
A LITTLE LEVITY TO LIGHTEN THE MOOD
I SURPRISED THE HECK OUT GEE VEE WHEN I HANDED HIM A LEAF BAG WITH THIS SIGN IN IT THAT I MADE FOR HIM
THIS WAS MY WIFE ANNE'S FIRST TIME TO EXPERIENCE VIVA IN PERSON . SHE TOOK ALL THESE FINE PHOTOS
WINDING IT DOWN ARE GEORGE , TOM COMET & AL GOLL
George performed his fantastic tune WE WILL MEET AGAIN , a tune he often did with his Dad, and I sure hope to get to do it with him someday.
I have the video of the IV & V doing it on a TV Show located here.
THE CRAWDAD SONGSTERS
We all gathered to sing ABELINE one more time and the traditional Viva NashVegas closer THE CRAWDAD song
You can watch the whole shebang as it went down here on the Viva Stream .The Show runs over two hours, but will be broken down into smaller segements and on VIVA NASHVEGAS RADIO ARCHIVES on YouTube soon. I find the youtube video and audio to be of higher quality
SOME SCENES FROM AFTER THE SHOW
It was a major thrill to sit and talk with John D for a spell. Oh the stories he can tell!
AND HERE IS A BIT OF WHY WE ALL GATHERED THIS DAY TO HONOR A TRUE COUNTRY GENTLEMAN
GEORGE HAMILTON IV
GEORGE HAMILTON IV
THE RYMAN MEMORIAL TO GEORGE
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