Real Country Music
Little David Wilkins
Private Party/Marriot Ball Room
November 10, 2012
When Houston area real estate developer decides to throw a party, he throws a party. Tonight, the event was meant to celebrate his wife’s birthday. And I would think it’s safe to say she enjoyed the event. Besides, it would be hard to believe that anyone would not enjoy such a fuss being made over them. Thanks to Little David, my wife and I were able to join the festivities.
The evening began with a catered meal of salad, vegetables, and steak and chicken, and desserts. And I was happy to find that all the courses were better than many of the catered meals you’ll usually find served in a hotel ballroom setting. At our table, we enjoyed the company of the soon to be ex-Sheriff of Fort Bend County and his wife, along with a few Fort Bend County deputies. The music had not started and we were already having a good time due to the food and company.
But it wasn’t long until the staff began collecting the dishes. With a few minutes to go before show time, we found some drinks at the cash bar, and turned our chairs toward the stage.
Earlier, when we first arrived at the hotel, we had a chance to say a quick hello to Little David. Besides the expected exchange of pleasantries, I asked if he could play some of my favorites from his catalogue such as “Let’s Do Something”, or “The Greatest Show On Earth”. I’ll admit I was disappointed by his no, but I understood his reason that with someone else’s rhythm section he might have to stick with a set list of standards.
But my disappointment didn’t last long, once David began. He ran through most of his biggest hits, and even with a different drummer and bass player, sounded as good as you would hope. “One Monkey...” and “Butterbeans” led to “Georgia Keeps Pulling On My Ring” and “Whoever Turned You On (Forgot To Turn You Off), the latter two being among some his most solid country material. Other originals included “Coming On Strong” and “Too Much Hold Back”. For good measure, he threw in the almost autobiographical “Boogie Woogie Man” from his soon to be released new CD.
Listening to his set, I caught myself wondering again why his name was never bigger. His two most noted hits, “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show”, and “Butterbeans” have a bit of novelty about them. And I have about decided that that may just be the reason. Promotion as a somewhat novelty act kept his hardcore Country side a bit overshadowed. While “One Monkey…”, and a few more like it, found a place on the chart his more timeless tracks were under promoted and left waiting to be discovered. And that’s a shame, since songs like “Georgia…” and “Whoever Turned You On”, are just as good as, if not better, than most of what we remember from the 70’s.
And even when we went into the covers for the last half of his set, the songs still took on the feel captured by Ray Charles, and/or Jerry Lee Lewis, when they approached standards. Which I shouldn’t even have to say was just fine by me! And it was more than pleasant seeing Little David as he flew through standards like “You Win Again”with ease.
Now… if someone would just pry those Owen Bradley produced albums away from MCA, and release them as box set, and give some promoters a bit more to go by, maybe you could also get a chance to see him live. I think you’d like it.
After a quick rearrangement of the stage, Johnny Lee’s band started into Chris Young’s new single “Neon”. This absolutely made sense due to how Johnny Lee is name checked in the song. And then out walks the man “Urban Cowboy” made famous. With a silver goatee instead of his trademark full beard, it hit me that, yes, it’s been that long since the movie was released.
And Johnny seems well aware that without the movie he might not have ever reached the heights that he was able to reach in the early 80’s. Several times, before and during certain songs he made remarks that show how he is clear that his career stands no chance of escaping the movie and the soundtrack. In fact, my favorite moments of the night might have been Johnny yelling out “I love you Sissy” during songs made famous by the film.
And all his hits were included in his set. “Pickin Up Strangers”, “Cherokee Fiddle”, “One In A Million”, “When You Fall In Love”, “Bet Your Heart On Me”, “Prisoner of Hope”, “Sounds Like Love”, “Be There For Me Baby”, “Hey Bartender”, “You Could’ve Heard A Broken Heart”, along with others were delivered in a voice still smooth and plenty strong. Oh, yes, “Lookin For Love” was played….twice.
Most surprising to me, was his take of “Can I Have This Dance For The Rest Of My Life”. It’s a perfect choice for him to cover and definitely the best version of the song this side of Anne Murray.
Being alive when Johnny was at the top, I grew up saturated with his music. I had heard his voice so much that I, honestly, wasn’t that excited about seeing his set. Before the night I was really interested more in seeing Little David.
But by the end of Johnny’s set, I became convinced that with a few years passing since his peak he’s another one that demands more respect than he’s currently being given.
I am supposed to visit with Johnny soon, and I’m looking forward to it. And why shouldn’t I? Johnny, tonight, showed himself to be in perfectly fine voice, and showed he’s capable of filling a dance floor. And he showed that rare skill of working the crowd from the stage with skill and humor.
Way back when, I thought he might have been one of those artists who just happened to be at the right place, at the right time, to benefit from a trend. Thinking back on tonight, I think it’s probably more accurate to say that he had quite a hand in building what was to become. In other words, he didn’t adopt a trend, the trend found him.
All and all, it was a really good night of music and company made possible by Little David Wilkins, and our host John Hamilton. Thank You to both.
(photos courtesy of Molly Fabian-Hack)