It was July 17, 1977. I only know the date because when I tried to find some information on this show, I came across a couple of unused tickets for sale on eBay, and Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn were the headliners at a concert at Fresno’s Convention Center Theatre. Oddly, Eddie Rabbit is listed as the only opening act on the ticket, but the show also included Emmylou Harris and, believe it or not, Will Ackerman, the founder of Windham Hill records.
When I proudly announced to my soon to be used to be that I had tickets to the show, she shook her head in amazement.
“Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn?” she sputtered. “Have you completely lost your mind?”
I responded I wanted to see Harris because she had a great voice. Besides, she used to hang with Gram Parsons, of the Flying Burrito Brothers and the International Submarine Band fame, and she sang harmony on Parson’s first solo album, which I absolutely loved. He was an unofficial member of the Byrds, and the man Keith Richards said was responsible for renewing the Rolling Stones’ interest in American country music.
In fact, Parsons quit the Byrds mid-tour in England to chum around with Richards after the Byrds released “Sweetheart of the
Rodeo,” the seminal West Coast country-rock masterpiece that showed the way and opened the door for the whole California country thing and bands such as The Eagles, Poco, Buffalo Springfield, etc. Who can forget his classic songs, “Hickory Wind,” “Hot Burrito No. 1,” “Sin City” and “Devil in Disguise?”
Then, of course, there’s his untimely death and the crazy aftermath, but that’s a whole other story. Clarence White and his newly invented B-bender Fender Telecaster replaced Parsons in the Byrds, but that’s really another story.
Anyway, Ackerman put on an alternate tuning clinic as one might expect, and he was great. Likewise for Rabbit – great singer, great songs, great rhythmic guitar moves and a wonderful performance. I loved Harris, her long hair, her floor-length dress, her wonderful singing and that big, old Gibson J-200. I got my $6 worth (admission price) and more, that’s for sure. When Conway and Loretta took the stage, I was dumbstruck.
Even though I never, ever imagined I could enjoy a performance by these folks, they were absolutely fantastic.
Of course, Twitty began his musical career as a rock and roll artist, often compared with Elvis. Remember his 1958 hit, “It’s Only Make Believe?” How about his band, The Twitty Birds?
Ah, and Lynn — who could forget those hits, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” “Don’t Come Home A Drinkin’ With Lovin’ On Your Mind,” and “You Ain’t Woman Enough To Take My Man” — just to name a few of her 16 number one smashes. She released her first record in 1960, became the first female country artist to sell 500,000 records and eventually rose to be Grand Ole Opry royalty.
Yep, and Conway and Loretta churned out a string of hits themselves, including “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man” and “Oh, Darlin.” OK, “As Soon As I Hang Up The Phone,” may be a little hard to endure, but ya gotta smile at “You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly,” come on!
Oh, my, my. It was all country, chickenpickin’ cornpone at its very finest, and I walked out of there bellowing, “Louisiana woman, Mississippi man, we get together every chance we can.” My soon to be used to be hiked up her skirt and ran as far ahead of me as she could get like she didn’t know me from Adam.
You know, Lynn, 85, suffered a stroke recently, and I hope you’ll join me in sending a little prayer and few well wishes to one of country music’s fantastic songwriters whose music over the decades has become a part of our lives.