On March 31, 2006, a benefit concert was held in Poplar Bluff to raise funds for the Missouri State Troopers Association. The fund, which helps support the families of state troopers killed in the line of duty, was held at the Black River Coliseum in historic downtown Poplar Bluff. With only about 200 advanced ticket sales, the crowd that was expected was small – about 350 people, but they were all more than eager to see the show.
Headlining the show was country music legend Gene Watson, who brought with him 3 opening acts. The first opening act was an 18 year old singer named Hannah Turner. Musically, Hannah displayed quite a bit of talent, but her lack of polish and experience did show. I am sure with a few more years under her belt along with some hard work, that Miss Turner could be a household name. I was also impressed when she brought two little local girls, four and five years old, up on the stage to dance with her during her rendition of Sara Evans’ “Suds In the Bucket”. I will also mention that Hannah’s wardrobe definitely needed rethought. Her bell bottoms glowed eerie yellow and magenta tones that surely would have put her to the top of every “worst-dressed list” if she was already a superstar.
Second on the card was Charlie Louvin, the remaining half of the legendary Louvin Brothers duo. Charlie wowed us with his songs and charmed us with his funny jokes and stories. Being that Charlie Louvin is a country music legend that has graced the famous Grand Ole Opry numerous times, I was surprised that he performed earlier on the card, before the unrecognizable newcomer, TJ Nelson.
When TJ Nelson appeared on stage, I really expected something fantastic. After all, the back stage area was buzzing with his entourage all clad in TJ Nelson t-shirts and singing his praises. I rationalized that if the promoters of the concert actually deemed this artist so good that he got to privilege to play after the great Charlie Louvin, he must be some breathtaking vocal talent whose name I just haven’t heard of yet. Mr. Nelson was an embarrassment to the rest of the musical genius that graced the stage that night. He was consistently off-key. He lacked any sort of stage presence and lulled the crowd to sleep; so much so that most of his songs didn’t even receive any sort of applause from three-quarters of the audience. The only amusement I got from his performance was when he forgot the words to one of his original songs that is going to appear on his new album due out at the end of summer. Luckily, the band, the same one used by both Charlie Louvin and Hannah Turner, saved him when the guitar player filled him in on the forgotten lyrics and the other musicians kept playing in stride to cover up the mishap. I am still amazed that this man put out an album in the first place, let alone that someone thought he was good enough for a repeat venture.
Gene Watson appeared to the stage with his own band and enough energy to wake the crowd up from their nap. He had the crowd toe-tapping and to their feet by the end of the very first song. While his lengthy monologues between songs were not as amusing as Charlie Louvin’s anecdotes, the crowd forgave him with every heart-felt tune that he belted out. While all of Gene’s songs were sung well, two in particular really shined above the rest. The first was “You Gave Me A Mountain This Time”, a song written by Marty Robbins and made famous when it was sung by the late great Elvis Presley; the second was Gene’s signature song, “Farewell Party”, that made the small but excited crowd sound like the entire coliseum was full.
Overall, the concert was proof that after decades of making music, that legends like Charlie Louvin and Gene Watson can still entertain the young and old as well as, if not better, than the country music singers of today.