My first major league concert was to see Brenda Lee perform in Houston when I was in the seventh grade in 1959. My daddy and mama took me to see her because I loved her songs and her singing when I was thirteen years old living in a small rural town in Grimes County near the Sam Houston National Forest deep in the Piney Woods of southeast Texas. I was raised on gospel music concerts in singing conventions at Bays Chapel Baptist Church on Sunday afternoons following dinner on the grounds. Good quartet singing with different relatives participating, good piano playing by the greatest gospel piano player of all time Charlie Taliaferro.
I can’t imagine either one of my parents spending money to buy the tickets – much less driving me nearly 80 miles from Richards to Houston for the Brenda Lee concert unless they had planned a side trip to the Bargain Gusher to look for clothes for work. What I remember most about my first concert experience was the large number of strings hanging from Brenda’s petticoats. We must have had binoculars; she must have been without a wardrobe person that night.
Through the years my memories of musical concert experiences include Neil Diamond, Elton John, Diana Ross, Dolly and Kenny, Dolly by herself, the Judds (twice), Cher, K.T. Oslin, Bette Midler, Patti LaBelle, Cynthia Clawson (in church – does that count?), Willie Nelson (twice), Nancy Griffith, Alison Kraus, Melissa Etheridge, the Indigo Girls and the infamous Prince concert for my 65th. birthday. Infamous because Prince was one of Pretty’s favorites – we had great tickets, but I listened from the steps of an exit at the Colonial Life Arena – the decibels were intended for younger ears than mine.
What I think about today, however, are the two performers I had the opportunity to see but passed on for whatever lame reason I had at the time: Elvis and Tina Turner. For the life of me I find these two blanks on my concert cards the most troubling since Elvis’s Golden Records released in 1958 was the first lp album I ever owned. My grandmother’s sister, my Aunt Dessie from Houston, gave the album to me because she knew I had a portable turn table in a small square blue box that would play it. She was right – I played that album over and over again. Thank goodness the turn table was sturdy.
Elvis was the young man with sideburns who promised to spend his whole life through loving you which I interpreted as loving me, but he was then drafted into the Army during the Korean War. I couldn’t believe the government was that cruel when Elvis sang they shouldn’t be. Yes, Elvis, the man whose musical career I followed throughout his life from sex symbol to husky size. He made sixteen personal appearances in Houston between 1954 and 1976, but I saw Brenda Lee.
Elvis also sang one concert at the Carolina Coliseum here in Columbia on February 18, 1977…six months before he died. I remember thinking I ought to go since I lived within 15 minutes of the coliseum – but opted to wait for a later time that was not to be. As for Tina Turner – what was happening in my life that would prevent my attending her concerts at that same Carolina Coliseum in 1985 or 1987 or 1993? Pretty told me she saw Tina with her sister Darlene at the 1985 concert – in her BS (before Sheila) years. That’s Pretty for you – naturally she wouldn’t want to miss Tina’s hits like What’s Love Got to Do With It?, Private Dancer, Nutbush City Limits, We Don’t Need Another Hero, and my all-time favorite of favorites Proud Mary. Clearly I missed the Tina personal appearance boat, but wait. All was not lost.
Thanks to the 21st. century miracles of You Tube videos I’ve had the best seat in the house at Tina Turner’s concerts in Barcelona, London, Amsterdam, Rio – I’ve joined tens of thousands of fans at some of the largest venues in the world. I’ve drooled as I watched Tina perform Proud Mary with Beyonce at the Grammy Awards – and shed a tear during a special performance of Simply the Best on the intimate set of the Oprah Winfrey Show for Oprah’s 50th. birthday celebration where she and Tina embraced after they danced together. Oh yeah, I’ve seen Tina in concerts, in interviews, in a documentary of her life – the good news is I can watch her whenever I want to, as often as I like and not have to worry about the person in front of me being too tall.
Pretty indulges my Tina time with a smile of understanding, even encouragement. She still owes me for Prince.
As for the old Elvis You Tube experience, count Pretty out.
Stay safe, stay sane, please get vaccinated and stay tuned.