Ramblin’ Rhodes: Opry star Conlee ‘Busted’ for helping others

Grand Ole Opry star John Conlee will perform at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26, at the Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center in Evans. SPECIAL

Don’t be surprised on Sunday, Feb. 26, when John Conlee starts singing his 1982 hit Busted, to see audience members in Evans get up and start putting money on the stage in front of him.

 

That’s been happening to the Grand Ole Opry star since the summer of 1989 when out of the blue that happened for the first time. Some of the lyrics to the Harlan Howard-penned song about a guy down on his luck go:

“The bills are all due and my baby needs shoes but I’m busted. Cotton is down to a quarter a pound but I’m busted. I got a cow that’s gone dry and a hen that won’t lay; a big stack of bills that get bigger each day. The county’s gonna haul my belongings away. I’m busted.”

If you haven’t heard Conlee’s version of the song, you probably have heard the versions by Buck Owens or Ray Charles.

In 1989 at a fair in California, Conlee was going through his show as usual when he launched into Busted. It had become a Top 10 single hit for him in 1982, the year after he had become a member of the Grand Ole Opry show cast.

For some reason, some member of that audience decided to put some money on the stage most likely as a joke. And others followed suit at that fair and other shows.

Conlee decided not to keep the money but to find a good use for it and contacted Larry Jones, founder of the Feed The Children organization based in Oklahoma City, Okla.

The native of Versailles, Ky., and former funeral home embalmer, according to the website the boot.com, subsequently continued to help Feed The Children to the tune of more than $235,000.

And beginning in 2008, Conlee began splitting half of his collections to Feed The Children and half to help military men and women through Wounded Warrior and other service help organizations.

So go hear the Opry star sing his hits like Rose Colored Glasses, Miss Emily’s Picture, Years After You, Mama’s Rocking Chair, Lady Lay Down (Beside Me), Friday Night Blues and I’m Only In It For The Love at 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26, at the Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center. Tickets are $35 and $25. Call (800) 965-9324 or buy online at itickets.com.

And when he gets to the point in his show when he introduces Busted, have your bills ready to help him out with those children who need feeding, military veterans who need your help and, of course, that cow who went dry and that hen who won’t lay.

SONNY CURTIS’ OTHER TIE TO AUGUSTA: You may recall that a couple of weeks ago I wrote that Nashville, Tenn.,-based songwriter and singer Sonny Curtis was among the first performers in the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center (now James Brown Arena) on Dec. 14, 1979, as part of Waylon Jennings’ touring show.

Curtis, who grew up with Buddy Holly in Meadow, Texas, about 20 miles from Lubbock, wrote the Love Is All Around theme for The Mary Tyler Moore Show and is heard singing it every episode.

Out of curiosity, I emailed my column to Curtis and asked whether Moore had ever visited Nashville during the four years she owned MTM Records, which released hit singles by artists such as Holly Dunn, The Girls Next Door, Judy Rodman, Becky Hobbs and Paul Overstreet.

“Thanks for doing the article and sending it to me,” Curtis wrote back. “As far as I know, Mary Tyler Moore didn’t visit Nashville.

“In the fall of 1960, I spent almost three months in Augusta at Fort Gordon before going to France for a year and a half. I have bittersweet memories of that time. I love Augusta. Can’t say the same for Fort Gordon.”

As if that isn’t enough impressive, it turns out that Curtis wrote The Everly Brothers’ classic hit Walk Right Back (To Me This Minute) while stationed for basic training in Fort Ord, Calif.

Don and Phil Everly recorded the song right after Curtis was transferred to Fort Gordon, and it was released the first day Curtis landed in France.

OK, so now it’s up to someone with connections at the base to get Curtis back to Augusta to show him how much Fort Gordon has changed for the better since his military service there.

Shows Not to Miss:

Country duo Walker McGuire consisting of Texas-reared Jordan Walker and Kansas native Johnny McGuire on Friday, Feb. 24, at the Country Club Dance Hall &Saloon, 2834 Washington Road.

Walker has described their music saying, “If you took Keith Whitley and Tom Petty and intersected them at Matchbox 20, that’s kind of what we’re going for.”

Dwight Yoakam at 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 3, Bell Auditorium. Yoakam’s extensive output with his Bakersfield, Calif.,-influenced country rock has resulted in 25 million albums sold and 14 Top 10 singles. His latest work is the album Swimmin’ Pool, Movie Stars.

For tickets, visit georgialinatix.com, James Brown Arena box office or call (877) 428-4849.

 

 

In concert

WHO: Grand Ole Opry star John Conlee

WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 26

WHERE: Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center, Evans

TICKETS: $35 and $25; call (800) 965-9324 or online at itickets.com

 

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