One of America’s most famous television stars, Donna Douglas, will be at Bell Auditorium on Saturday night, March 10, hosting a DVD music video taping featuring bluegrass-gospel entertainers Little Roy Lewis, Lizzy Long and their band members.
From 1962 to 1971, Douglas starred as Elly May Clampett, the buxom and cute daughter on the popular television comedy series The Beverly Hillbillies. Her character was known for loving her “critters” and she became an animal advocate in real life.
Even before her iconic role as Jed Clampett’s daughter, Douglas appeared on such notable TV shows as The Twilight Zone, Tightrope, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Bachelor Father and Route 66.
During the series run, she co-starred opposite Elvis Presley in the 1966 movie Frankie & Johnny.
Tickets for the DVD taping are $25 with proceeds benefiting the CSRA Wounded Warrior project benefiting disabled military service members and also Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library program in Lincolnton, Ga., where Lewis and Long live.
Lewis and Long met Douglas through a mutual friend in March of last year at a music festival in Broaddus, Texas, and became immediate close friends.
The Little Roy and Lizzy Show, billed as “straight from the heart of Dixie,” was created in 2009 in the final months that The Lewis Family legendary bluegrass-gospel group existed before disbanding.
Little Roy, the banjo-guitar playing comedian of the family, and Long, who had been performing off and on with the family, created their own show while several other family members created The Lewis Tradition band.
Thanks to the Gibson music instrument company, Little Roy now has a new instrument to play at his shows.
“I turned 70 on Feb. 24,” Lewis said last week, “and I got this box delivered from the Gibson company. I opened it up and there was a note that said, ‘Happy Birthday, Little Roy’ and inside was this guitar.
“The company re-issued a 1942 – the year I was born – Gibson guitar that looks just like the guitar played by Hank Williams. They only make that model guitar for a music store owner in Texas. He has the rights to them, and every one of those guitars has to go through him. Hank’s guitar was white and mine is sunburst, but it’s the same looking guitar.”
Members of The Lewis Family long have known that their famous fans have included Elvis Presley, Chet Atkins, First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, Tammy Wynette, George Jones, many governors and other well-known folks.
But Little Roy was surprised to learn of yet another famous fan when Dolly Parton’s sister, Stella Parton, recently met with Lewis and Long in Nashville.
Lewis related, “She said, ‘Little Roy, we (Parton children) were born and raised up on The Lewis Family’s music. We absolutely love The Lewis Family.’ Two hours later when she got ready to go to her car she said, ‘Little Roy, I didn’t make that up. Dolly is a big fan.’ ”
Over the past three years, The Little Roy and Lizzy Show gradually has been building up booking dates with concerts performed across the nation. Little Roy’s wife, Bonnie, retired from her bank job in Lincolnton and became the group’s booking agent.
Other members of the act include Nathan Stewart, Al Hoyle (who also is mayor of Ellijay, Ga.) and Al’s sister, Lisa Hoyle. Many area bluegrass music fans know Al and Lisa from being in their own family group known as The Hoyles.
One of the more unusual concert bookings for The Little Roy and Lizzy Show was last year at the Cowboy Symposium held annually in Ruidoso Downs, N.M.
“A disc jockey who hosts the symposium saw us at the annual Albert Brumley gospel sing in Lebanon, Mo., and liked Lizzy’s fiddle playing and wanted to book us at the Cowboy Symposium in New Mexico,” Lewis said.
When they got there, they were astonished to see a tremendous amount of western swing music fans at the festival’s site.
“There were 25,000 people there,” Long added. “You never have seen such fine-looking cowboys. They had on the nicest fitting Wrangler jeans and crisp western shirts.”
Lewis was a bit apprehensive about how his band’s bluegrass-gospel act would go over with this particular crowd.
“It was all western swing music. The leftovers of Bob Wills’ original Texas Playboys band were on stage right before us. I got to wondering to myself, ‘What in the world are these people going to think about us?’ ”
Anyone who has seen Lewis perform knows about his high energy shows, complete with comedy antics, powerful singing and some of the best banjo, guitar and autoharp playing you will ever hear.
“When we went on stage, almost everyone was heading out to other places, but by our third song they were all back and we ended our show to a standing ovation,” Lewis recalled. “We did another show that day on a smaller stage at the festival and two others the next day and all got standing ovations.
“The disc jockey host who booked us said, ‘We never have asked anybody back twice but can y’all come back next year?’ ”