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By Chuck Cox
The co-headlining concert featuring country and western music legends has become a regular occurrence at casinos these days.
If you decide to take one of these shows in, you can expect an older crowd, corny jokes, extreme patriotism, guest singers and sets that rarely exceed one hour. However, you also get to experience hearing live music from an era when country music was knocking the ball out of the park on a regular basis.
That was enough to get me up to Choctaw Event Center on Friday night to check out the great Mel Tillis and Moe Bandy. It’s not often I can go see a pair of artists I have literally been listening to since I was first aware of popular music. And the show definitely met all of the above criteria.
Tillis, 82, closed the concert with a one-hour show that included three songs performed by his son, Mel “Sonny Boy” Jr. And while his son sounded fine and I enjoyed seeing him on stage with his dad, that’s three fewer songs from Tillis’ massive arsenal of recognizable hits that I got to hear.
Still, Tillis looked and sounded great and told some pretty funny jokes to the crowd, which included former Oklahoma Sooners and Dallas Cowboys head coach Barry Switzer. He treated the crowd to songs like “Stateside,” “Send Me Down to Tucson,” “Coca-Cola Cowboy,” “Detroit City” and “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town,” a song he wrote and Kenny Rogers made a huge hit.
I liked Tillis’ story about Clint Eastwood calling him up and telling him he had two songs he wanted him to perform in the movie Every Which Way but Loose. When Tillis resisted, “Dirty Harry” imposed his will.
Like Tillis, Bandy was full of personality and still sounded great. Bandy, 70, had plenty of hits of his own to play, like “Bandy the Rodeo Clown,” “Cowboys Ain’t Supposed to Cry,” “She’s Not Really Cheatin’ (She’s Just Gettin’ Even),” “Rodeo Romeo” and “’Til I’m Too Old to Die Young.”
It was a nice surprise when he played a medley of Texas songs he turned down, like “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas,” “Amarillo by Morning” and “All my Ex’s (Live in Texas).” I also liked his version of “Someday Soon,” which Suzy Bogguss also made a 1991 hit two decades after he charted with the tune. Bandy played for 50 minutes to open things up.
There were also a couple of interesting things about the show. One, most of the music played over the speakers before and after the show was Tillis’ music. I’m not sure I’ve ever run across that at a show before. Second, both Bandy and Tillis came out to the merchandise table to take photos and sign autographs after the show. That was definitely something I’ve never seen before at Choctaw.
Getting to meet both of them was the perfect topper for a really great night of music seeing two legends. Well worth the drive up Highway 75.