ASHE COUNTY — Like my parents, Marvin and Wanda Blevins, I have always been a music fan. Although it was a challenge for me to attend concerts because I’m a wheelchair user since I was born with cerebral palsy, I appreciate my family’s effort to take me to many country concerts. We haven’t gone to any large music venues in several years because aging and health issues make it difficult for us to travel. So, my parents and I decided to attend the Alan Jackson, George Strait, and Brooks and Dunn tribute show scheduled in August 2013 at the local Blue Ridge Dinner Theater in Glendale Springs.
We had a great view of the stage since we sat at one of the front tables. Doug Brewin performed first as Alan Jackson. I was quite impressed by how much he looked and sounded like Alan, and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to him sing several of Alan’s biggest hits including one of my favorites, “Chattahoochee.” As Doug began singing the George Strait and Alan Jackson hit, “Murder on Music Row,” Larry Turner (performing as George Strait) joined him on stage to finish the song with Doug. Then Doug exited the stage to allow Larry to do his performance as George Strait.
I was equally impressed by how well Larry portrayed George Strait. We had a better view of Larry since he stood on the left side of the stage closer to our seats. Larry grinned his George Strait smile at me a few times as he sang some of George’s greatest hits including “The Fireman” and “Check Yes or No”. At the end of his performance, I was pleased when Larry came off the stage and gave me one of his guitar picks.
After a short intermission, Doug and Larry appeared on stage again dressed as the great country duo, Brooks and Dunn. Their transformation from Alan Jackson and George Strait to Brooks and Dunn was so dramatic that my parents thought they were two different performers until I told them that they were the same men. Their voices, appearance, and energetic actions were so much like the stellar duo that I felt like I was actually at a Brooks and Dunn show. They sang several of my favorite Brooks and Dunn songs such as “Boot Scootin’ Boogie,” “Play Something Country,” and the emotional “I Believe.” I didn’t want the concert to end, but I was pleased to see them when we left the theater as they greeted everyone at the door. Both Doug and Larry said they were glad that I enjoyed the show. I wanted to tell them how much I enjoyed their performance and to thank them for being so kind to me; however, I knew that they wouldn’t understand what I was saying because of my profound speech impairment.
Larry’s website link was printed on the guitar pick that he gave me. I found his email address on his website, so I emailed and told him how much I enjoyed the show and that I hoped to see him perform again someday. I was thrilled when I received a reply from Larry. He thanked me for writing and said that I had made his day. He also wrote, “I will always remember your smile.”
My parents and I returned to the Blue Ridge Dinner Theater in May 2014 to see Larry and Doug perform again. We considered not attending the show after we learned in early May that Mom had a lung tumor that we knew was probably cancerous. However, we thought that the concert might help to take our minds off the stressful situation.
It was a memorable evening for me again since Doug and Larry performed another spectacular show. They seemed to remember me since both of them came to where I was sitting as they interacted with the audience. Doug tossed me one of his guitar picks from the stage which had his website link on it. After I found Doug’s email address on his website, I wrote Doug and Larry both a note to tell them how much I enjoyed their show and appreciated their kindness. I was pleased when they both replied to my emails, but I was especially surprised when Doug sent me a Facebook friend request. Doug and Larry have been my Facebook friends for more than a year. I definitely enjoy staying in touch with these fine entertainers through Facebook.
Unfortunately, Mom wasn’t able to join Dad and me to see Larry and Doug’s performance at the Blue Ridge Dinner Theater last August because she was too weak from having chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I told Doug and Larry on Facebook that it was an uncertainty about whether we would be there since it depended on how Mom felt. We decided to go since she felt strong enough to stay by herself for a few hours.
We arrived at the theater more than an hour before the show time to find a good parking space for our accessible van. We exited the van and sat outside close to the theater door. A short time later, Dad went inside to get our tickets while I waited outside. I was totally surprised when I saw Larry following Dad when he returned. Larry gave me a hug and said that he was glad that I was able to be there. While Dad was preparing to take our picture, Larry asked me how Mom was. I was surprised that he understood me when I said, “Pretty good.” Dad gave him the cards with two small gifts that I brought for him and Doug, and he asked Larry if he would give Doug the card. Larry said that he would ask Doug if he had time to see me. Both Larry and Doug returned a few minutes later with an autographed drumstick for me which I’ll always treasure. As Dad and I chatted with them, it felt like we were talking to friends.
Our seats were on the front row at this show. I felt like a VIP when Doug said, “Hi, Pam,” from the stage after he spotted me in the audience. I also couldn’t believe my ears when he used my name in the Alan Jackson song, “It’s Five O’clock Somewhere.”
May 16 was the last time that I saw Larry and Doug perform at the Blue Ridge Dinner Theater. My parents and I decided to invite a few of our relatives to be with us that evening so that we could enjoy the buffet meal before the show with people we knew. One of my best friends, Bethany Eldreth, also joined us. I was glad that Mom could attend this concert since my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary was a few days later on May 20th. I secretly contacted Arvill Scott, the emcee of the show, as well as Doug and Larry and told them about their milestone anniversary. Arvill announced Mom and Dad’s anniversary during his opening, and Doug dedicated the Alan Jackson song, “Remember When,” to my parents as I requested. He also wished them a happy anniversary. Larry and Doug also gave me special attention by waving and talking to me from the stage. While portraying Kix Brooks, Larry came into the audience and shook hands with a few of our group in the front row including my parents, Bethany, and me. I could tell that Bethany, who also has a disability, was excited about Larry shaking her hand.
Although I love hearing Doug and Larry sing Brooks and Dunn’s “Only In America,” it makes me a little sad since I know it’s their final song. However, it was nice to see them after the show and have another picture taken with them. I hate saying goodbye to them, but I try not to take up much of their time because I know other people are waiting to talk to them too. So, I headed toward our van in my power wheelchair after our photo was taken. My aunt, Angie, started talking to me before I could roll myself to the parking lot. That’s when I noticed that most of our group was still standing around talking among themselves which I thought was a little odd. I stopped on the theater sidewalk to wait until my parents and everyone else were ready to leave. I was unaware at the time that Doug had told Angie not to let me leave because he had a surprise for me. I was totally shocked when Doug (still dressed as Ronnie Dunn) suddenly appeared in front of me holding a gift bag which he gave to me. “Thank you, thank you,” is all I said because I was flabbergasted. The bag contained a large lilac scented candle, Hawaiian Ginger body wash and lotion, and candy.
I will never forget all the kindness that Doug Brewin and Larry Turner have shown me since the first time we met, and that’s why I consider myself their biggest fan. We may go to see some of the other tribute artists who perform at the Blue Ridge Dinner Theater, but I believe that Larry and Doug will always be my favorites. I truly hope that this terrific duo will return to the theater soon because I can’t wait to see them again.