Kitty Wells – Jamil Shrine Temple (Columbia, SC)
Billed as a Kitty Wells show, this was really more than that, with segments featuring the current version of the Tennessee Mountain Boys and her son Bobby Wright as well as Kitty and her husband Johnnie. Her band, some of whom have been with her for over twenty years, currently features George Edwards on pedal steel, Jeff Jared on lead guitar (previously with Jean Shepard and Dottie West), Allan Funderburk on drums, and this year’s new addition, Ray Kirkland on bass (formerly with the Osborne Brothers and Jim & Jesse).
After a few warmup songs featuring Kirkland on lead vocals, Bobby Wright was brought on to do several songs he made famous, most notably his signature tune, “Long Tall Texan”. He put the crowd at ease with some cornball humor at the expense of the band members, who played along with practiced, humorous detachment.
After an intermission, the crowd got what it came for — a short set from Wells, who recently turned 80 years old. In a sparkling blue dress and strumming an acoustic guitar that didn’t appear to be plugged into anything, Wells sang with more enthusiasm than many performers half her age. Despite apologizing for a cold that kept her from doing some of her higher-pitched numbers, she managed to sing “I Can’t Help Wondering”, “Makin’ Believe”, “Searching (For Someone Like You)”, “Amigo’s Guitar”, “Thank You For The Roses”, “How Far Is Heaven”, and her theme song and first #1 hit, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels”.
The show was rounded out by the appearance of Wells’ husband of 62 years, Johnnie Wright. Once half of the duo Johnnie & Jack, Wright brought his son and wife back out onstage for a finale that consisted of a few Johnnie & Jack hits such as “Stop The World (And Let Me Off)”, the rhumba-driven “Ashes Of Love” and “Down South In New Orleans”, and a Kitty-led “Dust On The Bible”.
The closing number, a Bobby Wright tune called “We’ll Stick Together”, was a fitting finale for this family act that has weathered the trends to continue performing as many as 80 nights a year.