After much too long an absence from California, Ray Price returned for a fantastic performance Sept. 18, 2000, at Buck Owens' Crystal Palace in Bakersfield.
The venue couldn't have been nicer. The Crystal Palace manages to seat hundreds of diners at each performance--and the place was packed with cheering Ray Price fans. Tables on tiered levels plus huge viewing screens above the bandstand lent both spaciousness and intimacy to the performances.
My husband, Norman Wilson, and I, attended both the 6:30 and 9:00 p.m. shows. As representatives of the Ray Price fan club website, we were given lovely seats at a table in the Golden Circle area, not far from the bandstand. There we had the pleasure of meeting Washington state friend and fan Kathie Gonzales, plus another guest of Ray's, Jack Dufer, from nearby Tehachapi.
In between shows, we were delighted to have two members of Ray's band join us at the table--bass player Ferdy Calderon and drummer Scott Crossman. We not only enjoyed their company, but I had a wonderful chance to interview both Ferdy and Scott for a new website section about Ray's talented Cherokee Cowboys. It's soon to appear on these pages.
Ray was in great voice as usual. We don't know how he does it. But he seems to get better and better with each passing year. At both performances he added some of the songs from his remarkable new album, "Prisoner of Love."
We were told that some special celebrity guests were in the audience. The one who was announced was actress Annette Funicello. Ray paid tribute to her during the show as a "great performer" and dedicated a song to her--"For the Good Times." Someone whispered to me that Brad Paisley, a rising young country music star, was also on hand, watching the master of the art perform.
Ray signed copies of "Prisoner of Love" after both shows. With an audience of probably more than 1,000 fans, you can imagine how long the lines were for autographs and sales of the new CD.
Ray Price Fan Club President, Sandra Orwig, had sent me a large box full of attractive new red application blanks for fan club membership, plus some of the older forms as well.
My husband, Norm, was just wonderful about circulating among the tables before the show and giving out these flyers plus some that let people know about the website. During the break between shows, he also handed out flyers to the people waiting in the long line for autographs. (Note to Sandra: Many were grateful to know about the fan club, and all the benefits it offers. So expect a deluge of mail!)
I don't know how he did it, but Norm also found time to take photos to illustrate some of the evening's events. Click here to see the photos: