By Lynette Norris
Greene Publishing, Inc.
Elvis was there. So were Roy Orbison, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Patsy Cline and Diana Ross, playing to a sold-out crowd at the Yogi Bear Jellystone Park Opry Hall.
The Madison Garden Club’s annual fundraiser proved one thing beyond a doubt: Madison’s Got Talent.
In between several drawings for door prizes (many donated by the Busy Bee), local Madison residents took to the Opry Hall stage to strut their stuff for the talent show emceed by Jim Jenkinss.
One of the first up was County Commissioner Renetta Parrish as Diana Ross, in a stunning red minidress and long black wig. Before she began, she related a brief anecdote from her childhood: her father once owned a club known as El Chico’s, a neighborhood spot where friends could gather and enjoy good music. However, the club didn’t have a piano, so Greenville resident (at that time) Ray Charles would roll his piano from his house to her father’s club every evening. Parrish dedicated her performance in honor of Charles and his friendship with her father, and then wowed the crowd with her rendition of “Hit the Road, Jack.” Leaving the stage, she danced down the center aisle of the audience and back again, where Peter Walley joined her for an impromptu dance.
Lura Fine, Thelma DeHart and Jean Fiori, in black sequined dresses, followed with the 1960 Carole King classic, “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”
Sultry songstress Laura Coleman serenaded Bob Bezick with “Can’t Help Lovin’ That Man of Mine” and Mary Miller channeled Brenda Lee with the 1961 hit, “Break It to Me Gently.”
Tootie Walley as Patsy Cline sang “Crazy” and Roy Orbison (Dennis DeHart) performed “Only the Lonely” with back-up singers Bob Bezick and Bob Wieland; Hank Williams (Ashley Beggs) performed the classic “Hey, Good-Lookin,” and danced with his wife Martha when she joined him onstage near the end of the song; the Rat Pack’s Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra (Bob Bezick and Bob Wieland) treated the crowd to a medley of some half-dozen or more of their greatest hits, including “That’s Amore” and “Fly Me to the Moon.”
Motorcycle mavens Jessica Webb, Cheryl Abercrombie and Judie Baldwin fell for “The Leader of the Pack” and real-life high school sweethearts Dennis and Thelma DeHart followed with the 1963 hit, “Hey Paula.”
Tootie Walley took to the stage again as a no-nonsense country gal you wouldn’t want to cross, belting out “I Got Friends in Low Places.”
Then it was time for the man of the hour – Elvis entered the building, resplendent in his white sequined jumpsuit, opening with “C.C. Rider” and “Johnny B. Goode,” thrilling the ladies as he serenaded them with the classic love songs “Now or Never” and “Falling in Love With You,” and draping colorful scarves around their necks.
Then the sock hop was on, as Elvis rocked the house with one rock ‘n’ roll hit after another and the dance floor rapidly filled up.
Proceeds from the event go toward the youth garden clubs in the elementary schools, 4H camp scholarships, and many civic beautification projects of the Madison Garden Club.