My long-suffering wife claims that I used to dance to the Billy Ray Cyrus song “Achy breaky heart”. I deny this but I know she doesn’t lie so I can only assume there was alcohol involved.
I am not a big fan of country music. I like it about as much as I like kielbasa which is to say in small doses with lots of time in between usage. This is interesting because I have worked in country radio and I have been a judge in a kielbasa contest.
I also did not care for Billy Ray Cyrus in his first incarnation. He kind of creeped me out be honest with that mullet hair do and all those muscles.
But my wife and her sister like the guy so in order to earn some brownie points (I am a little short on points lately. My behaviors tend to earn me cold shoulders and acid tongues but that’s another rant) I made it possible to see him at Penn’s Peak in Jim Thorpe last Friday.
Because of my connections I was also able to get them in close proximity to him backstage. More on that later.
Penn’s Peak deserves a solid A+ as a concert venue. Over the years I have seen a few shows, in more than a few places, some good, some not so much. This place is designed perfectly with crystal clear sound, a comfortable uncrowded seating arrangement and an unbelievably helpful and friendly staff. I have seen several shows there and each experience has been better than the previous.
I didn’t expect to come away liking Billy Ray Cyrus any better but as it turns out (and it usually does) I was wrong. Billy Ray has had his career ups and downs. When you begin a career with a chartbuster like Achey breaky heart you often get pigeonholed in the music biz as a novelty act. Credit Cyrus with perseverance and talent as he has had many hits and continues to perform sold out shows each year.
Backstage with a huge group of fans before the show he was friendly and courteous to a fault. Friday was his 45th birthday so he was getting loads of presents from everyone including a cowboy hat with Harley Davidson decorations from my wife’s sister. She, all knowing person that she is had inside knowledge of Billy’s Harley ownership and as it turns out she was right.
Low and behold Billy took the stage and by the second song he had the crowd in the palm of his hand and the gifted Harley hat on his head.
A few other things worth recounting. A song about Veterans’ s was preceded by an emotional speech by Billy Ray about his recently deceased Dad and how this was his first birthday without a call from him. You could have heard a pin drop.
And near to us during the show was a Vietnam vet who was thrilled to pieces to be seeing Billy Ray. He threw his beaded necklace on stage telling me this was a special reminder of his days “in-country”. Billy Ray picked it up and put it on. I have seen happy people in my life but not quite like that ‘Nam vet that night. His smile could have lit the night up for fifty miles.
As a result of my night with Billy Ray I still probably won’t be dancing sober to “Achey breaky heart”. But I came away with nothing but respect for a guy who now looks more like Kurt Cobain with his long non-mullet hair and a small soul patch then a muscle bound Camaro owner. Oh and I think I earned a couple of brownie points.