P r e s s R e l e a s eFor nearly twenty years, one of Willie Nelson’s most refreshing live performances has been stored away, almost forgotten, on deteriorating reel-to-reel tape.
For Immediate Release
Texas County Music Treasure Rescued
Now Willie’s forty-five minute spontaneous performance, acclaimed by music industry insiders as a "Texas country music treasure," has been rescued and restored.
Amazed technicians remixing the tapes for CD release, called the tracks "the clearest, cleanest reproductions from twenty year-old stereo reel-to-reel tape" they have heard in years. And small wonder – the tape was engineered by the acclaimed and award-winning Phil York.
York, who won a gold record for his engineering of Nelson’s "Red Headed Stranger," was working with Willie on the "Family Bible" album in Garland, Texas in May 1980. In his spare time, York also worked as radio engineer for an obscure country music theatre in Grapevine, Texas – Chisai Childs’ "Grapevine Opry."
On Saturday, May 17, 1980, York brought Willie Nelson and Chisai Childs together for a fateful performance that put the Grapevine Opry "on the map," and resulted in a stunning live recording of Willie Nelson as few – until now – have ever heard him.
Chisai recalls that during the first of two "Opry" shows that Saturday night, she received a call from York as he was leaving Garland. York told her that he would arrive just before the radio show began, and that he was bringing Willie. Chisai thought York was joking. She was wrong.
"I was in my dressing room, " Chisai remembers, when Willie Nelson came in, " we shook hands, and he introduced himself." They then went backstage, where Willie took one look at the audience of devoted Opry fans and told Chisai that he would like to perform. "Willie said, ‘I want to play.’ I said, ‘Now?’ and he said, ‘Yes.’ We were near the end of the first show, with an audience for the second show in the lobby." An elated Chisai seated the second show ticket holders, then threw open the doors so that the first show audience - and any passersby – could enjoy Willie Nelson’s standing-room-only performance. About two thousand fans were seated in the audience, standing in the lobby, or crowding in through the open Opry doors for that wonderful concert. CONTINUED. . .
Willie, still holding the title as Country Music Association 1979 "Entertainer of the Year," introduced his band, which included his sister, Bobbie, then played for a solid 45 minutes. After the performance, he moved outside, staying until every fan wanting an autograph or photo was satisfied.
The entire performance was captured on reel-to-reel tape, and then stored away as a memento of a pleasant evening. However, word of Nelson’s drop-in performance changed the reputation of the Grapevine Opry. "After that," Chisai says, "It was cool for world class performers to just drop in at the Opry, and over the next six months it happened again and again." And all of their performances were recorded.
Chisai, a Texas native, sold the Grapevine in 1985, when she opened another theatre in the then sleepy vacation town of Branson, Missouri. But she never forgot her Texas roots. "Texas is still in my blood, and I miss those great old times," she says. "The recent passing of two other Grapevine favorites, Faron Young, and my dear friend Box Car Willie, along with the news that the old Grapevine Opry Theatre is being restored as an historic landmark, has brought back those cherished memories. I have kept the tapes of those live radio shows with me throughout the years – only recently realizing that they are an important part of not just Texas country music history, but the history of the industry as a whole.
"One recent afternoon,’ Chisai continues, "Grammy Award winning producer Bob Milsap, my close friend of thirty years, and I, were reminiscing about the Grapevine Opry. Sentiment moved me to get out some of the tapes, and I played them for Bob. He could not believe the quality of the tapes after twenty years in storage, but recognized that, even though the tapes still sounded good, they were in danger of deteriorating. In order to save these historic moments, Bob took eight tapes to his studio and enhanced them and put them on DAT. The results are incredible!"
Chisai is now putting the tapes together on CD as an historical "Grapevine Radio Memories" collection, to be distributed worldwide. The Willie Nelson performance, recently released by Tommy Martin’s Great Music, is the first in the collection. With Faron Young and BoxCar Willie to follow within the year.
CGM, LLC/DCL 01/01/2000
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