Since opening in 2005, the Dixie – named after "Designing Women" star Dixie Carter – has played host to some of the top talent in the business – including Lady Antebellum, Ricky Skaggs, and Dailey & Vincent. As the theater closes it's ninth season in Huntingdon, TN, one of the region's biggest hometown stars returned to the area on Saturday as T.G. Sheppard took fans on a two-hour trip back into memory lane.
Kicking off with his 1981 crossover hit "I Loved 'Em Everyone," the singer gave the sold-out crowd one hit after another. The one-time record promoter for RCA has never lost his knack for telling a story, as evidenced by his ability to share with the audiences the stories behind many of the songs he enjoyed success with. A longtime friend of Elvis Presley ("The King" gave Sheppard his first touring bus), Sheppard told of how he was promoting Elvis's records for RCA under his given name of Bill Browder, but recording under his stage name for Berry Gordy and his Melodyland Records country imprint. As it turned out, his first number one, 1974's "Devil In The Bottle," was a Presley favorite. One day, Sheppard went to see Elvis at Graceland and the singer told him that he could have told him about him being T.G. Sheppard. "I was scared of losing my job with RCA," recalled the singer from the stage. Elvis's response turned out to be priceless - "I am RCA," he said to a room full of laughter.
Other stellar moments from the show included what likely might have been his high-water mark artistically – 1979's "Last Cheater's Waltz." In concert over three decades later, Sheppard still brings a ton of emotion and heartbreak to the Sonny Throckmorton-written ballad of two lovers forced to find romance as a back street affair. He also scored with the classic story songs "Do You Wanna Go To Heaven" (which could do very well as a remake in the hands of one of today's stars) and "War Is Hell (On The Homefront Too)," both of which were also huge crowd pleasers. In a sense, the show was also a tribute to his legendary producer, Buddy Killen – who produced all but three of the songs Sheppard brought out on the stage.
But, a TG Sheppard show isn't all about dysfunctional couples or lust from the other side of town. He delighted the audience with his 1984 romantic ballad "Slow Burn," as well as the seductive "You Feel Good All Over." His wife, Kelly Lang, joined him on stage for a pair of duets from their recent Iconic Duets album, and he closed the evening with a sentimental performance of "Finally," which sent the crowd home on a happy note. There's something satisfying about an artist who can give their fans two straight hours of nothing but hits, and TG Sheppard did just that. If you are familiar with his extensive catalog, go check him out – but be prepared to sing along, and enjoy the memories.