Pam Tillis – the soaring voice behind hits like "Maybe It Was Memphis" and "Mi Vida Loca" is getting to showcase another side to her world-class talent. Tillis is helping to organize Tuesday night's "Pop! Goes Rochelle" benefit for Nashville's Rochelle Center, sponsored in part by the Ford Motor Company. The show will tip the straw hat in honor of the classic TV series "Hee Haw." Tillis will be performing during the show, but she has also helped to write some of the comedy skits that are involved with the program, held at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
"We've got a cast of about 30 people for this thing. There's two parts to it – a musical side, and the comedy / theatrical. I promise you we are doing more with no money than anybody you'll ever see," she jokes. "We have some generous sponsors, but that money is going where it needs to go."
Officially titled 'Ford Presents "Hay Y'All! An All-Star Tribute to Hee Haw," Tillis has assembled an all-star cast. "We've got Craig Morgan, Joe Diffie, Lorrie Morgan, Elizabeth Cook, the Grascals, and Jim Lauderdale, plus an amazing band fronted by Brent Mason." Comedians T. Bubba Bechtol, and Kacey Jones are on the bill, as well.
For Tillis, the night will be a labor of love – for two reasons. First, she is a fan of the 1969-1993 series. "I've been working on this for a while. I jut wanted it to be special. There's a benefit about every night in Nashville. I wanted to do something a little bit different. I had the idea to do a ‘Hee Haw' tribute before I even heard about the Broadway show," she said, referring to the current plans to develop a stage show based on the series. "It's a piece of American culture, and people love it. We ended up getting rights from Gaylord (owners of the show's trademark) to use the name. It's amazing that they let us do that. Out of respect for the writers, we tried to keep things in the spirit of the original. We've got some of the original cast members involved, but also some character actors playing Junior, Grandpa, Minnie, and and characters like that."
Tillis – who has written many of her own hit records, is participating in the comedy writing, and she says she is having a blast. "It's been a lot of fun. I had some friends help me out like Elizabeth Cook. It's been a team effort, for sure. I love to write, and coming up with jokes like that has been a blast. We've been sitting around the kitchen table for about three days now, and many pots of coffee later, we have some new jokes."
Tillis also is pleased to give The Rochelle Center some publicity for the fine work they do, as well. "It's a place, that for about forty years, has been serving adults with disabilities and their families. They help them reach their potential, and include them in the community. They cross a wide range – from people who are somewhat independent to people that need someone to sit with them all day. They give medical supervision, feed them, and it's such a great place. Like so many programs, they are under funded. They haven't had an increase in funding since 2005. I wanted to help them. I have a young friend who has been blind and disabled since birth in the Phoenix area. If he lived here, this is where he would go when his mother's at work. That's why I got involved – so it can be all it needs to be for them and their families." She promises a fun night of entertainment, and yes, even a few ‘Hee Haw Honeys!"
"It's going to be some crazy good fun," she says.