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Wed, March 20

Prescott Opry rolls back into Elks theater

Dan McCorison

Dan McCorison

The passion for country western music will shine Thursday when the Prescott Opry brings its toe-tappin' singers and instrumentalists to the Elks Opera House.

The show starts at 7 p.m. Tickets are $17, with group, senior and student discounts available. To order tickets, call the box office at 777-1370 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday or go online to www.elksoperahouse.com.

Featured performers are Gene Burkhart, who won the Specialty Vocal competition at the Bluegrass Festival in Wickenburg recently, and Dan McCorison, former MCA Records recording artist.

In looking back, Burkhart recalls no music in his family but, "I sure did want to sing when I was young," he said. "I really wanted to be a singer, the guitar playing just came along." And, he started out when he was young. He had listened to the likes of Hank Williams and Eddie Arnold, and eventually found himself singing on a television show called, "Rising Stars." Time went on and, when he lived in Ohio, he appeared on several shows with Dottie West.

Of all the superstars in this genre of music, "Ray Price is my all-time favorite singer," Burkhart said. "I do a lot of his songs. Everything he's done, I like them all." But, Hank Thompson, Arnold and Merle Haggard rate high with him, too.

Burkhart has his play list all set for Prescott. He plans to sing Porter Wagoner's "I Thought I Heard You Calling My Name," Bob Wills' "Sugar Moon," Darrell McCall's "Dreams of a Dreamer" and Price's "Different Kind of Flower."

"This is my kind of music. It's something in my blood," Burkhart said. Now that he lives in Arizona, he finds its music scene great, and he keeps performing for people here and there. And, he said, he even has fans as far away as Hamburg, Germany, where a radio station has aired his "Nine Times a Day."

"I'm excited to think a country boy like me has songs played worldwide," he said.

A singer, songwriter and guitar player, McCorison has been performing professionally since the 1970s. Raised in Denver, Colo., one of his early gigs was playing in his Dusters band that was kind of like "Asleep at the Wheel" and toured all over the western United States. Before his move to Surprise, Ariz., last fall, he lived in Nashville for 20 years where he played in a favorite venue, Blue Bird.

When he was just getting started in music and living in North Carolina at the time, though, he met a producer of projects for small record labels who invited him to a recording session in Nashville.

He heard the country music and "was hooked," he said. "It just knocked my socks off."

In order to keep food on the table, McCorison worked in the building industry, and because of this experience, he built a studio for Johnny Cash in Nashville called Cash Cabin Studio.

As the cabin went up, McCorison got to meet Cash a couple of times and shake his hand. "I didn't want to wash my hands" after the face-to-face encounter with the legendary singer.

During his career, he also met up with Odie Blackmon who wrote the George Strait song, "She's Going to Leave You with a Smile." Together, Blackmon and McCorison wrote "Keepin' Up with the Joneses," which McCorison plans to open with Thursday night.

"I love old country," he said. He also plans to entertain the crowd with some old Jimmy Rogers' songs, such as "California Blues."

Rogers, McCorison added, "is the father of country music."

"I'm excited to be on the Opry stage," he said. And, Burkhart says, "Any place I can go sing, I do. They'll see me smiling a lot. I do my best to sing my best."

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