When veteran country hitmaker Billy Dean joins Kenny Rogers for the latter’s “Hits and Christmas” show at Westbury Music Fair on Dec. 23, he’ll be bringing more than chart-toppers like “That Girl’s Been Spyin’ On Me” and “Let Them Be Little” with him – he’s also bringing a whole lot of history. Dean made his first visit to country’s Top 10 with his debut single, “Only Here for a Little While,” back in 1990, but he’s been steeped in the art of twang since his teens.
It all started with the musician father for whom he was named. “He had a band for 28 years,” Dean explains. “They played pretty much the same place, the American Legion Hall, but man, it was a rough kind of a place. It was country music at its best — cheatin’, knife fights, drunk [laughs]…they had a good time. When I became a teenager…I joined his band and played on the weekends, and eventually went off and did my own thing.”
Not unlike what’s happened with books, technology’s various conveniences have also impersonalized the way we ingest music be it through downloads or the earbuds of an iPod. While LPs are arguably the best way to experience this food for the soul, there’s something to be said about cracking open either a CD booklet or a well-packaged box set, regardless of the genre.
Anglophiles had plenty to rejoice about whether it was because Blur commemorated its 21st anniversary by releasing its entire canon (in addition to a live album culled from its show at the 2012 Olympics closing ceremony). Or could it be elder statesmen Elvis Costello and Peter Gabriel being represented by a pair of compilations for the former and the 25th anniversary release of the latter’s biggest album? And while there’s the deluxe edition of The Jam’s last album and the entire Roxy catalog for Union Jack fans to rave over, the Yanks got their due with the deluxe reissues of Bob Mould’s old band Sugar and Smashing Pumpkin’s sprawling 1995 double-disc third album.
It will soon be Dec. 23, and on that day Long Islanders will be waiting for the famous celebrity with a beard to make his appearance. Santa? No. Actually it’s country mega star Kenny Rogers. Keeping a 30-year tradition, the man famous for hits such as “The Gambler,” “Through the Years,” “You Decorated My Life,” and “Lady,” will be performing at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury. Rogers comes to Westbury every year right before Christmas, and it’s his last show of the year.
“It has great memories for me,” said Rogers of the Westbury Theater. “We have kids that started out with us 30 years ago, that are grown and have children. It’s really kind of fun to see some of them when we come in. Westbury has always been so good to us. There are very few cities that we work as many times as we have at Westbury
1. Before he became a famous country singer, Kenny Rogers’ first forays into music found him playing in a rockabilly group called The Scholars and the jazz combo The Bobby Doyle Trio.
2. Once a member of the folk group The New Christy Minstrels, Rogers’ fellow alumni include Kim Carnes, Barry McGuire and Gene Clark of The Byrds.
There’s a scene in the new Ed Burns film The Fitzgerald Family Christmas where Burns’ Gerry Fitzgerald takes baby brother Cyril to see the tenement their estranged father grew up in on Manhattan’s West Side. It’s a scene where members of this fictional South Shore family return to the New York City roots of their forefathers. It’s one of those semiautobiographical moments that Burns has become so adept at slipping into his movies and is based on a similar memory he had.
“Both my folks went to high school in Queens and the Bronx. They came out to Long Island but they were city kids, so they were always taking us back into Manhattan,” the writer/ director/actor explained. “My mom was a theater nut as well, so she was always going to see Broadway shows. My dad, being a cop in New York, would always take us in to walk around the Village and take us to this restaurant, that pizza place or in this case, the building where he grew up. We were always being told that Long Island is a great place for your childhood but your dreams will come true across the river. So once you were 18, we were told to get our asses into the city.”
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