A Run for The Roses at Music Ranch USA
By Adriaan Sturm
Website: Rockville International
Springtime in Kentucky is marked by an eruption of colorful flowers,
newspapers carrying stories about horses entered into the Kentucky Derby and, for fans of
country music, the return of Narvel Felts to Music Ranch USA in tiny West Point, some 20
miles South of Louisville. Spring 2004 was no different when on the night of March 27
Narvel made his annual Run for the Roses.
A little after 9PM Narvel stepped on stage and found a large crowd waiting to see and hear
the man who Dolly Parton once called "the greatest voice in country music". That
was in the mid seventies at the peak of his career and in the middle of an impressive
string of top-10 Country hits. Those days are long gone as are the rockin fifties
when he toured with the likes of Roy Orbison, Conway Twitty and Carl Perkins. All of it is
part of the history of American music but Narvel Felts is far from history as he continues
to prove during his shows.
After opening with "Funny How Time Slips Away" and a short reflection on the
times past since his last appearance in Kentucky he immediately went for "Drift
Away", the song which started his hit streak in the seventies.
The show had been advertised as a celebration of Narvel's 48th Year in show business and
with "My Babe Narvel went back to his very first recording session at SUN
Records in Memphis. "Crying" in tribute to the late Roy Orbison, who in the
fifties helped him to get the audition with SUN records, was next. Not an easy song to
sing but no problem for Narvel who hit the high notes with little effort. The applause had
barely died down when he tore into Jerry Lee's "Great Balls of Fire" including
several blistering guitar breaks.
Slowing things down he announced "Even Now", a song, which has become a tribute
to his son Bubba who was killed in a car wreck in 1996, an event that almost silenced his
great voice. Calls from fans and his love for performing eventually helped him overcome
that tragic loss. His performance this night was just as moving as the first time I heard
His love for music from the fifties carried through when he was riding high in the country
charts in the seventies. The Jackie Wilson classic "Lonely Teardrops" earned him
single of the year award and an excellent version of that song was followed by "My
Prayer" originally performed by The Platters with Tony Williams as the lead vocalist.
These type of R&B ballads are an absolutely perfect showcases for his tremendous vocal
Next was a rare treat for the true Narvel Felts fans. Always the perfectionist, Narvel
hardly ever varies from the script of his shows. All his shows are slightly different but
the backup band always knows the play list several weeks ahead of time. This night the
moon and the stars must have lined up right because with just his guitar Narvel performed
"Foggy Misty Morning" the B-side of his "Drift Away" smash. The song
has been a favorite of mine since the first time I heard it and hearing it performed this
way was a special treat.
"Headin' For Home", a great rocker, was followed by his biggest hit from the
seventies "Reconsider Me" which he closed with a couple of lines from "May
The Good Lord Bless And Keep You", signaling the end of a terrific show. However,
some unbelievable high note antics in "Reconsider Me" brought the crowd out of
their seats and after a long-standing ovation they were rewarded.
Narvel said he had three requests and he asked the crowd to make a choice between
"Danny Boy", "Shake Rattle & Roll" and "One Run For The
Roses". The reaction of the audience made it clear they wanted to hear all three and
they got it. Danny Boy, much like Even Now, is a song, which has
taken on special meaning for Narvel, and his powerful performance brought a tear to
several eyes. One Run For The Roses is special to most people in Kentucky
because of its name association with the Kentucky Derby a.k.a. The Run For The Roses.
Shake Rattle & Roll took everybody back to the rockin fifties. The
foot stomping rocker included a couple of his patented rockabilly licks, a set of push-ups
and some hip swiveling and hand clapping a la Elvis.
One would have almost expected to hear a Narvel has left the building
announcement but instead of a quick exit Narvel spent well over an hour talking to his
fans, selling copies of his 2002 CD Super Songs Narvelized and signing
autographs. Eventually it was Narvel himself who was the last person to leave. Lets
hope Music Ranch USA will invite him back next spring to make another Run for the Roses!
Funny How Time Slips Away / Drift Away / Pink and Black Days / Since I Dont Have You
/ Honey Love / Somebody Hold Me / My babe / Crying / Great Balls of Fire / Even Now /
Foggy Misty Morning / Lonely Teardrops / When Your Good Love Was Mine / My Prayer / God
Bless America / I'm Headin' Home / Reconsider Me / Danny Boy / One Run for The Roses /
Shake Rattle And Roll