Interview: Vince Gill to play benefit show Sunday at his alma mater, Oklahoma City's Northwest Classen High School
From Friday’s Weekend Look section of The Oklahoman. To read more of my recent interview with Vince Gill, click here.
Vince Gill to play benefit show Sunday at his alma mater
The Country Music Hall of Famer will headlining the grand opening gala for the Northwest Classen High School auditorium, which has been transformed into the Hudson Performance Hall.
Like most people, Vince Gill recalls good days and strange days when he looks back on his high school years.
Given his superstar success as a singer/songwriter/musician, it isn’t surprising that some of his vivid memories of Northwest Classen High School center on the auditorium, including the first time he played that stage around the start of his freshman year.
“There was a local rock band called Mother’s Ghost, and they played all the parties and all the mixers. … They were going to play ‘Mr. Bojangles’ ’cause ‘Mr. Bojangles’ was popular. And they found me, I think through my sister; my big sister told them I played the banjo. They needed a banjo on it, so that’s the first time I ever played in that auditorium is playing the banjo with Mother’s Ghost on ‘Mr. Bonjangles.’ So maybe that’ll be my closer,” Gill said with a chuckle during a recent phone interview from his home in Nashville, Tenn.
The Country Music Hall of Famer, 55, will be the headliner Sunday for a benefit gala celebrating the grand opening of the revamped auditorium, now called the Hudson Performance Hall. The concert also will be a homecoming for musical alumni Cleve Warren, Jim Demopolos and Rick White, who will play with a recreation of the popular mid-1960’s San Francisco rock band The Mojo Men, and Bill Maxwell, who has produced eight Grammy-winning records and played drums with the likes of Ray Charles, Quincy Jones and Anita Baker.
The Northwest Classen auditorium was originally built in 1954 when the school opened, but it has been transformed into an intimate performance hall. Sunday’s concert will fund an endowment and additional amenities through the Friends of Northwest Classen Foundation.
“It looks spectacular. … I don’t really remember what it used to look like. It’s been so long since I’ve been in there that I’d have a hard time telling you what colors the walls were or what the seats were like or any of that kind of stuff. But I just think it’s neat,” Gill said.
“The first time I played in the auditorium there was kind of a big deal for me, so I’m excited to see the kids that are gonna go to school there have the opportunity to have a great place to share music and do things that are associated with the arts,” Gill said.
Like Gill, Cliff Hudson harbors many fond memories of Northwest Classen, where he and his wife Leslie graduated in 1973.
“I performed there in the school choir as a freshman. I performed onstage in a talent show as a sophomore, did some assemblies and skits onstage as a junior, performed onstage in a senior assembly as a senior. Walked across the stage at commencement exercises. which were indoor that year because of concerns about the weather. A whole series of recollections like that. … My wife was in modern dance, she danced on that stage,” said Hudson, who is chairman and chief executive officer of Sonic Corp.
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