TEXARKANA, Ark. — The Arkansas Municipal Auditorium soon features an old school, traditional country music concert to raise restoration funds for the venerable downtown venue.
Barbara Fairchild, who had a chart-topping hit in 1973 with "The Teddy Bear Song," will perform with her husband Roy Morris and fellow recording artist Chuck Hancock at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 28.
"We feel very fortunate that we have top name talent coming in to help promote the restoration effort of the Texarkana, Ark., Municipal Auditorium," said Carl Teel, a member of the Arkansas Municipal Auditorium Commission. "This stems from the fact Chuck Hancock was here in April to help us celebrate the Jewell House tribute day."
Texas native Hancock is House's nephew. His Nashville country music career includes hits like "They Don't Stay Little Long Enough." His aunt booked shows at the AMA back in its glory days, so there's a personal connection.
Arkansas-born Fairchild earned a Grammy nomination, forged a gospel career and for a quarter-century had a Branson, Missouri, show. Her husband produces the "Statler Bros. Revisited" show there.
Fairchild will also appear in the Arkansas Educational Television Network's "Talkin' Country" show both Sunday and Tuesday in connection to the Ken Burns documentary series "Country Music" now airing.
"This will be classical country. Some people call that traditional country. Plus they intertwine inspirational music, Christian gospel, Southern gospel and so forth," Teel said about the AMA concert.
Fairchild says she moved to Branson in 1992 and did shows there for 25 years. Now she's traveling, going out on the road. She's active in prison ministry. Her TV appearances include "Hee Haw" and "The Tonight Show." She's recorded a duet with Hancock, so they have a history of performing together.
"Of course we do country and gospel and we have quite a bit of humor. We love to interact with the crowd and love to visit with folks after the show and sign autographs we like to be up close and personal with folks," Fairchild said. "Been entertaining for a long, long time."
She counts herself as blessed with the "major jump" her career took with that No. 1 hit. "I've been really blessed to be associated with something as wonderful as teddy bears," she said. "I don't think I've ever heard anybody say, 'I don't like teddy bears.'"
What was it about that song that struck a chord?
"Well, if you really listen to the lyrics it kind of was a sad love song, but it didn't sound sad," Fairchild said. "It had a happy feeling to it in spite of the fact that the lyrics were a little sad." It was easy to sing along with, too, and teddy bears were popular on several levels (such as nicknames for people on their CB radios).
Performing is something she truly loves.
"I love people," Fairchild said, noting she grew up singing in Knobel, Arkansas. Live performance is her favorite. "That's my favorite part about it. I love people."
The AMA is a beloved venue, steeped in Texarkana music history, a place where everyone from Elvis Presley to Louis Armstrong and Mae West to Johnny Cash appeared. Ongoing restoration efforts are underway by the city of Texarkana, Arkansas, and its AMA Commission, a volunteer group.
"I think the history of the auditorium is something that you just feel like you are wanting to be a part of because it has such a rich history," Teel said. They were the ones who became the big names, he said. "There has been such a diverse group of talent through the years that became known worldwide and so forth."
That inspires people to attend AMA shows now, Teel said. "The purpose of this show is to raise funds to continue the restoration effort," he said.
VIP tickets feature preferred seating with cushioned chairs, a free Chuck Hancock CD and an autographed photo of him, according to an event press release. General admission seats are on the concrete stadium; for those seats, bringing a cushion is recommended.
(Tickets: 100 VIP tickets at $30 will be sold first, then 100 general admission tickets at $20 will be available. To reserve tickets, call Carl Teel at 903-277-2078.)