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Holly, Bopper tribute coming to Holmes Theatre

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Watch a tribute to some of America's true music icons, then dance the night away to some of their best tunes on Saturday, July 9 at the Historic Holmes Theatre.

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"The Night the Music Died" will begin with a re-enactment of the final concert given by Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper' Richardson at The Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake, Iowa, just hours before their deaths in a plane crash on Feb. 3, 1959.

The second half of the show will pay tribute to "the stars who took their place" -- Roy Orbison, Bobby Vee & the Shadows.

Lakes area resident Dick Dunkirk, who performs as both the Big Bopper and Bobby Vee in the stage show, is an original member of The Shadows, which served as Bobby Vee's band for many years.

He is also the creative force behind the tribute show, which has been touring the region in various incarnations since 2007.

The reason why Dunkirk believes the show has earned its title as "The Number 1 Tribute Show in the Nation" is that it re-creates the music of the original artists as authentically as possible.

"I'm so proud of it," he said. "When we decided to do this, we wanted to reproduce the music the way it should be, with the original string arrangements."

To do so, Dunkirk added, they brought in the talents of The Silver Strings, an ensemble of string musicians from the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra, who perform live on stage with them.

He also believes that the singers who recreate the music of Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison in the show lend a particular air of realism to their performances.

"We have a new 'Buddy Holly' this year, Jeff Boxell," Dunkirk said. "He played the role in the Broadway musical 'Buddy' when it came to the Twin Cities a few years ago -- he looks an awful lot like Holly, and he does the role absolutely flawlessly, both as an actor and as a performer."

Wayne Luchau, who will be performing as both Roy Orbison and Ritchie Valens in the July 9 show, joined the lineup as Orbison several years ago.

"Wayne does an astounding job as Roy Orbison," Dunkirk said. "It's breathtaking."

In fact, he added, he believes Luchau is not only Orbison's musical equal, but "in a couple of cases, I think he's even better."

"He (Luchau) is one of the best I've worked with in the last 50 years. He never really got the credit or the break that Bobby Vee did, but I think he's just as talented. There are very few people who can hit those high notes, and he does them flawlessly."

Dunkirk himself will be portraying the role of the Shadows' former frontman, Bobby Vee -- and as an original member of the Shadows, he feels it's a role he knows well.

He will be joined at the July 9 show by Bob Korum, who like Dunkirk is an original member of the Shadows.

Dunkirk said the plane crash that killed Holly, Valens and Richardson in 1959 -- immortalized by singer-songwriter Don Maclean in the song "American Pie" as "the day the music died" --  remains "one of the biggest events in music history."

"It's a worldwide phenomenon," he said.

Because he and his bandmates played in some of the same music clubs as the late music icons, and actually knew them fairly well, Dunkirk feels something of an obligation to keep their music alive.

"We're having a lot of fun with it," he said of the tribute show, which has played to sold-out venues throughout the region.

"We like to keep the music alive, and play it like it should be played, with the original arrangements."

And once the stage show is finished, ticket holders are invited to join Dunkirk and his fellow musicians for a dance in the Holmes Ballroom, located across the hall from the main theater.

"People love to see our concerts, with all the strings, but then they want to dance," he said. "We'll be playing a full two-hour concert, and then we'll go into the ballroom and play a couple of dance sets afterwards."

Dunkirk feels a bit of nostalgia for the days when bands like Buddy Holly & the Crickets, Bobby Vee & the Shadows, and others like them played for dances at music venues throughout the Midwest, including our own Detroit Lakes Pavilion.

"There used to be a lot of live bands performing," he said -- but these days, much of that live music has been superseded by more affordable alternatives, like karaoke and DJ services.

"We're fighting back against the karaoke," he joked.

Tickets for the July 9 show are $23 in advance, $26 at the door, and can be purchased at the Historic Holmes Theatre Box Office, 806 Summit Ave., Detroit Lakes; online at www.dlccc.org; or by phone at 218-844-SHOW (7469).

For more information about the tribute show and participating musicians, visit the website for The Shadows at www.shadowsband.com.

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Vicki Gerdes
Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers and editor of MN Boomers magazine for the past 13 years. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.
(218) 847-3151
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