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Crazy about Patsy Cline and other real classics

By ERNEST HOOPER
Published August 18, 2005


The Nativity Parish Social Hall went country last weekend.

In my mind, the lights were magically dimmed, a waft of cigarette smoke rolled into the room, a pool table popped up from the floor and a juke box dropped from the ceiling.

Suddenly, the hall had become an old-fashioned honky tonk, thanks to the power of Shelly Stephens' singing.

Stephens has crafted a name for herself by emulating the classic style of music legend Patsy Cline, and she didn't disappoint her audience of 600.

Performing at the Brandon church's Taste of 2005, a fundraiser for the Nativity Parish Food Bank, Stephens looked the part in a satin Western dress with white tassels, white boots and a white cowboy hat neatly hiding her bouffant hairstyle.

Cline, I mean Stephens, went through a 40-minute set of memorable tunes that included Walkin' After Midnight, Stupid Cupid and Honky Tonk Merry Go-Round.

She returned for her second set in a vintage 1960s-style black dress with black pumps. This time, she saved the best for last with the standards Crazy and I Fall to Pieces. She did two encores and received a standing ovation.

She even yodeled a little. Of course, if I had stood on a stage for 50 minutes in black pumps, I, too, would have yodeled.

Stephens, a Texas native who lives in St. Petersburg, has starred for several years in Always . . . Patsy Cline at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center. The musical, which ran through July 17, centers on a mythical relationship between Cline and one of her fans.

Now Stephens is taking her performance to halls and community centers to help promote her new tribute CD. Howdy Hoss - A Tribute to Patsy Cline includes 15 Cline songs and was recorded this summer.

Stephens said she was inspired to craft a CD because so many people would ask about getting her music after the show. The crazy thing is that while you will find I Fall to Pieces and Sweet Dreams (of You) on the CD, you won't find Crazy.

"I just have so much respect for her, I didn't want to put it on the CD," Stephens explained. "No one can truly do Crazy like Patsy Cline."

That may be true, but Stephens comes awfully, awfully close to replicating Cline's sultry rendition.

The CD can be purchased by going to the performing arts center's online store: www.tbpac.org/store/pricing.html Scroll down to a photo of her CD cover.

Speaking of classic hits, the Music Spot, the fledgling South Tampa music store/bistro, is making a classic move. The popular store is relocating to the old Pickford Building at 2602 W Hillsborough Ave., just west of Armenia Avenue.

Although the store's unique combination of CD/vinyl sales, food and live music had gained a following, store owner Mike Martin has struggled in recent months because of what he has described as initial debt. In June, the store filed for bankruptcy to get protection from its creditors and help with a relocation.

The move isn't likely to occur until October, and the bistro will continue to be open for food and music Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

Martin said in an e-mail to supporters that he's also hoping to barter with some skilled customers who can help renovate the new location. The Pickford Building dates back to the 1930s and has a storied history, Martin said.

The new location promises comfort food and ice cream, in keeping with the Pickford's former life as a place for sundaes.

Martin is already preparing with a moving sale. New CDs and movies will be 40 percent off, and used CDs and movies will be 50 percent off. Some items in the current store, such as televisions and marble-top tables, also will be sold.

I wonder if he has any Patsy Cline on the shelves.

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper can be reached at 813 226-3406 or Hooper@sptimes.com

[Last modified August 18, 2005, 01:04:14]


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