Homespun humor and songs highlight July Fourth concert


Performers appearing in “The All-American Paynes Prairie Home Companion” include, from left, Ron Thomas, Cathy DeWitt, Rob Rothschild and Don David. The “Free Fridays” performance, inspired by the Garrison Keillor radio show “A Prairie Home Companion,” is 8 to 10 p.m. Friday at Bo Diddley Community Plaza.

Submitted photo
Published: Thursday, July 3, 2014 at 8:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 at 9:05 a.m.

In its debut last year as the annual “Free Fridays” concert celebrating the Fourth of July, the “All-American Paynes Prairie Home Companion” made a big splash, in more ways than one.

Facts

If you go

What: The “All-American Paynes Prairie Home Companion,” which celebrates America and the Fourth of July as part of the “Free Fridays” concert series
When: 8-10 p.m. Friday
Where: Bo Diddley Community Plaza, 111 E. University Ave.
Cost: Free

Just as the homespun humor and songs of the local take on “A Prairie Home Companion” was kicking in, a downpour did the same at the Bo Diddley Community Plaza. And the gentle parody with the big name was rained out just as it was getting started.

“We didn’t even get halfway through, not even 20 minutes,” said Ron Thomas, organizer and host of the show, which served as last year’s installment of the “All-American Song Fest,” the annual “Free Fridays” concert in the first week of July that commemorates the Fourth of July.

Last year’s rained-out show was later staged (in September) in full at the Thomas Center, where the big splash felt by the audience was wholly due to the songs, routines and comedy bits, which featured such segments as “Sam Spayed, Dog Detective” and commercials for Gainesville entities that no longer existed.

“Everybody had a great time,” Thomas said. “We got a lot of applause, a lot of compliments afterward, so it was gratifying.”

On Friday, the concept returns to the plaza, but in an all-new production with new songs, routines and even a new name for the show’s players, Thomas said.

Last year’s music group, The New Prairie Dogs, is this year’s The Wauburgoners, which includes Don David and Jon Alexander along with returning musicians Cathy DeWitt, Rob Rothschild and Mike Boulware.

As with last year’s production, the new “Paynes Prairie Home Companion” features Thomas as the host and Gregg Jones as a comic foil in bits with others that range from Thomas interviewing “Amerigo Vespucci” (played by Jones) to a new installment of “Sam Spayed, Dog Detective” and other skits including an appearance by humorist Will Rogers (Jones).

The new show also offers “The News from Lake Wauburgon” (as opposed to last year’s “News from Lake Wauburg”) and commercials for such revered Gainesville entities that no longer exist as Mama Lo’s and Lipham’s Music.

“We’re also hoping to do an ‘Abbott & Costello’ routine,” Thomas said. “We did ‘Who’s on First’ last year, and now we have another one that’s from a 1941 movie (“Keep Them Flying”). And Cathy, Gregg and I will be in that, too.”

This year’s new “Paynes Prairie Home Companion” also has a slew of songs not performed last year including originals such as David’s “Intelligent Design,” which features a lot of plays on words, Thomas said, to a song about Pete Seeger, and a tune by Thomas that was written about his mother, who died last year.

The Wauburgoners also will perform Ry Cooder’s version of “Jesus on the Mainline,” and “Wagon Wheel,” which was recorded by such artists as Darious Rucker and the Old Crow Medicine Show, and was co-written by Bob Dylan, Thomas said.

Running through the entire show, of course, is the Americana theme, which was evident in last year’s production and returns in proud form this year as well, Thomas said.

“We have Amerigo Vespucci this year, we have the great American humorist in Will Rogers, and the name of the Sam Spayed thing this year is ‘The Red, White & Blue Caper.’ ”

Contact Entertainment Editor Bill Dean at 374-5039 or at bill.dean@gvillesun.com, and follow on Twitter @SceneBillDean.

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