Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Cowboys and Hillbillies light up the Dome

Actors Buddy Ebsen and Irene Ryan starred
as Jed and Granny Clampett
in the 1960s comedy The Beverly Hillbillies

If you’re one of the lucky 70,000 or so “rodeo fans” who are holding tickets to see Hannah Montana this year at Reliant Stadium, or planning to see the other rodeo entertainment, such as Alan Jackson Thursday night, John Fogerty and perennial favorites Brooks and Dunn, to name just a few, you might be looking ahead to the excitement or longing for a quieter time. A look back at the 1968 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo shows how the focus of the rodeo has changed..

The show ran for 12 days - Feb 21 to March 3 - at the pre-Reliant Astrodome and featured as several TV stars as nightly entertainment.

Appearing the first three nights were Buddy Ebsen and Irene Ryan – Jed and Granny Clampett – of the Beverly Hillbillies, which was one of the most popular TV shows of time and was aired on KHOU-TV.

Michael Landon – Little Joe on Bonanza – and singer Marty Robbins were on stage for the next three nights. A big singing star, Robbins had recorded at least 15 No. 1 songs on the pop and country charts between 1955 and 1968.

Following them was 25-year-old Wayne Newton who was just getting his 40-year run as “Mr. Las Vegas” off and running. His two big hits, Danke Schoen and Red Roses for a Blue Lady carried him through the 60s.

Playing that other kind of music – western Roy Rogers and Dale Evans made their first appearances in Houston's Astrodome on March 2 and 3 along with the Sons of the Pioneers. Worried that their music would not be heard properly over the Dome sound system, Rogers and pre-recorded their musical numbers which were played by tape while they lip-synced from the portable stage in the middle of the arena.

Restaurant owner James A. "Bill" Williams bought the Grand Champion Steer for $16,700. The Hereford steer was exhibited by Henry Musselman from Albany, Texas. Last year’s Grand Champion Steer sold for $300,000, just half of the record price of $600,001 set in 2002.

It’s hard for me to imaging what Ebsen, Ryan and Landon did to entertain the audience, but even with Newton and Robbins, I would imagine the Dome sounded like a church service compared with the high-energy shows of today. I wonder how many daughters dragged their parents out to see the hottest TV stars of the day.

Source: Houston's Rodeo History

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