Column
By Nelson Thibodeaux

 

Dateline:  Grapevine 
Wednesday, December 5, 2001

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Program from the Opry's best of times


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Before the Split! Chisai and Johnnie on stage.  In background in BoxCar Willie who made his first singing debut on the stage of the Grapevine Opry.

High's Country Music Revue booked Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth for a December 9 show that High says was intended to be "a good-bye kiss to the business."  High's good-bye kiss drew an unexpected respectable 2,685.  One of them, was Susie Slaughter.

And Susie bought a sound system for the Revue and began financing the annual Country Music Awards banquet at Will Rogers.  A tapestry now hanging in High's Grapevine office proclaims "The Johnnie High and Susie Slaughter Country Music Revue."  Within months, the Revue was boasted to be the "second largest C&W stage show in the world."  The Fort Worth Star-Telegram crowned High "Fort Worth's King of Country Music, " and reported in one Revue review: " The audience is clapping and cheering as Johnnie High walks across the stage with Aunt Susie, welcoming everyone to the show.  The stones on their matched, peach-colored western suits glitter in the spotlight as they pass."  When Aunt Susie wasn't on stage with the Revue, she watched the show at Will Rogers from her permanently-reserved private box at stage side.

Meanwhile, in Grapevine, another permanently-reserved private box remained noticeably unoccupied.
Chisai's unpopularity with Aunt Susie didn't solely explain the Opry's growing problems. She had growing popularity problems with the home crowd as well.

Unlike Chisai High plunged himself into local activities in Grapevine and the surrounding area.  He rotated in Grapevine circles.  Alone or with the revue, High commonly entertained at local gatherings and benefits and never passed up the opportunity to express his sentiments for Grapevine.  Even after his Fort Worth success, High refused to relocate his headquarters.  He combined his local visibility and uncanny memory for names with good manners and natural showmanship.  

Chisai, however, maintained greater distances from the hometown crowd, though she took an active part in Grapevine affairs, often donating the Opry's stage for local pageants or letting the Opry serve as a collection point for charity drives.  Somehow, however, Chisai never seemed to draw as much good fro her involvement with Grapevine.  Somehow, too, Chisai never seemed to fit in as well with local circles, occasionally locking horns with the press and area businessmen.  A local retailer located near the Opry closed off his parking lot to Opry patrons.  Police also ticketed double-and-otherwise-illegally parked Opry visitors.  Infuriated, Chisai retaliated by closing off the Opry-owned, 80-car, graveled parking lot in the middle of Grapevine's quarter-mile downtown business district.  The neighboring business with its own parking lot was not impressed.  The police were not impressed.  Other Main Street businessmen and their customers, who now battled for rare Main-Street parking spaces, were impressed.  But they were not amused.


It was reported over $500,000 was spent on sound equipment alone and the stage was lighted for "color" television.
Johnnie & Chisai during a TV Pilot Taping.  Click on Photo to Enlarge


In this photo, note the vintage TV camera during the Pilot taping.  The Grapevine Opry was later utilized extensively in the movie "Tender Mercies" starring Robert Duval. Click on Photo to Enlarge 

Next Page..Chisai Childs leaves the Grapevine Opry for Branson.Click Here 

Copyright LNO 2001 - All Rights Reserved

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