Vocalist gets close to his audience at concert

April 18, 2005|by BRIAN SHAPPELL

HAGERSTOWN - Judy Hess sported a wide grin and a glow that rivaled that of a girl who just been asked to her high school prom as she left The Maryland Theatre following Sunday's performance by Tom Netherton and the Skyline City Band.

Hess, who was celebrating her birthday, was among the ladies in the crowd to whom Netherton gave a quick kiss during the show.

"She'll probably never wash her face again," joked Hess' friend, Gloria Stahl.

Netherton and the band performed for nearly 80 minutes. He told stories of touring and his performances on "The Lawrence Welk Show," and cued favorites like "God Bless America" and "My Tribute" before an enthusiastic audience.


Netherton even strolled through the crowd to shake hands and send kisses to his fans near the end of the show.

Hancock resident Evelyn Roman said she thinks getting close to the fans, literally, helps them feel a connection with the famous singer.

"I like it when he comes into the audience. That's wonderful," Roman said.

Hess and her husband, Cecil, former Greencastle, Pa., residents who live in Florida, said they decided to make the show part of their vacation upon finding out about it.

Cecil Hess, a former pastor, said he likes Netherton because he's an openly Christian entertainer.

"He's not afraid or ashamed to admit it," he said.

Netherton, a 57-year-old Virginia resident, said touring allows musicians to play a wide range of songs, sometimes differently from show to show, to a diverse crowd.

"I love doing the different towns," Netherton said as he greeted fans in the lobby after the show. "You get seniors, the baby boomers and younger than that."

Many of those in attendance said they have been fans of Netherton since he began performing on Welk's show in the 1970s.

Charlette North Craft said she enjoyed hearing many of the songs live that she saw Netherton and the band perform on the television show.

Vivian Harbaugh, of Hagerstown, shared the sentiment.

"I just like that he sang a lot of those old songs," Harbaugh said.

Others said it was not the nostalgia or Netherton's personality that carried the show, it was his vocal talent.

"His voice is, oh, just wonderful," said Joyce Shockey, of Waynesboro, Pa. "He has such range."

Kathy Chaney, an employee with Williamsport Retirement Village, said she and other employees brought about 14 of the village's residents to the show, which starred her former co-worker.

"I used to work with Tom at the Country Inn (in Berkeley Springs, W.Va.), but our guys watch him on 'The Lawrence Welk Show,'" Chaney said.

Among Netherton's devoted fans at the show was Homewood at Williamsport resident Dot Ziler, 92. Ziler has been to a dozen of his performances, said her daughter, Mary Jo Brown.

Brown and Ziler were among those who crowded into the lobby following the performance for a chance to speak with Netherton. Brown said Netherton's accessibility is something that fans like her mother greatly appreciate.

"He's so nice, and he never seems to have to rush," Brown said. "He waits to talk to every single person who wants to."

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