Sunday afternoon, Up Close Concerts and Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater are celebrating Veterans Homecoming Week by hosting Lee Greenwood, the man who made “God Bless the U.S.A.” a staple of American pride.
The country singer/songwriter already had several hits in the early 1980s, but it wasn’t until 1983 when, in the back of a tour bus, he penned the song he would most be associated with.
“‘God Bless the U.S.A.” is the song I always felt the need to write,” Greenwood said. “I wanted to have something that would unite Americans from coast to coast. I wrote that song as a way to help unification, even though I wrote it during a time of peace.”
The song appeared on 1984’s album “You’ve Got a Good Love Comin,’” and reached No. 7 on the Billboard magazine Hot Country Singles chart. The song gained greater prominence during the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991, as a way of boosting morale.
The popularity of the song again rose following the Sept. 11 attacks, as well as during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. “God Bless the USA” was re-released as a single, re-entering the country music charts at No. 16, and even peaked at No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 pop chart in 2001.
While the song was a hit when it was first released, its legacy has far surpassed what Greenwood expected when he wrote it nearly 40 years ago.
“(The longevity of the song) really happened organically,” he said. “There’s only one line in the song, ‘I won’t forget the men who died,’ and the rest is about the citizens being proud of our country, like I was of my father. He joined the Navy right after Pearl Harbor, and I never served in the military, so my whole life I kind of had a great affinity for the United States military. Although I wrote it during peace time, I had no idea there would ever be any kind of division of this country after Vietnam. I thought that was the last we’d ever see, but here we are, like we’re back in the 60s again.
“However, there are still a lot of us who believe that if we just keep at it, singing the praises of unity, then we can heal as a country.”
In addition to “God Bless the U.S.A.,” Greenwood has a string of hits including “Ring on Her Finger, Time on Her Hands,” “Somebody’s Gonna Love You,” “Holdin’ A Good Hand,” “She’s Lyin’” and “Dixie Road.”
Wednesday evening will see hitmaker TG Sheppard perform at Bandstand.
Before hitting the charts, Sheppard had careers as a pop singer, a record distributor and a record promoter. He also became friends with Elvis Presley and John Denver, helping get “Suspicious Minds” and “Take Me Home Country Roads” the airplay to make them smash hits.
Sheppard eventually started his own production and production company and discovered a song called “Devil in the Bottle,” which he decided to cut himself after being turned down 18 times. The song was a smash hit and reached No. 1 in 1975. Sheppard followed that with a handful of other hits and Cash Box named him Best New Male Artist in 1976.
In 1978 he released a song called “When Can We Do This Again,” which began a streak of Top 10 hits that lasted five years. During that time, Sheppard released more than 10 No. 1 songs including “Last Cheater’s Waltz,” “Do You Want to Go to Heaven,” “I Loved ‘Em Every One,” “I Feel Like Loving You Again” and “Only One You.”
Sheppard continued to have success through the late 80s, racking up several more No. 1 hits for a grand total of 21.
Crystal Gayle will be at Bandstand for a Christmas show Nov. 20, and Greenwood will wrap the 2019 Up Close slate of shows when he returns for a Christmas show of his own Dec. 4.
Earlier this week, Up Close Concerts owner and promoter Bob Cannella announced Jay and the Americans and special guest BJ Thomas have been added to the 2020 lineup of shows, and are set to perform Oct. 17, 2020, at the Welk Resort Theatre. Next year will be Cannella’s final season promoting shows in Branson.
“We promised our final year presenting concerts in Branson would be a lot of fun and we are keeping that promise,” Cannella said. “We have added another great 60s and 70s rock and roll show, and this one stars Vocal Group Hall of Fame members Jay And The Americans.
“This will be their first ever performance in Branson and features original members Sandy Deane, Marty Sanders and Howie Kane with long time lead singer Jay Reinecke.”
Jay and the Americans were a fixture on the charts for the majority of the 1960s, and their music is still used in movies and TV shows to this day. Their biggest hits include “Cara Mia,” Hushabye,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Come a Little Bit Closer,” which was recently featured on the “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” soundtrack, and “This Magic Moment.”
Joining Jay and the Americans is Branson favorite BJ Thomas. He achieved his international fame with 18 Top 10 hits with songs like “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head,” (a personal favorite) “Hooked On A Feeling,” “Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song,” “I Just Can’t Help Believing” and “Don’t Worry Baby.”
In addition to Jay and the Americans and BJ Thomas, Cannella has already announced several shows for next season.
Shows set for 2020 at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Theater include Amy Grant March 8, Ronnie McDowell with two special shows April 1, as well as Wink Martindale April 2 as part of the Branson Elvis Festival, Pat Boone and Billy Dean on Mother’s Day, May 10, 2020, and Janie Fricke with special guests Moore & Moore on June 21.
Phil Vassar and Billy Yates will perform at the Welk Resort Theatre March 28, 2020, followed by Michael W. Smith May 9, then the Jay and the Americans and BJ Thomas show Oct. 17. Finally, on Oct. 24, 2020, the Welk Resort Theatre will host the final Up Close Concert featuring a “60s Supershow” starring Gary Lewis and the Playboys, Mitch Ryder, Dennis Tufano, Brian Hyland and Chris Montez.
“We still have a few more concerts to announce for next year and it will be a blast,” Cannella added.