Downtown Country Veterans featured in NSU Stars in the Summer Series

Pattie Clay

T.J. Spears


TAHLEQUAH – Grab your Stetson and kick up your heels with Downtown Country veteran performers Pattie Clay and T.J. Spears at Northeastern State University’s Stars in the Summer Series.

With years of experience behind her, 16-year-old Pattie Clay is a seasoned performer. Having shared the stage with performers such as Lonestar, Blake Shelton and Mel McDaniel, Clay has spent the past eight summers with the cast of Downtown Country.

At just 8 years old, the Tahlequah native auditioned for Downtown Country after learning about the show from a friend. At 14, she became a full-fledged cast member.

I’ve always been a country girl,” said Clay. “I’m more open to country music and I have a country voice.

As a veteran of Downtown Country, Clay is always there for new cast members and guest artists to lend a helping hand.

Whenever a new person comes in, if they’re not quite sure about something I’ll talk to them about it,” said Clay. “I try to let them know it’s not scary and to just have fun with it. If they ask me questions, I answer them to the best of my ability.

After performing on big stages to audiences with more than 20,000 people, Clay said she enjoys the intimacy of the smaller Downtown Country stage at the NSU Playhouse.

I love being close to the audience because you can connect with them better,” said Clay. “I think I perform better when they’re closer to me.

With support from her family, Clay left July 19 to audition for the eighth season of “American Idol” in Louisville, Ky.

I think she’s amazing, I could never do what she does,” said Dawn Clay, Pattie’s mother. “I would follow her anywhere, but I’d never push her. That way if she falls, I’ll be there to catch her.

Another long-term Downtown Country performer is 21-year-old T.J. Spears, also known as “Mr. Downtown Country.

I grew up singing with everything on the radio,” said Spears. “When Garth Brooks played here, I wanted to be just like him so I took my cowboy hat and went to the show. That was my first experience with music.

Spears attended the Garth Brooks concert at the NSU Center for the Performing Arts in the early ‘90s. Since then, he’s become less interested in the singer and more interested in the music.

Now there’s not a country artist I don’t like,” said Spears, a native of Tahlequah. “I have more of an ear for it, to where I’m constantly listening to music. I listen to the singers, but I listen to the music, too.

In December 1999, Spears began his Downtown Country career as a guest performer and in 2003 he became a cast member. Spears, emcee for DTC, said he’s had some very embarrassing moments along the way.

As emcee, obviously I have to stay on my toes and be a really good listener throughout the show. I have to stay focused,” said Spears. “I say my lines before I go onstage every night. My first Christmas show with Downtown Country we performed in Wagoner at the Civic Center. I had my lines down, or at least I thought I did. I got out there and attempted to start my dialogue and I couldn’t. On stage, one second turns into two seconds and two seconds turns into a really long time. About five or six seconds into it, I finally said something. It was an embarrassing moment for me, but after the show nobody reminded me of my mess-up.

While Spears is a talented singer himself, fellow cast members still wow him on stage. His favorite moments are when other performers bring the audience, including him, to the edge of their seats.

Some people have moments on stage, because the talent is so good, where it’s just like ‘wow’ because they did really well,” said Spears. “Those moments highlight the show and they really stand out.

Though Spears continues to perform with Downtown Country until Aug. 9, he has found time to again audition for KOTV Channel 6’s “Gimme the Mike” competition. After more than 500 people auditioned, Spears was chosen as one of 20 finalists and will appear during week four’s episode on Monday, July 28 at 7 p.m.

While both Clay and Spears have seen success outside NSU Stars in the Summer Series, the two Downtown Country veterans look forward to the show every summer.

I think that our show is as good as Branson. It provides Branson-style entertainment and some people that live around here don’t know that that same kind of talent is offered right here in Tahlequah,” said Spears. “I encourage everybody to come out and see the show. I think if you see the show once you’ll come back again, whether you see our show or River City, if you see one, you’ll come back and you’ll enjoy it every time.

The NSU Stars in the Summer Series features two shows from Downtown Country. “Rhinestone Country” brings to Tahlequah all the glitz and glam of Tinseltown, while “Country Roots” pays tribute to legendary stars such as Jimmie Rodgers, the Carter Family and Bob Wills.

Downtown Country performances are at the NSU Playhouse located at the corner of Downing and Muskogee. Show times for “Rhinestone Country” are Thursdays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Show times for “Country Roots” are Fridays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 p.m.

The River City Players also present two shows this summer. “Twist and Shout” to the sounds of Motown to the craze of the British Invasion, or travel back to the 1950s in “Rock Around the Clock” and bop to the beat of Elvis, sway to the sounds of the Shirelles and dream, dream, dream along with the Everly Brothers.

Twist and Shout” runs Thursdays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and “Rock Around the Clock” plays Fridays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 p.m. River City Players will perform at the Shawnee Street Theater, located on the corner of Downing Street and College Avenue.

The 2008 Stars in the Summer Series is sponsored by the Tahlequah Area Tourism Council. Ticket prices are $12 for adults, $10 for NSU alumni and employees, $8 for seniors and groups of 20 or more and $6 for students and children. To reserve tickets, call (918) 458-2075.

For more information on the NSU Stars n the Summer Series, visit www.nsuok.edu/si.

7/21/2008

 
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