MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Fort Gibson

October 7, 2013

Crescent Valley Opry fills with good, pure songs

FORT GIBSON — Fort Gibson High School graduate Stephen McClurg won’t shy away from crooning those old country classics.

His mellow tenor brings back Marty Robbins’ “Never Felt More Like Singing the Blues.”

“That was what I was raised on,” said McClurg, 18. “My dad would take me out and we’d listen to tapes. They had those songs going back to back. Good, pure songs. They’ve got great melody.”

Fans of those good, pure songs can hear them every other week at the Crescent Valley Opry, nine miles east of Fort Gibson on U.S. 62. The first and third Saturdays of each month, members of the house band start playing their guitars, fiddles, mandolins and electric steel guitars. They sing the songs of Patsy Cline, Hank Thompson, Hank Williams. And they back up guest singers.

Saturday night, area singer Will Clark sang numbers with such unmistakably country titles as “My Tears Have Washed ‘I Love You’ from the Blackboard of My Heart” and Hawkshaw Hawkins’ “Call Lonesome 7-7203.”

The old music attracts 125 to 150 music lovers to each concert, said Linda Beaver, who runs the Opry with her husband, Doyle.

“It depends on if OU is playing ball on television that night,” she said. “It depends on a lot of things.”

The Beavers have been presenting country shows inside their metal building since 1998. The couple originally used the building to sell antiques.

“Then my friend, Bob Weeden, had a band long ago and needed a place to play,” Doyle Beaver said. “So we scooted the antiques to the side to give them a place to play.”

Eventually, the antique business got to be too much for the couple, so they sold all the merchandise on the floor, Doyle Beaver said. The venue was called Crescent Valley Jamboree until about a year ago, he said.

The Beavers kept the dozens of gas station signs that still line the walls: Gibble Gas, Deep Rock, Champlin Oil, the orange Phillips 66 signs, a Conoco sign with the red triangle. Guitars line the walls behind the corner stage.

Lonnie Rowan attended that first concert, and has been to many since then.

“The stage was right here behind me,” Rowan said, pointing to the concession area. “Then word got out. It’s really gained in popularity. It’s good, clean family fun.”

“The people who come to our shows don’t care for beer or alcohol,” Beaver said.

He said he wanted a place where “People can enjoy themselves, have some laughs, get trouble off their minds, get minds off Washington.”

The music draws people of all generations.

Haley Rowlett, 13, of Muskogee said she likes to listen to the female singer Arielle Barnett.

“She’s just a good role model,” said Haley, who is in the honor choir at her school.

Jimmy Robinson of Porum likes to bring his grandson, Caden, 7.

“He’s been coming out here since he was a little bitty baby,” Robinson said. “We got him up on stage when he was 3 or 4, but he was too bashful. He couldn’t sing.”

McClurg wasn’t too shy.

Linda Beaver said McClurg has played at the Opry since he was 15 and attending Fort Gibson High School.

McClurg is studying nursing at Connors State College. But he said he wants to continue to do as much music as he can.

“I’ve been praying about it, and if God will open up a door for me, that’s where I’ll go,” he said.

Linda Beaver said Opry performers usually are working people. She said she couldn’t think of any who went on to bigger things.

“The Swon Brothers played out here once back when they were 10 or 12 years old,” she said. “But we did not get them started. They did all that on their own.”

The Opry will present a benefit concert Saturday to help with medical expenses for Arthur Corbett, who is receiving cancer treatment in Houston. The concert is at 7 p.m. Saturday, but free beverages and hot dogs will be served at 6 p.m.

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