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Pride, Twitty and Jones legacies to play Memorial Auditorium

WORTHINGTON — The 2018-19 season of entertainment at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center is debuting with a memorable country twang.

"Family Traditions: Country Music Heirs," featuring the children of acclaimed country stars Conway Twitty, Charley Pride, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, will start the year in style at 7 p.m. next Saturday.

"This is a one-of-a-kind show," said Tammy Makram, MAPAC's managing director. "These musicians happened to be on a Midwest tour and an evening opened up in their schedule."

Georgette Jones, the only daughter of country Hall of Fame artists George Jones and Tammy Wynette, as well as Michael Twitty and Dion Pride, will share music popularized by their famous parents along with stories about their lives and careers.

"I grew up listening to these artists and watching the Grand Ole Opry," said Makram. "In fact, I'm pretty sure I had a Charley Pride poster on my bedroom wall as a kid.

"Their children provide an up-close and personal show filled with great stories, beautiful memories and hit songs from true legends of country music who just happen to be their parents," she continued. "This will appeal to anyone who loves country, old or new."

If phone interviews with Dion Pride and Georgette Jones are any indication, Makram is on target; talented performers in their own right, both Pride and Jones express enthusiasm, humility and a willingness to chat at length about their parents' lives and their own careers.

"I love what I do," said Pride, a multi-faceted musician who tackled acoustic guitar at age 5, drums at 10, bass guitar at 12 and studied piano from 8 to 13.

"A lot of people mistake me for my father's son, but every morning when I wake up and look in the mirror, I see my mother's eyes."

Raised in Montana during his early years by Charley and Rozene Pride, a couple now into their sixth decade of marriage, Pride calls Montana "God's country" although he now makes his home in Texas.

"This type of show is so fun," said Pride of next Saturday's gig with Twitty and Jones. "It's so nice to get together with the legacies, because just by the nature of what we do we have so much in common.

"We can celebrate our parents' music together and have a great time; it's very therapeutic.

"But having famous parents is no different than, say, someone whose father or mother owned a large company in a small town," Pride continued. "A kid like that might be growing up with pressure to run that company."

Pride was a four-sport letterman (football, basketball, baseball and track) in high school and nearly pursued an athletic career.

"I came real close to taking a full scholarship in baseball at the University of Arkansas," said Pride.

It was actually his mother, Rozene, who helped him decide.

"I knew music was my passion, and she said, 'Dion, you know what you really want to do,'" Pride related.

Instead, Pride attended a music college at North Texas State University. He's been performing since he was 14, has played lead guitar and keyboards in the past for his father and remains delighted that his famous parent, who set a high bar for his own offspring, chose to record one of his songs — "I Miss My Home" — on his 2011 "Choices" album.

"I was very flattered my father thought enough of that song to record it," said Pride. "Nepotism is not part of my father's makeup, and it's been clear from the start that I had to earn it."

Pride and Jones have worked alternately over the past several years with Michael Twitty and Marty Haggard, and comparing notes on their lives offers some similarities as well as differences.

Jones, who first sang with her parents at age 3 and recorded a single with her father, "Daddy, Come Home," as a 10-year-old, inherited a healthy dose of musical talent, but when it came time to raise her own family she didn't opt to follow their example.

"I worked as an R.N. for 17 years because I wanted to raise my children before pursuing anything full-time in music," said Jones, now of Hendersonville, Tenn. "I remembered what it was like for my parents to be gone a lot, and I wanted to be at home for my kids."

It wasn't until her twin sons (who will be 25 in October) were 16 that Jones began doing music on a part-time basis, and after they graduated from high school she jumped in full-time.

"I started writing music as a teenager, and music has always been my passion, but I was also worried that with two parents like I had, how in the world do you pursue the same job and compare yourself to them?" she mused.

Besides excelling at singing and songwriting, Jones also plays guitar and a "teeny bit" of piano.

"And I played French horn in high school," she laughed.

Jones recognizes the significant hurdles her mother faced, not only in her personal life but also as a female attempting to break into the world of country music.

"I admire her so much for her determination to work as hard as she could to achieve her goals," said Jones. "She had everything against her as a woman in country in Nashville.

"She — and Loretta Lynn and Dolly Parton — had it so much more difficult than they have it today," Jones added. "And my mom was a mother of three girls, all under the age of 5, when she came to Nashville in 1965, on her own and trying to make music in a new town."

By the time Jones was born in 1970, Tammy Wynette had established herself with hits such as "Stand By Your Man" and "D.I.V.O.R.C.E."

"She married my dad, but he had been one of her country music idols before that and when they divorced, she was dependent on the dual relationship and thought her success was due to him," said Jones. "It took her a year or two to feel more confident, and to know she had her own fans and audience and wasn't riding on anyone else's coattails."

While neither Pride nor Jones has played Worthington before, they both are eagerly anticipating their appearance here. Last night, Pride sang the national anthem at the start of the Texas Rangers' baseball game; next weekend, he'll sing for Worthington.

"In a smaller community, it's all about spreading the therapeutic joy that music brings to people," said Pride. "I love these intimate settings where you can see the people in the audience and feel their energy. It's inspiring to have that audience interaction."

Said Jones, "I was in Black Duck, Minn., not long ago and I had a great time there and met some wonderful people.

"I'm definitely looking forward to meeting more in Worthington."