The Anoka Lions Club is adding pop music to its silver anniversary country concerts lineup.
This time around, the group has snagged crossover artist Johnny Tillotson as the headliner for the Anoka Lions 25th annual Music Show. The Vees Band, starring Tommy and Jeff Vee, sons of pop music singer Bobby Vee, open the concert and will back Tillotson.
Country-pop star Tillotson and the Vees will perform two shows March 23, 3 and 7 p.m. Tickets are $17-$20. The show is at Anoka High School, 3939 Seventh Ave. N.
Tillotson has been recording and entertaining fans for more than 50 years.
Tickets are going fast, especially the reserved section for the first show, according to Bill Dubats, concert chairman.
“We’re thrilled to have Johnny come to Minneapolis,” Dubats said. “We’re tickled that he’s going to be here.”
Born in Jacksonville, Fla., Tillotson decided to be a singer at the age of nine.
His breakthrough came in 1957 when he was named one of six winners in the National Pet Milk Talent Contest. He was signed to Cadence Records, which handled the Everly Brothers and the late Andy Williams.
Tillotson, a singer and songwriter, enjoys numerous accolades. He is a Top 100 Recording Artist of the rock era.
He’s a two-time Grammy nominee in country music – his first for “It Keeps Right On A Hurtin’” and his second for “Heartaches by the Number.”
The popular Tillotson scored big with nine top 10 hits and 15 top-40 Billboard hits.
Some of his biggest tunes are: “Poetry in Motion,” “Without You,” “Talk Back Trembling Lips,” “Send Me the Pillow You Dream On,” “You Can Never Stop Me Loving You,” “Worry” and “Dreamy Eyes.”
Also, Tillotson is a 2008 inductee into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame and the 2011 Florida Hall of Fame.
This concert is bound to be a pleaser for country and pop fans alike, especially for 1960s music fans. The Anoka Lions Club has a tradition of hiring singing stars who schmooze with the audience, upping the fun factor.
So how have the 25 years of concerts fared for the Lions?
“It’s been a success and, quite frankly, it’s been getting much better lately,” said Dubats, in his 15th year as concert chairman.
Dubats recalls the time more than a quarter of a century ago when the late Russ Stetler, one of the founders of the annual country show, brought up the idea that the Lions should present concerts. (The other two founders were the late Mert Watson and Landol Locher.)
“I’ll never forget when he stood up and announced it,” Dubats said. “I just wrinkled my nose and thought why do we want to do this? Russ said, ‘to make money.’”
Among many recipients, proceeds from the shows are donated to such charities and community services as Leader Dog for the Blind, Rochester, Lions Club International, with aid going to disaster victims worldwide and to help prevent river blindness in Africa. The Lions club also donates five scholarships to five Anoka High School seniors for higher education.
The first year the country music show was staged, the Brashers of Branson, Mo., were the headliners. They returned to perform seven more years in a row, according to Dubats.
But in the name of variety, other entertainers were hired in future years. Among them: Wanda Jackson, Ozark Jubilee with Doofus Doolittle (fiddler Randy Newman) and David Frizzell, to name a few.
Tommy Cash (Johnny’s younger brother) with show openers Sherwin and Pam Linton spawned one of Anoka Lions’ biggest shows. The two shows raised $13,000, which the Lions donated to community services and Lions’ programs, according to Dubats.
“We hope to continue the concerts into the foreseeable future, and to raise money to fund our charitable giving,” Dubats said.
For more information or to order tickets, call Bill or Jan Dubats at 763-757-4143 or Joe or Lynn Zimmerman at 763-421-4361.
Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]