Sammy Kershaw made his first appearance on the Penn's Peak stage in Jim Thorpe on Friday night, to the delight of a house full of fans.
He appeared out of a hazy fog, as if stepping from a Louisiana bayou, of which this Kaplan, Louisiana boy knows something about.
He also knows something about making hit songs and started the evening with a Cajun kick singing his 2000 hit "Louisiana Hot Sauce," followed by "She Don't Know She's Beautiful," "Anywhere But Here" and "Yard Sale."
He told the crowd that he loves country music.
"I started playing in honky tonks when I was 12 years old in Louisiana. By 14, I was playing with the likes of Merle Haggard and George Jones...back when country was country. We called them stylists then, vocalists. Now performers all sound the same, like guys sounding like girls," Kershaw said and was met with the crowds' responding enthusiastic applause.
He said he had been asked to record a song for an album of various artists singing George Jones' hits and then performed the Jones' hit he recorded for the album, "He Stopped Loving Her Today."
When finished, he said, "That's country music right there."
Kershaw shared that "there comes a time when a singer thinks people don't want to hear him anymore. I didn't want to write anymore. One day I heard an old Johnny Paycheck song, "The Old Violin" and the last line is "We'll give our all to music, We'll give our life." It took me back to when I was 12 years old, and I thought, maybe people don't want to hear me anymore but I want to write some new songs."
He sang one of those new songs, "Better Than I Use to Be," from his most recent album of the same title. The crowd gave its rousing approval, convincing him there are still those who want to continue hearing Sammy Kershaw.
"Cover of the Rolling Stone" was followed by "National Working Woman's Holiday" and the women in the audience voiced their approval to a hymn dedicated to them.
In that soulful sound of his he sang "Love of My Life."
Kershaw introduced members of his band, thanked each one along with his sound and stage crew. Then he thanked his fans "Because if it wasn't for you, we couldn't do what we do."
The band then performed Supertramp's "Little Bit of Love" that showcased their talents and versatility.
Kershaw followed it up with "the song that started it all for me in 1991," "Cadillac Style" followed by his 1994 hit, "Third Rate Romance."
While singing, he began throwing out brightly colored Mardi Gras beads "all the way up from Louisiana" and fans who caught them wore them as highly prized gems.
"You know, those fine folks up in Washington don't really know anything about us. So I wrote this song about us. It's called 'Real People.'"
He sang a song "for all our veterans," "We've Always Been Red, White and Blue" as a huge American flag unfurled behind him.
"I got to spend some time at the Pentagon with some of our men and women who served in Iraq. I got to visit Arlington Cemetery. I had never been there before. It made me sad, but then I felt proud. I want to do this next song for all the men and women who gave their all for us to be free. For all those men and women who are still giving their all, their sacrifices."
As he began to sing the melancholy words of "Adios sweet home and family, Wave good-bye to your Louisiana son, You'll know why I'm leaving when you see the snow white rows of Arlington" the audience became very quiet, almost reverent as he sang, "The Snow White Rows of Arlington" from his new album "Better Than I Used To Be."
He closed the show saying "Goodnight and God bless America."
But fans clamored for more and he and the band came back for an encore performance of "The Blues Got Me."
He then said that he grew up in Louisiana with Cajun music and what was more southern fried rock and roll than Lynard Skynard and sang, "Give Me Back My Bullets" and the crowd loved it.
In beautiful acapella, Kershaw sang "What a Wonderful World" with a fine imitation of the legendary Louis Armstrong. He received a very appreciative standing ovation as he left the stage, with his fans hoping this wasn't his first and last appearance at Penn's Peak.
"I love Sammy. I've been a big fan of his ever since I first heard him years ago," said Betty Meckes of Kunkletown. "It was a wonderful night."