By Randy Johnson
Last Friday night’s swan song for the Charlie Ellis Trio at the Green Park Inn was one for the memory banks. A large, appreciative crowd inside and swirling snow outside set the stage for a perfect first evening at Blowing Rock’s Winterfest celebration.
Ellis and trio members Mike Barlowe on drums and Rick Stapleton on bass took some small breaks but otherwise showered the evening’s guests with exactly what they came for, catchy tunes and Ellis’s signature style on song after song from the heyday of the Jazz Parlour, one of the High Country’s most fondly remembered evening entertainment venues.
Guests dined, drank, stood in the wings reminiscing, and danced the evening away as only couples can who look into each others’ eyes and realize they’re reconnecting with the past in a present that needs to stand the test of time.
Charlie’s trio was joined by Tracy Brown of the Blowing Rock Tourism Development Authority as master of ceremonies and vocalist on a number of songs. Also joining on sax was Todd Wright. And Tommy Leak offered a Harry Chapin monologue he used to perform at the Jazz Parlour. Leak flanked Charlie on the right in one photo, with Boone attorney Ham Wilson standing to Ellis’ left.
The group, and Charlie’s wife Mary and family, mingled with many, many fans, one of which asked Ellis to sign an original LP from back in the day. Camera and phone flashes no doubt recorded thousands of photos, one of which pictured the musician posing with Green Park owner Steve Irace and Tracy Brown (back row, second and first from right), and Green Park general manager Lorry Mulhern to right of drummer Mike Barlowe.
The evening was all anyone attending could have wished for, including Ellis. “It was nothing short of a once in a lifetime experience,” he pronounced this afternoon. “I have savored it all weekend.”
Perhaps the evening’s highlight came at the very end, when the trio and saxophonist Wright played the Leon Russell classic This Masquerade (watch Ken Ketchie’s video). Most folks may remember the song from George Benson’s 1976 album Breezin, but for many locals, it’ll always be a Charlie Ellis tune from the Jazz Parlour. Tracy Brown crooned a memorable rendition and the evening ended with hugs on stage. In the end, it was Charlie Ellis smiling wistfully at his ecstatic roomful of cheering friends.
See video of the Charlie Ellis Trio’s last song of the last concert:
Editor’s Note: Keep in mind, Ellis continues to perform a solo gig every Friday and Saturday evening at the Green Park Inn.