PORTLAND, Tenn. (WKRN) — Those looking for a good time in Portland can see a legacy songwriter perform this weekend and help historic preservation at the same time.
Ronnie McDowell will be performing two shows Saturday at Portland’s Temple Theatre, which is undergoing extensive renovations from the Portland Preservation Foundation. In 2013, the organization purchased the historic theatre, which operated from 1937-1956, in order to preserve the history of the downtown Portland area.
McDowell is a Portland native, though he now lives in Hendersonville. He told News 2 the work done to the theatre was “probably about the most beautiful restoration project I’ve ever seen.”
“They have put their heart and soul into it, and we are doing a show there this Saturday,” he said.
McDowell’s experience with the theatre comes mostly from stories, as it closed by the time he was in the first grade. His older siblings, however, were able to visit the theatre prior to its closure.
“They would tell me stories about seeing Gene Autry and Roy Rodgers and all the cowboy stars,” he told News 2. “They would see monster movies or whatever was out at the time, but I never got to go.”
McDowell said he’s looking forward to entertaining the crowds at the theatre this weekend as he returns to his hometown.
“I have a lot of wonderful memories of growing up in Portland. I graduated there—barely—in 1968, and I went straight to Vietnam. I’m a three-term combat veteran, and when I got out of Vietnam, I started writing songs. I wrote songs for everybody—that’s how I got into the business.”
“Everybody” includes high-profile stars like Porter Wagner, Billy Walker, Roy Drusky, George Strait, Tanya Tucker and even Johnny Cash.
McDowell is still writing songs today, including his own hits, most of which he will perform Saturday.
“I’ve been blessed to do what I do,” he said. “The real thing is just having fun with the audience, because it’s not about me; it’s about who comes to see us. We just have fun.”
In addition to the hits, McDowell is looking forward to fully entertaining folks, including having sing-alongs, cracking jokes, and sharing stories about his life.
Beyond that, McDowell said there’s a deeply personal reason he wanted to do the show: to honor the memories of two friends who never came out of Vietnam with him.
“The reason that I really want to do this show is because in 1968 I went into Vietnam with Jimmy Dale Hunter and Raymond Wright. We were 18, 19, and they didn’t get to come back, and I did. So that’s why I’m blessed,” he said. “I got to come back and live my dream, and they did not.”
The evening show Saturday is sold out, but there is still a 2 p.m. matinee show available for those interested in hearing McDowell perform. For tickets, contact Jo Ann Gore at 615-325-4783 or 615-418-2526. Part of the money raised will go toward further renovations of the theatre.