Written by Dave Clements
Nov 22, 2013 at 08:00 PM
ImageOoh Baby Baby, the rain was coming down, the wind was howling, and the temperatures were hovering just about freezing as we crossed over the state line. Destination… Choctaw Event Center in Durant, Oklahoma. All the arrangements had been made for this huge fan to see Smokey Robinson perform for the first time in over 40 years.
Sadly, the weather was not behaving during our journey north, to the point that several times along our route we considered turning back and heading south. There was ice and sleet just to our West. The forecasts we heard and saw had us just on the line between bad weather and disastrous.

Thank goodness we kept going. Our payoff was a completely wonderful experience and evening at this concert venue, part of the Choctaw Casino and Resort. The storm continued raging well into the night…but not inside! Knowing I’d been approved for photo credentials was our motivation for traveling this distance to the show. However, we had no idea we’d be in for such a treat.

Each member of the Choctaw staff was so helpful and very willing to accommodate us back stage and during the show.  I had the pleasure of meeting and visiting with Earl, Smokey’s manager. Earl, a great guy, shared that he has been with Mr. Smokey Robinson for over 35 years. We had an interesting conversation about his experiences. He was 14 yrs. old when he started working for Smokey, hasn’t stopped yet, and has no intention of doing so anytime soon. And although Smokey is now 73, according to Earl, he doesn’t smoke or drink and is in great shape.

He also let us know that Smokey is very serious about protecting his voice because he regards it as his ‘instrument’. Well, Ooh Baby Baby, I’m here to report that Smokey has done an awesome job taking care of that instrument. His vocals are still just as unique and special, and so true and strong you just wouldn’t believe it.

ImageAll evening he belted out one song after another…from the opening note to when the encore ended. He sang Being With You, I Second That Emotion, Really Got A Hold, Quiet Storm, and a terrific Temptations’ medley that included My Girl. And it just kept getting better with Tears Of A Clown, Fly Me To The Moon, Love Bath, That Place, Just To See Her, Tracks Of My Tears, Cruisin’ –  and did I mention Ooh Baby Baby !?!

Also worth mentioning is that this was a Vegas style production – One cool cat band leader, two smoking’ dancers, three enormously talented back-up singers and five top notch musicians in the band. Watching all of this, it wasn’t hard to understand that they ALL took their inspiration from the star and headliner, Mr. Smokey Robinson. He set the bar very high.

Robinson is an entertainer and he knows how to work his crowd. This night the crowd was eating out of his hand.  For sure all the women in attendance were totally focused on every note and every word spoken between songs. You could hear the moans from all over the hall. I especially got a kick out of his comment that when he is with his dear friend Stevie Wonder he always tells him that there should be a FULL at the end of his name…like in WONDER -FUL! Stevie, in kind, calls him Smoke.  What a team!

When Smokey left the stage, I wondered how the evening could have gone much better, besides the weather of course, and then…it got better! As we were back stage talking with Earl again about an up and coming young country artist he manages on the side (www.KPFitzOffical.com …check him out), Robinson was wrapping up his after show, backstage ‘meet and greet’.

ImageEarl, out of the blue, called to Smokey and asked him to come over and meet a couple folks, then both Cathi and I got hugs from him just as if we were longtime friends. It was so cool and he was so nice. I got to share with him that I’d been a fan of his music for a very long and it was great to meet him. He thanked me and then signed a couple of charity items for us and headed to the bus. I invited him to come play golf at my club and then added ‘hit ‘em long and straight’. He’s rumored to really enjoy his golf. Judging from the big smile he responded with I’d say that’s true!

Ooh Baby Baby, what a night!

Until next time remember there is no time to kill,

P.S.  Please keep in your prayers three members of Willie’s band who were injured when their bus hit ice not far from where they were performing at Choctaw Casino’s sister casino WinStar that same night.