By Michael Palecki
Country Western Music fans, and close friends of Madelyn McCready-Cimino, who passed away in January, came together last Saturday evening for a special 8th year edition of The Red Barn Opry. John Wilkens, at his Wilkensville Corner Theater and Old Western Town in Wrightwood, hosted the event. Presented by legendary Rock & Roll drummer Dave Cimino and his “Mad Music” moniker tribute to Madelyn, the concert was broadcast live on KJAY Epic Internet Radio.
After welcoming guests, Dave Cimino who toured as drummer for Canadian super group The Guess Who confided, “Madelyn turned me on to Country music.” Back then Cimino became smitten with vocalist Madelyn McCready who performed often at the Palomino Club in North Hollywood, the Crazy Horse Saloon in Santa Ana, and on one occasion at the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee
It was a new experience for the rock star that blossomed in mutual appreciation of each other’s musical backgrounds as Dave and Madelyn became a couple. Along the way, they became close friends with John and Wanda Wilkens in Wrightwood, which provided inspiration for The Red Barn Opry.
Following presentation of the American Flag by Wrightwood Boy Scout Troop 351, Cimino then introduced John Wilkens to the audience and thanked him for 22 years of friendship and his support of Country Western music, to thunderous applause.
After that, Mark McKinley and Jeff Baldonado, members of the heavy metal band “War Within,” took the stage and did an acoustic set, “For Madelyn.” With both playing acoustic guitars and McKinley singing, his neck muscles were pumped up with power vocals for the Country standards “Sunny and 75,” “Til’ It’s Gone” and “Fly Over States,” as the audience sang along.
Next up, Back Porch Bluegrass Band performed a set of 10 songs, of which the gospel tinged selections “I’ll Fly Away” and “The Lord Will Make A Way Somehow” were dedicated to Madelyn. Musicians included Frank Abrahams on mandolin, Scott Sandoval playing banjo, Patsy Abrahams on fiddle, Ed Maxwell on acoustic guitar, with Marc Nelissen playing upright bass and everyone singing
For many in the audience, the music was an elixir for healing and there was plenty of foot tapping and clapping for Earl Scruggs’s “Dear Old Dixie” that featured the upright bass and banjo with the mandolin scatting everywhere. There was also yodeling to Jimmie Rodgers’s “California Blues” and a serious fiddle staccato for the Hank Williams Sr. version of “My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It.”
Concluding the concert, a band called “Born Country” transitioned into country and rock music and featured Joe Eiffert on electric guitar and vocals, Teeci Eiffert on acoustic guitar and vocals, Michael Cappetta playing electric bass guitar and singing, and Kevin O’Neal on drums and vocals. Leading off with Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues,” Joe sang loudly and strummed a powerful guitar flourish. After that the band performed “Little Sister by Elvis Presley, “Ramblin’ Fever” by Merle Haggard and two selections from the Eagles.
Later on, as per a request from an audience member for a Chuck Berry song, Michael Cappetta started singing “Johnny B. Goode” that turned into a medley as he transitioned into “Lucille,” with everyone singing and the guitars going wild in a blistering crescendo. That was followed by Cappetta singing Willy Nelson, Teeci singing Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams,” Joe singing “Kansas City” and everyone singing the final song “Route 66.” And then after John Wilkens thanked the band for pleasing Madelyn up in heaven, the band played Garth Brooks’ “Friends In Low Places” for an encore.