Opry returns to Suffolk

Published 8:02 pm Saturday, March 8, 2014

By Frank Roberts

Rocky Hock is a small dot on the Chowan County, N.C., map, but it holds an amazing talent pool, and swimming in that pool is “The Rocky Hock Opry.”

The Opry is a group of singers, instrumentalists and comics who love to entertain and to do so with a purpose.

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From its home base in Chowan County, the Opry has raised $375,000 for the American Cancer Society. In Suffolk, so far, three years of fun concerts have netted about $18,000 for a lot of Meals On Wheels.

The show returns to Suffolk for another benefit Friday at 7 p.m. at King’s Fork Middle School.

“In Chowan County, the Rocky Hock Ruritan Club Relay For Life Team raised about $3,000 a year to fight cancer,” said founder Jack Evans. “We looked for something bigger to raise more funds. All of us were playing in different areas. We weren’t playing together, so we formed this band for the sole purpose of raising money for the ACS.”

“We have so much good talent for such a small community,” he said. “Years ago, people liked to pick up a guitar and play. During school years, Sammy Morris (a group member) and I played together in high school.”

There are 13 entertainers in the group. In Edenton they perform at the Swain Auditorium.

A lot of people drive from Suffolk to Edenton to see the shows and vice-versa when they are held in Suffolk.

“We see numbers of faces from everywhere,” Morris said. “No matter where we are, they are. It makes us feel we’re doing something right.

Morris has been the emcee for the Opry since founding it 11 years ago. He also joins his friends for the pickin’ and singin’.

It is true country.

“Today’s (professional) country music is not really country,” he said. “We do classic country. The people who follow us grew up with classic country music.”

If you love the Oak Ridge Boys and The Statler Brothers, the Opry crew is your cup of tea.

There is also some rock ‘n roll, and music by the Opry Boys Quartet, who also perform in area churches and civic clubs. And there is a bit of comedy, with nary a dirty word.

Opry fans grew up laughing at the comedy of Minnie Pearl, and the Rocky Hock crew features her “twin,” Cindy Lewis. The comedy enters the hilarious phase when Flat Billy Bob shows up, dressed outlandishly, acting nuttier than Planters. When he opens his mouth, things get crazy.

In his saner moments, Flat Billy Bob is Steve Evans, the boss’s son, but the complete opposite of dear, ol’, laid-back Dad.

The show’s director, singer and master of all instruments, is the multi-talented Brian Smith who, lately, has brought his singing daughter, Emma and drum playing son, Nicholas, into the act.

Another favorite is the patriarch, “Big Daddy” Sam Morris, who, at home, is surrounded by females. He has three daughters, nine granddaughters and a grandson.

Cancer survivors are always a welcome part of the Opry audience.

“We really appreciate the continued support, and we’ll continue to do the best shows we can,” Evans said.

Advance tickets for Friday’s show are $15, and $20 at the door.

Tickets are available at Suffolk Meals on Wheels by calling 934-3911, or from Billy Smith at 925-4541. They can also be found at Nationwide Insurance in Suffolk, Farmers Hardware in Holland, Reale & Curran PC in Smithfield, Virginia Commonwealth Bank, Windsor Pharmacy, and at all Farmers Bank locations.