Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Powerhouse from Alabaster, Alabama (Part 3)

Wendy Holcombe's effort to become an all-around entertainer hit a couple of huge bumps in 1981-82.

First of all, in the summer of 1981, the pilot the Alabaster, AL native did for NBC, the sitcom Wendy Hooper, US Army, didn't get picked up (America's TV viewers hitched their wagons to another Army-based comedy, CBS' Private Benjamin, which presented Lorna Patterson in the role made famous by Goldie Hawn in the previous year's big-screen hit of that name). 

Had Wendy Hooper caught on, Holcombe (then 18 years old) would've been one of the youngest to ever get top billing on a prime-time sitcom on American television. (Jay North was just seven in 1959, the year he landed the show that gave him his fame: Dennis the Menace.)

Bill's and Helen's multiinstrumentalist-singer-comic daughter got a sitcom anyway when, on 10-29-1981, Lewis & Clark premiered on NBC.

The same viewers who kept WHUSA from joining the Peacock Network's 1981-82 schedule stayed with L&C's biggest Thursday-night competition, CBS' Magnum, P.I. (That crime drama- the one that made a household name out of Tom Selleck- survived its rookie campaign, the 1980-81 season.)

Not even a pair of time-slot changes could save Lewis & Clark, where Holcombe played a server (okay, waitress) in the Luckenback, TX nightclub run by Gabe Kaplan and Guich Koock.

Even if many people couldn't get into Wendy Holcombe the actor, they still fell head over heels in love with Wendy Holcombe the musician. And some extra proof of that came in 1983, when Wendy, her hubby Tom Blosser, and their band traveled to Israel to play alongside bluegrass legends Bill Monroe and Mac Wiseman.

Not long after that, Tom and Wendy turned their 1983 travels into a world tour, focusing on Australia, New Zealand, and several Asian countries.

The closing act on that international tour: None other than Perry Como. 

Meanwhile, back in the United States, the banjo-playing wife and her bass-playing husband set up shop in Florida, only to move to North get closer to relatives. 

And a year or so before WLH and TYB set out for their overseas tour, Wendy Lou started hooking up with fellow banjoist Buck Trent.
Trent and Holcombe started touring together as well; their performances set that twosome up for a 1982 Music City News Bluegrass Act of the Year award nomination. Later on, the Country Music Association nominated them for Instrumentalists of the Year.  

All this time, Wendy was performing despite a degenerative heart condition (first diagnosed at an early age). 

By the middle 1980s, that heart condition (technically known as cardiomyopathy; in lay terms, enlargement of the heart) wasn't improving. 

Several times, an ambulance would arrive at the Holcombe-Blosser house to pick Wendy up...but she'd beat the odds whenever they were stacked against her recovery. 

Then came that ill-fated Saturday...the seventh Saturday of 1987.

Country music's much the poorer because of Wendy's 2-14-1987 death. The Alabaster Kid strove for perfection in everything she did...including in her musical endeavors. And that pursuit of perfection showed whenever she appeared in front of any kind of live audience or whenever Wendy appeared in front of a set of TV cameras. 

Even if you and I can't go online and find Holcombe's acting performances (you'll strike out on if you're looking for Lewis & Clark episodes), there's plenty of audio evidence (the posthumously-released CD "Memories of Wendy" is finally available...on as well as and plenty of video evidence right here on the Internet that Cindy's and "Muley's" sister was a powerful musician.

And a powerful, energetic, enthusiastic influence.

Wendy, I'm glad you came along...and I'm glad you brought so many great things.

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