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Heather McAdams to host ‘The Last Country Calendar Show’

The fun loving purveyors real country music Chris LigHeather McAdams will host “The Last Country Calendar Show” 9 p.m. Friday

The fun loving purveyors of real country music Chris Ligon and Heather McAdams will host “The Last Country Calendar Show” at 9 p.m. Friday at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn. Tickets are $20. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media

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the last country
calendar show

◆ 9 p.m., Friday

◆ Fitzgerald’s, 6615 Roosevelt, Berwyn

◆ Tickets, $20

◆ (708) 788-2118,

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Updated: January 6, 2013 9:42AM

Chris Ligon and Heather McAdams have turned the page.

The fun-loving purveyors of real country music will host “The Last Country Calendar Show” at 9 p.m. Friday at FitzGerald’s in Berwyn.

Artist-filmmaker McAdams has been making the country calendars since 1990, and for the last 15 years McAdams and Ligon have curated the popular live shows where calendar characters come to life.

At FitzGerald’s, Devil in a Woodpile covers Billy Joe Shaver, Jane Baxter Miller and Kent Kessler get wasted on Freddy Fender and the ringer of the night could be NRBQ’s Scott Ligon (the younger brother of Chris) singing the late Skeeter Davis. Each act performs two or three covers, accented by vintage footage of the original perfomer.

During an interview from the North Side home she shares with her husband Chris Ligon, McAdams said she is taking a “sabbatical.”

The Judds took a “sabbatical” and came back. So did Garth Brooks.

“Never say never, right?,” McAdams said last week. “I like to reinvent myself, so maybe I’ll drive cross country. Or write a book. I’d like to do a Halloween show next year because we have killer Halloween trailers no one gets to see.”

The 2013 calendar is one of McAdam’s best.

How can you beat a half-naked Randy Travis (referencing his recent alcohol-infused scrapes with the law) while also learning John Prine and Thelonious Monk share a birthday (Oct. 10) and Bruce Springsteen once opened for Anne Murray (Oct. 18)?

The rootsy Lawrence Peters Outfit covers Travis at the show. Let’s hope the Outfit wears clothes.

Travis is the only contemporary artist represented in the calendar.

Maybe the fact that today’s country — Taylor Swift or Kenny Chesney — is really pop music is another factor that inspired McAdams’ sabbatical.

“We project 16mm film and have some DVDs,” McAdams said. “That’s the main thing that keeps me drawing some of the same people over and over again [Matt Miller takes on the late Conway Twitty, Robbie and Donna Fulks cover the Johnson Mountain Boys]. “But the history of country music is deep. And I would like to go even deeper. I might run out of girls, though. The gals are getting fewer. But you can get into Cajun music and I’m kind of an old folkie. You could even do a whole pedal steel or duet calendar. My sister Linda tells me I should add some new people, but that’s catering to the masses. It’s like painting a painting to match some suburbanite’s couch. That’s not the kind of artist I am. I did put Taylor Swift in last year.

“I can learn about anybody. I didn’t know Taylor Swift grew up on a Christmas tree farm.”

McAdams is a true blue maximalist. On her calendar, t each day contains factoids and tiny drawings. February ends with a quote from Neko Case: “Country music is completely punk-rock. It’s the original punk-rock!” A snapshot of McAdams in her “punk daze” is squished next to the quote.

Ligon, however, grew up around jazz. His father was a jazz musician and his mother was a jazz singer. His country influences came from his grandparents’ musical tastes. “It was self-educated for me,” said Ligon, a vocalist-keyboardist whose 2009 “Look at the Birdy” is a collection of pop chestnuts.

“I bought records for a quarter at the Salvation Army. You can educate yourself for $10. I lived in Nashville for a while and started going to the Grand Ole Opry in the early 1990s. So many people were still alive: Roy Acuff, Charlie Louvin, Hank Snow and Bill Monroe. That’s just 20 years ago.

“The Opry has taken a big hit. Ninety percent of country now? Everybody should be spinning in their graves whether they’re dead or not. If you watch these country awards shows — it’s just impossible. Heather is a real trouper, though, and there can be a song today that will have some tinges of country. But man, you gotta wade through a lot.”

McAdams grew up in Northern Virginia listening to Scottish music.

“But when I was in high school, the Annandale Bar & Grill had bluegrass music on weekends,” she recalled. “I used to go to Wolf Trap [a park for the performing arts near Washington D.C.] that had Cajun and Zyedo festivals. I’d go to the Cellar Door in D.C. in high school. I’d sneak over the line. My dad wouldn’t let me go over (her voice dropped dramatically ) the Mason-Dixon Line if you weren’t drinking age. I’d see Muddy Waters at the Cellar Door but then learned across the street there was Emmylou Harris with some special guest who now I know was Gram Parsons. I just wish I had my mind now for back then. It would have been great.”

Ligon arrived in Chicago in 1977 when he was listening to Devo and the Ramones. McAdams came a year later to study filmmaking at the School of the Art Institute. Between 1982 and 1984 she was an assistant visiting professor in film and drawing at the University of Kentucky in Lexington. She returned to Chicago in 1988 and met Ligon in 1990. Like George and Tammy, the couple developed a love of country by sharing songs. Ligon and McAdams then started collecting old films.

Their calendar sabbatical has nothing to do with the Mayan calander, right?

After all, Skeeter Davis had a No. 1 1963 hit with “The End of the World”

Ligon laughed and said, “No. The show is a big deal. We get the 12 acts, we show the films. It has not allowed us to do other shows we’ve thought about. We’ll now have a clean slate.”

“Heather’s Lil’ Country Calendar 2013” is available for purchase at the show and at the Differerent Strummer at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln; Dave’s Records, 2604 N. Clark, and Squeezebox Books & Records, 1235 Chicago Ave. in Evanston. Calendars and limited edition T-shirts of calendar drawings are $20.

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