TUPELO • Guy Hovis has sung in venues throughout the United States and on national television as a featured vocalist on “The Lawrence Welk Show.”
Yet when asked if he’d ever performed in Baldwyn, Mississippi, Hovis was stumped. The Tupelo native then chuckled as he began rewinding his mind through the many appearances he’s made over the years.
“When you’ve been around as long as I have, you eventually go just about everywhere,” Hovis, 78, said. “But Baldwyn? I’d have to think about that. There’s a possibility I may have sung in a church in Baldwyn, but I don’t think so. I think it was too close to Tupelo.”
Baldwyn is about a 20-mile drive from Hovis’ hometown – a distance he’s more than willing to travel Saturday to sing Christmas songs. “An Evening With Guy Hovis,” a holiday-themed concert starring the former Welk singer, is set for 7 p.m. at the Claude Gentry Theatre on Main Street.
After thinking about it, Hovis now believes Saturday’s show will be his Baldwyn debut.
“I’m really excited about this,” Hovis said in a telephone interview. “I didn’t know that theater existed up there. When I received the email inviting me to perform there, I was looking at it and thinking, ‘Man, this would be fun.’ I’m looking forward to it.”
Now a resident of Jackson, Hovis has been an entertainer throughout his life. Performing with his then-wife Ralna English, the Guy-and-Ralna duo became one of the most popular acts on Welk’s TV show for 12 years. He has continued to perform since the show’s end in 1982.
Hovis said he tried to leave the music business a few years ago, only to be reminded how much people enjoy hearing him sing.
“’The Lawrence Welk Show’ is still on all over the country on reruns on PBS,” he said. “Unfortunately, Mississippi stopped carrying it a couple years ago. You have to be close to Memphis or over by Birmingham or New Orleans to get the Welk show anymore.”
The Christmas season is a busy time for Hovis. He usually lines up a series of performances like the one in Baldwyn.
“I have places where I go back routinely every year. Two or three retirement homes around the Jackson area,” he said. “It’s always my favorite time of the year and my favorite concerts because I absolutely love Christmas music. I have two Christmas performances lined up before I get to Baldwyn, so I’ll be warmed up and ready to go.”
Outside of the Christmas season, Hovis still entertains audiences at places like the Lawrence Welk Resort in Branson, Missouri. He also performed a song during the second inauguration of President George W. Bush in 2005.
And sometimes when he takes the stage, Ralna is singing next to him – just like they did on TV every week.
Guy and Ralna divorced in 1984 after 15 years of marriage, yet they maintain a good friendship as well as a professional relationship. They have a daughter, Julie, who’s a high school teacher in Phoenix.
“Ralna and I still work together,” he said. “We hold it to maybe a half-dozen concerts a year.”
In 2002, Hovis married Sarah (Sis) Lundy – “a Delta girl from the cotton fields outside Leland, Mississippi,” he said. Hovis said the performances with his ex-wife have the blessing of his current wife, though he admits there have been some awkward moments.
“’The Lawrence Welk Show’ fans will come up to us when we do concerts and sign autographs, and some of them still think Ralna’s my wife,” Hovis said, laughing as he tells the story. “My current wife ain’t real crazy about that, but she does well with it. Sis calls Ralna her wife-in-law.”
Even though Hovis lived in California during part of his entertainment career, Mississippi remained close to him.
“I moved to Jackson in 1991, so I’ve been back for 28 years,” he said. “I was in California for 25 years, so I’ve been here longer than I was out there. Even when I lived in California, Tupelo was still home.”
The Baldwyn concert is like coming home for Hovis. In fact, he plans to visit his sister, Joye Killebrew, while in Tupelo.
“I’ll stay at my sister’s house and go up to the Claude Gentry Theatre,” he said. “The last time I was in Tupelo, we were going to ride up there, but the weather was horrible. It was pouring rain, so we didn’t get to go. But I’ll get up there definitely before Dec. 14.”
The concert is free, courtesy of theater season sponsor Farmers and Merchants Bank. However, it is a ticketed event and a reserved seat is required. Tickets are available through Eventbrite.com.