LOUISIANA, Mo. — Bill Whyte can’t wait to once again perform the song that started him on the way to a notable country music career.
The Louisiana Area Historical Museum will be the host of a concert by the Nashville recording artist at 7 p.m. Friday, July 1, at the Louisiana Elks Lodge, 120 N. Fifth. Tickets are $5 each for ages 13 and older and are available from museum board members or at the door. Those 12 and younger get in free.
Whyte has penned songs in just about every category from comedy to gospel, but his first recording – “Mo Mo the Missouri Monster,” about a Bigfoot-like behemoth that put an international spotlight on Louisiana in 1972 — is the one that, like the creature, lingers.
“I am so looking forward to this special event to sing about and talk about my old monster buddy,” Whyte said. “I’m hoping to have a couple of guests who will share what they know about Mo Mo and the creation of the song, too.”
Whyte got his start at Bowling Green’s KPCR-FM Radio, which is now KJFM. He remembers station owner Paul Salois and morning disc jockey Joe Lewis had written a poem about Mo Mo.
“I only tweaked what they wrote to make it fit the melody I wrote for the song.” Whyte said.
Johnny Nace, a popular country musician and deejay in Warrensburg where Whyte went to college, took the young musician to Nashville to record “Mo Mo.”
Whyte graduated from Central Missouri State University with a degree in mass media. A radio career included award-winning, high-profile stops in Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Milwaukee and Nashville. He also was a member of the United Talent roster owned by legends Conway Twitty and Loretta Lynn.
Whyte has received multiple awards for songwriting. Among dozens of artists who have recorded his tunes are Ray Stevens, Joe Nichols, Cledus T. Judd, The Del McCoury Band, Linda Davis, Hillary Scott and Brady Seals.
While some songs deal with serious subjects, many tend toward the lighter side. Examples are “Things That Don’t Suck About Being a Guy,” “Honey Don’t Do List” and “Leave ‘Em Laughing.” One with which crowds can certainly identify is “The Dipstick Song (High Gas Prices at the Pump).” The singer had great training for such lyrics. He wrote comedy for a syndicate in New York for almost three decades and once did stand-up in clubs.
Whyte enjoys mixing genres during performances.
“Nobody feels bad when they’re laughing,” he explained. “And I love being able to provide that. But I also love performing a wide variety of songs that are the biggest part of my songwriting catalog.”
The best artists draw upon personal experience, and Whyte is no exception. Tunes that have the most impact usually offer nuggets of fact.
“The audience picks up on that,” Whyte said. “I do a song called ‘Face For Radio,’ because every bit of it was written about my long radio career, and every line is true. At the same time, funny songs make an impact because usually there’s some truth tucked into those songs, too. I write songs with our veterans and all of those songs are nothing but the truth from the eyes of a soldier. I’ll talk about that experience at the show.”
Whyte enjoys the intimacy of what he calls “listening audiences.”
“I played in a band for years and played to big audiences some, and that is a different kind of thrill,” he said. “But I love being able to sing my original songs and tell the stories behind those songs. And I love being able to talk ‘one-on-one’ with those in the audience about those songs and my life.”
That interaction is something vital to Whyte’s shows.
“It’s all about making a connection with the fans,” he said. “If I can do that, I’m going to enjoy the show more, and so are they. To look at faces that are laughing, sometimes crying, and responding to songs you’ve written is more rewarding than I can describe.”
The Louisiana gig will be a “very informal acoustic show,” Whyte promises. He plans to wear a Mo Mo shirt that the museum is selling, and says he’ll be “extremely disappointed” if fans don’t talk with him afterward.
“Hopefully, folks will feel like they are sitting in their living rooms listening to a friend tell stories and sing songs,” Whyte said. “I’ll do a mix of serious songs, gospel songs, songs that have been recorded by artists they will know, a patriotic song and certainly a healthy dose of funny songs. And, oh yeah, I’ll sing ‘Mo Mo,’ too.”
So … is Whyte a skeptic or adherent of the elusive beast?
“Oh, ya gotta believe in something, don’t ya?” he said.
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