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Wildish Theater opening: Bring on Mason Williams.

Byline: Bob Keefer The Register-Guard

Mason Williams isn't exactly retired these days, but the 68-year-old musician hasn't been doing as much performing around Eugene as he once did.

That's in part because of a degenerative condition in his hand, making it difficult to hit those guitar chords as well as he used to.

But Williams, along with the group of musicians informally dubbed his "friends" - that's Art Maddox, Thom Bergeron and Don Latarski, among others - will be dusting off old tunes and inventing new ones Friday night for the gala official opening of the new Richard E. Wildish Community Theater in Springfield.

If you haven't heard of Williams, it's probably because you're younger than boomer age. His 1968 double Grammy-winning guitar instrumental, ``Classical Gas,'' became one of the standards for an entire generation of guitarists.

Williams, who lives in Eugene with his wife, a defense attorney, has also enjoyed a notable career as a comedy writer.

He wrote for ``The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour,'' winning an Emmy in 1969, and has worked for Steve Martin and ``Saturday Night Live'' among others. He's written a number of books and made art that's been shown at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

In the 1990s, Williams and friends - then including author Ken Kesey - did a series of Christmas performances for the Eugene Symphony. Friday's show dedicating the Wildish grows out of that tradition.

"You know, my first experience in Springfield was sitting in the car while my folks were in a bar drinking beer," he joked last week. "Times have changed. Now you can go to an artsy theater show and leave the kids in the car."

But Williams, who grew up in Oakridge, says he has deeper connections to Springfield, from the extended Kesey family there to his love of fly fishing.

The Wildish show will also be a retrospective of Williams' career, including music from his themed concerts such as "Of Time and Rivers Flowing."

CONCERT PREVIEW Mason Williams and Friends What: An opening gala for Lane County's newest performance venue, the 284-seat Richard E. Wildish Theater Where: 630 Main St., Springfield When: 8 p.m. Friday Tickets: $150; call 736-4044
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Title Annotation:Entertainment
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Nov 30, 2006
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