BALDWYN – With a little help from a country singer, an Eva became an Evie.
“Glen Campbell hung Evie on me when I started working for him,” said Evie Littrell-Carney, a 66-year-old Baldwyn resident. “There was a song Jerry Reed wrote called ‘Evie.’ Glen would start to sing it when he saw me.”
If you’ve ever seen Campbell’s “Goodtime Hour” variety show on television, you probably saw a blonde Littrell-Carney singing backing vocals.
Her showbiz life intersected with stars like Perry Como, Jerry Lewis, Charo and Elvis Presley.
“My only Elvis story was when I was working with Glen,” she said. “We were working at the International Hotel in Las Vegas. We were going to follow Elvis.”
They went to a dressing room that was going to be Campbell’s, but, technically, still belonged to Elvis.
“After his show, Elvis came in and we were introduced to him. He did sit down at the piano, and we sang for a while,” Littrell-Carney said. “They were gospel songs. That’s what I remember.”
Littrell-Carney has a deceptively simple philosophy for success: “Imagine what you want, visualize it, and it will come to pass,” she said.
It helps if you’re willing to put in the work. For instance, she was focused on show business in grammar school.
“I knew I wanted to be a singer,” she said. “I can’t remember wanting to do anything else.”
She sang “Alice Blue Gown” in her first recital at age 5 in her hometown of Neosho, Mo., just south of Joplin.
At age 8, someone came to her house and recorded her version of “Jambalaya” onto a record.
She performed throughout school, then found herself at the University of Texas in Austin.
“Rather than doing much at school, I started working with the local theater group in Austin,” she said.
After appearing in “Matchmaker,” “Carnival,” “The Fantasticks” and others, she was invited to start a children’s TV show.
“I created a character called Mary Melody,” she said. “I would write songs like ‘Brush Your Teeth Song’ and ‘Morning Train.'”
When the circus came, she learned that Mary Melody’s short skirt and tights weren’t ideal for riding elephants. Other than that, she felt perfectly suited for the entertainment industry.
“My leaving Austin had to do with divorcing my first husband,” she said. “I decided I loved what I was doing, so maybe I could go to L.A. and do it there.”
Laugh until it hurts
After about three months in Hollywood, she got the TV gig with Campbell, and followed him to Las Vegas for a live show.
She performed with Perry Como and Charo, and eventually got an opportunity to audition for Jerry Lewis. She almost let that chance pass her by.
“I never did like him that much. I’d seen his slapstick comedy and it wasn’t funny to me,” she said. “I went to see his show at the Sahara, and he was a phenomenal performer. I laughed until I hurt.”
She took the job, and traveled the country and the world with the funny man. In one skit, he was a conductor and she was a member of the choir.
“I played the ding-dong blonde that couldn’t stop laughing at his antics,” she said. “He’d come and choke me around the neck for part of it. He did all sorts of things to keep me laughing, which wasn’t hard to do.”
Those days are in the past, but the memories are alive and well. DVDs of the “Goodtime Hour” are available, and you’ll find Littrell-Carney in clips on www.youtube.com.
She met and married “Doc” Carney, a Mississippi boy, and they moved to Lee County about three years ago. The walls of their Baldwyn home feature a Christmas card from Lewis, as well as photos of Campbell and other stars that crossed her path.
She’s writing a book, tentatively titled “Paradise Found,” that surely will include stories from her life in front of the stage lights.
But the book’s title was inspired closer to home.
“I have the most wonderful, loving relationship that I’ve ever had,” she said. “Then we moved to this part of Mississippi. It really seems like a dream, ‘Paradise Found.'”
Contact M. Scott Morris at (662) 678-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal