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Monday, May 2, 2016

Longtime organist keeps 'em stepping high

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Larry Bright
For the past 28 years, Larry Bright has been the man at the organ who fills The Celebration grounds with that familiar sound each season.

And he's back again for his 29th appearance, taking his familiar seat in the center ring to liven up the nightly proceedings of the horses going around the ring.

At the age of 68, Bright is no stranger to the keyboard, who starting playing at the age of 13, and was performing at one-night horse shows in his native Mississippi when he was 17.

Bright rode his own horses as well and showed while in his teens, but got his start at one show when he was called to the center of the ring to play "for the rest of the afternoon," but ended up being called back to perform again that night.

King of the ring

From there, he began to play one night horse shows all across Mississippi and moved up from there to playing at events over multiple nights, eventually ending up playing in all of the nation's 50 states "at one time or another."

But in Shelbyville, he's a member of the Celebration's Hall of Fame.

While Bright doesn't perform at as many shows as he has in previous years, doing about 10 to 15 per year now, he has played at the National Horse Show at New York City's Madison Square Garden and also at the equestrian events at the 1984 Olympic Game in Los Angeles.

"I'm very selective in the shows that I take," he said, noting that he operates a real estate business full time in his home town of Tylertown, Miss., which he's operated for over 45 years.

Bright keeps things interesting in the ring with the tunes he plays, trying to match an appropriate song to go along with the horse that is appearing in the ring.

That's a chore when you know several thousand songs, but Bright manages to tie-in the animal and the musical number, such as playing "Happy Days Are Here Again" with a horse named FDR, he said.

One of the favorites that Bright plays is his own composition "Flat Walk Boggle," which is only performed for the World Grand Champion at each Celebration. CDs of his music are also available at the Celebration's gift shop or at World Champion Horse Equipment.

One-man band

When Bright comes to Shelbyville, he totes plenty of audio equipment to go along with his own organ. Two years ago, he added an electronic keyboard to augment the big Hammond to give his performance more variety, and it was well received by his fans.

Bright said one of his most memorial moments of playing at the Celebration was during a bad lightning storm one year, which had him trying to protect his expensive equipment from the horizontal rain that was blowing through the center ring. He said he has "a great working relationship" with The Celebration and loves playing in Shelbyville each year.

"It's like a big family," he said.

But while he's not working his day job at selling real estate, he's either playing music at the horse shows, and participates in them as well. It must be nice to have a front row seat to an event he loves.

"Horse shows is an avocation of mine, it's something I like to do, and I get paid for it too," Bright said.

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