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Uncle Barky's Countdown to Christmas -- Episode Two

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Not quite yet a full-blown country music deity, a 34-year-old George Strait lip synced “When It’s Christmas Time in Texas” with all the dexterity of a dog gumming peanut butter.

It was 1986, the last year in which ABC presented the late Perry Como’s annual Christmas special. Strait joined Como and guests Angie Dickinson, Julia Migenes-Johnson and then San Antonio mayor Henry Cisneros in the Alamo City. Strait’s out of body contribution -- a piped-in vocal has never been quite this obvious -- came at an outdoor party where he interacted with guests and danced with some of them while gamely grinning his way through it all.

Your friendly content provider was in San Antonio for the first day of taping on All Saint’s Day. Como much more convincingly lip synced his trademark “Ave Maria” inside the historic San Fernando Cathedral before later taping a segment at the San Jose Mission. He had recorded his latest version of “Ave Maria” two days earlier in Los Angeles.

During a subsequent interview, Como was asked about his 1984 Christmas special from London, when he dared to substitute “O Holy Night” for “Ave Maria” as his traditional show closer.

“I caught hell for it,” Como said, pledging to never do this again.

Como didn’t shatter any illusions formed over the years by a kid who at first endured his annual Christmas specials before later coming to almost revere them. He proved to be as nice off-camera as on-, signing autographs, bantering with fans and remaining self-effacing.

“You’re my era,” a middle-aged woman getting around on crutches told him.

“I’m everybody’s era,” he said before signing a dollar bill for her.

Unfortunately, Como’s last performance of “Ave Maria” for ABC is not available for reprising here. So Episode 2 of The Countdown brings you this must-see-it-to-believe-it outing by Strait, whose “When It’s Christmas Time In Texas” wound up on his “Merry Christmas Strait to You!” album along with “For Christ’s Sake, It’s Christmas” among its nine other tracks.

Email comments or questions to: unclebarky@verizon.net