COUNTRY…..on the move!

COUNTRY…..on the move!

     We just had our SpringFest at the Oak Tree in Anita,
Iowa.  It was a slam-dunk winner for us, we needed to raise some money
to do work on the old theater which is what the Oak Tree is, and the
three-day event proved to be one of the best we’ve had in the twenty
years we’ve been in Anita.  Completely sold out for the Friday night
show, similar with the Saturday night show.  Even the Saturday matinee,
and the Sunday old-time gospel show had really large attendance, much
more than we expected.  Super good talent participated in the
fund-raising event.  Red Johnson, the Capitol Records artist who had
‘There’s A Grand Ole Opry Show Playing Somewhere” was with us.  Red, at
the age of 84 is even more successful today, with over 30 of his songs
on call for use on national television shows. His song “Mrs. Johnson”
was recently on the most popular television show today, NCIS, and he’s
got more coming. Janine Sherry, one of the top Minnesota country
songsters was also on the show, as was Emma Heyen, a young girl
originally from China, but adopted by the Heyen family.  She is an Iowa
girl and very popular in our state.  Lee Muller from Kansas has been a
long-time country music professional as has Don Dimer from Colorado, and
added tremendously to the weekend. Bob Duff came from California to
emcee the show, and enjoyed introducing Clarence Hayden from Kansas, a
remarkable baritone singer of country music classics, popular in the Rio
Grande Valley and Branson.  He’s already booked back at the Oak Tree
for a June 9th concert.  The Oak Tree’s regulars, Francis Hahn, David
Green, and Rick & Harriette Andersen welcomed back to the stage our
local songster Marge Lund. A Saturday matinee of ‘youngsters’ emceed by
Kathy Graeve was a winner too.  It all means we have the money for some
long-delayed work on the theater.
     After the super weekend, I had an opportunity to visit
with a long-time lover of traditional and classic country music, and as
we sat on the deck behind the Oak Tree we had a vigorous conversation
about the future of this very music.  We talked about the state of the
world, the state of America, the state of Iowa, and the state of the
music we love.  So I asked him who his two favorite performers of
country music today was that he really cared about.  And he, in turn,
asked me who my favorite country music performers of all time were.  His
‘picks’ were very interesting to me.  He likes Vince Gill and Brad
Paisley, both of whom came from great country music backgrounds. Vince
Gill was born in Oklahoma and had a Bluegrass band “Mountain Smoke”
while he was still in Junior High. He’s proficient on banjo, guitar,
mandolin, dobro, fiddle, and bass (at his father’s request who was also a
country artist and a lawyer), and much to the delight of both, Gill was
made a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1991.  Our conversation about
Gill centered around an interview he did with Dan Rather, who is also a
great lover of traditional and classic country music, and is very
knowledgeable of both.  At the end of the interview, Rather asked Gill
who his favorite country music performer was.  Gill responded with a
powerful “Merle Haggard.” That led to a long conversation between my
friend and I, about exactly what are the main ingredients of this kind
of music.  “Wait,” I said “how about my picks?”  Oh sure of course. 
Mine were Hank Williams, Sr., and Johnny Cash.  I could have also added
Jimmie Rodgers, but we could only pick two.  Hank is without a doubt one
of the most magnificent ‘writers’ of true country music I am aware of. 
And, his task to bring the listener to the core of his music relied on
his vocal abilities of which he more than an ample source.  At the age
of 12, the first time I heard “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” I did
exactly that.  I cried, out on the prairie lands of the sandhills of
Nebraska listening on my dad’s battery car radio.  And ‘Cash?”  How
could it get any better, but he made me cry too.  When he released
“Hurt” at the end of his live, I still can’t listen to it without
crying.  That’s when my friend and I had our long conversation about
Brad Paisley.  Paisley has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry since
2001, has sold 12 million albums and has 3 Grammy’s compared to Gill’s
21.  BUT, Paisley just wrote the music to one of Johnny Cash’s poems,
“Gold All Over The Ground” which is on his newest album “Love and War,”
so my second choice, Johnny Cash, is right in there, at least as a
writer.  Paisley is from West Virginia, and has the same ‘coaching’ in
the family that Gill had.  His grandfather gave him is first guitar, a
Sears & Roebuck Silvertone.  He, like Gill, advanced his traditional
country music by being asked to be a regular on a successful radio
show, the Wheeling Jamboree while he was still in Junior High.  He went
on to become one of the biggest sellers of country music today. 
     So where did that leave us with our ‘save country
music’ conversation.  We both agreed, that his two picks, Vince Gill and
Brad Paisley might very well be the ones who will keep, at least some
of the basics of original country music, in their works.  We also both
agreed that the music starts with the song.  In this case we both think
“Gold All Over The Ground” is the winner.  The song has already reached
the ears of the Rural Roots Music Commission, and if all goes well, it
might very well be their select for ‘True Country Song of the Year” this
year.  All depends on logistics.  We also agreed, for country music to
remain ‘true’ country music, the artist has to somehow have a ‘country’
background of some sort.  It’s easy to be from New York City with a lot
of money and create a country song that winds up on the charts, but that
isn’t really ‘true’ country music.  It’s just not the same as it used
to be.  It used to be that country music had to come from the country.
That made sense to both of us.  Neither does it necessarily interfere
with that nefarious word ‘progress.’  It’s not an attempt to just ‘stop’
music advancement, it’s an attempt at retaining the real meaning of the
word ‘country.’ To really be a ‘country’ artist, and a country artist
of note, you somehow have to have inspiration from previous real country
music stars.  Maybe that’s why when Vince Gill told Dan Rather that his
favorite country music artist was Merle Haggard, it kind of made a lot
of sense to both of us, that both his picks are both of our picks for
today’s world of country music.
     That inspired my wife Sheila and I to keep our  ‘stick
to it’ attitude.  We’ve booked some really super country music artist
at the Oak Tree.  May 26 is Aces & Eights from Rapid City, SD, some
incredibly gifted artists; Clarence Hayden from Branson on June 9th;
Betty Rydell from Minnesota on June 16th, and Storm Seymour and Snow on
June 30th.  We can send a schedule if you like 712-762-4363, or simply
visit our website at 
Bob Everhart for Country Music News International

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