LeMars, Iowa…..”When the ‘Rural Roots Music Commission’ was organized in 1980, we had no idea we would be able to expand the purpose, or the interest, into such a large arena of music appreciation.”  Bob Everhart is President of the National Traditional Country Music Association.  “We started what might be called our ‘music protection’ society in 1975, which eventually became the NTCMA.  We quickly realized that the very slow process of placing recognition and honor on those that have made a lasting impression on country music, was leaving a huge amount of worthwhile contributors without recognition.  That was the beginning of the Rural Roots Music Commission.  We also had to find a way to distinguish what we do, so we began labeling the musical genre ‘rural country,’ so as not to be confused with present day country music,” Everhart said. “Only a handful of those that have made significant contributions to this particular kind of music, were being honored.  We decided to seek out recording artists, performers, instrumentalists, songwriters, producers, promoters, even media specialists, that have been successful in ‘rural country music’ by making annual awards at the convention and festival promoted by the National Traditional Country Music Association.  And, we decided to do this on several different levels of interest, Local, Statewide, Regional, National, and International.  In other words, we were, and are, dedicated to finding the very best participants in all areas of this genre of music.”
     Everhart went on to say, “We honor contributors to ‘rural country’ music in two ways now.  Some are inducted into America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame which is located in the Pioneer Music Museum in Anita, Iowa. Others, especially those active in ‘recording’ rural country music, receive recognition from the Rural Roots Music Commission.  The latter process requires a review of CDs recorded and made available to the public, each year prior to the festival which takes place August 29-September 4th, 2011, at the Plymouth County Fairgrounds in LeMars, Iowa.  CD’s received are reviewed in Tradition Magazine, the house organ of the NTCMA, and then forwarded to the Rural Roots Music Commission who decide the awards to be made.”
     “There are a number of categories for these honors,” added Everhart.  “We are extremely pleased to announce that Jonathan Lee Pickens, of Ramah, New Mexico, has been selected to receive the “Best Americana CD of the Year” award.  He will receive the honor on Saturday, September 3, at 5:30pm on the Great Plains Music Show, Main Stage, LeMars, Iowa, Plymouth County Fairgrounds.  The festival runs from Aug. 29 through Sept. 4.”  Everhart went on to add, “The Rural Roots Music Commission is anxious to recognize recorded musical presentations that might not ‘fit’ the standard ‘traditional’ boxes and cubby holes.  Jonathan Pickens is one of these artists.  His music is like a painting, you can hear a pinon fire crackling, smell the ‘west’ in the words he writes, see the smoke rising from chimineas, feel the Zuni Mountains in the melodies and words he places with melodies, and sense the magic in the El Morro Valley in which he lives.  He began his music career when he was twelve years old, teaching himself to play his grandfather’s 1890 George Washburn guitar.  Don’t worry, he paid his dues.  He and his wife moved to Nashville where he worked as a staff songwriter for three music publishers over the course of 16 years on Music Row.  His ‘lure’ however was back to the El Morro Valley, where he and his wife opened a unique business called “Inscription Rock Trading and Coffee Company.”  They began hosting musical events on an outdoor stage, and working together with fellow musician Don Grieser, created and recorded “Music Beneath the Mesa” which the Rural Roots Music Commission has selected as “Best Americana CD of the Year.”  The musicians partaking on the sessions include Jonathan Lee Pickens on rhythm and lead guitar, charango, lead and harmony vocals; Don Grieser on mandolin, bass, mandola, and mandocello; Matt Salerno on bass; and Jonathan’s son Walker Lee Pickens on congas, drums, and percussion.” 
     The festival Jonathan Lee Pickens will attend, has been going for 36 years.  “We will have well over 600 country music performers at this event throughout the week,” said Bob Everhart.  “We have ‘ten’ sound stages running for seven days to accomodate them.  9am-midnight every day for seven days seems like a huge production, and it is.  Getting everyone to the proper stage at the proper time can be a scheduling nightmare, however the end result is an absolutely unbelievable gathering of like-minded fans and participants who like their country music to be ‘rural’ in nature.  That means it’s ‘real’ country music, not rock and roll called country, not heavy metal called country, not jazz called country, not rap called country, not blues called country.  We call it like it is…and it’s ‘rural’ country, the real-deal.  We’re also very pleased we are able to provide a clean non-alcoholic non-drug venue for the fans of this music to come to.  The Plymouth County Fairgrounds in LeMars, Iowa, is large, and level.  Huge air conditioned buildings for shows, as well as outdoor stages.  Great country cookin’ and some of the best Iowa corn-fed beef steaks anyone is likely to ever eat.  LeMars is also home of Bluebunny Ice Cream, the largest ice cream manufacturer in the world, so we combine all the ‘best’ of everything.  Country music, country food, and country ice cream.  You just can’t beat a deal like that, not at the prices we charge.  General admission is $15 per day per person, a seven-day gate pass is just $60 per person.  This includes everything, all ten stages, and all celebrities.  This year, Jim Ed Brown, Helen Cornelius, and Jeannie Seely will be with us from the Grand Ole Opry.  Bonnie Guitar, the legendary recording artist of “Dark Moon” will also be with us, and well over 600 pickers, singers, players, musicians, and performing artists.  We have excellent RV camping facilities too, with 30-amp hook-ups at $12 a day (no reservations).  A Tipi Village in an old ghost town setting is a great place for ‘jammers’ to gather, and throw in six old time dances in the Dance Hall, and it’s a pretty good deal for the dollar.  Workshops, contests, open stages, even the front porch of an old log cabin becomes focal points of entertainment interest, done much the way it was done when homesteaders started settling Iowa.  We keep telling folks, don’t put all your money in your gas tank to drive hundreds of miles to see one show, come home, be with us, and see a thousand.”
     More information about the NTCMA and the Rural Roots Music Commission, the Pioneer Music Museum, and the annual festival of Agricultural Arts, Crafts, and Rural Lifestyle is available at their website at

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