Country music as we know it died on Feb. 5, 2011, when Jason Aldean released his single “Dirt Road Anthem” and forever blurred the lines between country, pop and hip hop — forcing honorable traditional country singers to seek refuge on the Americana scene.
On the heels of twin fiddles being fazed from mainstream country radio, the gauntlet has fallen on mournful high lonesome sound created by the pedal steel guitar, leaving only Robby Turner with Chris Stapleton and “Cowboy” Eddie Long working with Jamey Johnson as the main high profile acts on the road today with the classic sound.
A longtime journeyman musician, songwriter and studio executive with strong Southern Illinois ties is tirelessly working to preserve the steel guitar legacy, which provided the emotional core of country music during its glory years.
Joe Wright and Lynn Owsley will be included in a pack of legendary pickers on hand when Bobby Reed presents Stars & Steel Guitars at the Herrin Civic Center at 11 a.m. Aug. 11 and 10 a.m. Aug.12. The music ends at 10 p.m. each day.
Tickets are $20 for Aug. 10 and $25 for Aug. 12. A two-day pass can be purchased for $40. For more information, call Reed at 615-419-9642 or the Civic Center at 618-942-6115.
Wright spent many years touring with Charley Pride and Owsley was a member of Ernest Tubb's famous band, The Texas Troubadours.
“The steel guitar has been the heart and soul of country music for as long as I can remember,” Reed said. “Anytime you hear those great old songs by Hank Williams, Patsy Cline or Lefty Frizzell, there would always be a killer steel guitar part that would hit you right in the gut. That's been missing from modern country music for a long time now.
"I haven't listened to the radio in 10 years.”
The lineup for the show is constantly being upgraded, with Grand Ole Opry star Barbara Fairchild recently added.
“I've know Barbara for a long time. She is a sensational entertainer, has a great sense of humor and knows how to take command of the stage,” Reed said. “She is going to be playing a show in the area. The routing worked out perfectly for her the make our show.”
Fairchild will perform at 9 p.m. on Aug. 12. Mason “Little Hank” Ramsey from Golconda will take the stage between 4 and 6 p.m. Aug. 11, covering the iconic tunes of Hank Williams.
Reed is a Benton native. He was a long-time area musician and music store owner, with the regional hit “Shakin' Shakin' Charlene,” before moving to Nashville and operating his own recording studio.
David Chamberlain, who penned “Am I Blue” and “What's Going On In Your World” for George Strait, and Amber Martin will also provide vocal support during both days of the show.
“Amber is the most talented female vocalist I've ever seen in my life,” Reed said. “And it runs in the family. Her brother Rodney Crisp will be parts of the stage band. He plays drums, lead guitar and worked on the road for years with Johnny Rodriguez playing steel guitar.”
Others expecting to take the Civic Center stage include Tom Campbell, Perley Curtis, Steve Alonzo Walker, Merlin Grigsby and Billy Easton, who formerly hosted yearly steel guitar shows in Arizona.
Reed said many local steel guitarists will be taking the stage during the two-day event. An open mic portion of the program will be at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 11, with the names of participants drawn from a hat for the opportunity to perform a country music standard with the house band.
The 66-year old Fairchild is an Arkansas native who was raised in St. Louis, where performing on local television shows starting in 1963 earned her a recording contract with Columbia Records while she was still a teenager.
Fairchild's early years with the label were lukewarm. Five of her first 10 singles cracked the Billboard Top 40, but her most successful tune in the three-year run only peaked at No. 26.
Then, she became the darling of Music Row with the career breaking signature tune, “Teddy Bear Song,” which soared to the top of the charts for two weeks. She followed with a pair of major hits, “Kid Stuff” and “Baby Doll.”
Fairchild transitioned to gospel music in 1990 and now lives in Branson, Missouri, with her singer/songwriter husband Roy Morris. She can be seen on RFD television as a frequent guest on the Country Family Reunion series hosted by Bill Anderson.