HerrinFesta – Music kicks off tonight at 7 p.m. with Metal Toyz, followed by Hairbangers Ball at 8:30 p.m. At 7 p.m. Friday, catch Rich Fabec, Cache River and veteran rock hit maker The Guess Who. At 7 p.m. Saturday, hear From Skies of by Fire, 30AUT6 and headliner Papa Roach.

Charlie Cook is a country music legend. He is on the board of directors of both the Country Music Association and the Academy of Country Music, the two most prestigious organizations in the industry.

Starting in the business as a deejay with a smooth delivery and instantly identifiable voice, he has worked his way to the top during his 35 years in the business. An executive that wields incredible power in the broadcasting arena, he has been called the most influential person in country music radio.

Cook keeps his finger on the pulse on country music. He is the signature sound behind “The Road,” a nationally syndicated radio program delivered to more than 400 stations across the United States. The concept of the show is to record acts live and play back the audio to the listener, allowing them to get a feel of the live presentation of the performers and the uniqueness of the places in which they play.

“We follow the road wherever it happens to go,” says Richard Kimball, senior vice president and producer of “The Road,” which airs weekly on United Stations Radio Networks. “We go to venues big and small.”

From his office in California, Kimball was scouting the concert schedules of various acts when he stumbled across an intriguing festival called HerrinFesta Italiana. After conferring with event Executive Director Jim Gentile, he was convinced it was the perfect fit for the popular concert/interview program.

Upon learning the high caliber of talent and the potential for crowds exceeding 10,000 in the middle of the Heartland, Kimball quickly scheduled May 26 and 27 as the destination for his company’s 25-foot recording truck, a virtual multi-track studio on wheels.

“I’ve recorded Justin Moore before,” Kimball said. “I thought it was time for a fresh recording on him. Getting Florida Georgia Line is a pretty good bonus.”

Moore will be at HerrinFesta at 10 p.m. on Sunday. Florida Georgia Line takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. Monday.

The 29-year old Moore turned his back on a collegiate athletic scholarship to move to Nashville to pursue his country music dream. He quickly made the necessary contacts and a promise of a record deal, if he would just be patient.

Moore waited five long years for his chance, then explode on the scene with tunes like “Backwoods,” “Bait a Hook,” “Til My Last Day,” “If Heaven Wasn’t So Far Away” and act-breaking “Smalltown USA.” His current single “Point At You,” will be included on a new album due out later this year.

Sunday will be an extremely busy day on the piazza stage. The finals of the Texaco Country Showdown will begin at 4 p.m. with 10 contestants, who survived an excruciating semi-final round last night at The Copper Dragon in Carbondale.

Local band We Got It Covered takes the stage at 7 p.m. The brainchild of vocalist Keenan Rice of DuQuoin, the group is a collection of some of the best talent in Southern Illinois. As a matter of fact, two of the members have already migrated to Music City — vocalist/songwriter Drew Baldridge of Patoka and fiddler/vocalist Amelia Eisenhauer of Du Quoin —and will make a special return trip for the show.

Baldridge is already making an impact in Nashville.

Jennifer Thompson of Sandoval, one of the most popular female vocalists in Southern Illinois over the past two decades, will also be center stage with the band.

Savannah Jack will actually serve as Moore’s opening act at 8:15 p.m.

Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley were just aspiring musical talents trying to figure out the system when they met while attending Belmont University in Nashville. As soon as they joined forces, everything started to click and before long Florida Georgia Line was born.

FGL, who will perform at at 5:30 p.m. Monday, recently hit the top of the charts with single “Get Your Shine On.” It was a follow-up to monster debut “Cruise.”

VINCE HOFFARD can be reached at vincehoffard@yahoo.com or 618-658-9095.

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