The 13th annual Southern Illinois Steel Guitar Show is April 18-20 at Holiday Inn and Convention Center in Mount Vernon.


The most talented steel guitarists in the world will be performing at the 13th annual Southern Illinois Steel Guitar Show. The lineup includes Russ Hicks, Joe Wright, Mike Sweeney, Mike Sigler, Jerry Newberry, Terry Bethal, Eddie Dunlap and many others.

Popular country vocalist Leona Williams will provide accompaniment throughout the show. She is the female voice on the 1978 hit “The Bull and the The Beaver.” The male part was sung by her ex-husband, Merle Haggard. The couple was married from 1978-83.

Ron Head, a longtime popular singer in Franklin County, will serve as master of ceremonies and will perform.

“It’s going to be a great show. Many of the best steel guitarists in the business will be putting their talent on display,” says Dow Smith, secretary of event sponsor Southern Illinois Productions.

Sigler started playing at the age of 10, when his dad traded for an old Clark single neck steel. Playing clubs before he was a teenager, Sigler moved from Ohio to Arizona when he was 13, where he quickly learned to play the C6th swing neck. His skills were ultimately recognized by the Nashville community. He has worked in the road bands of Holly Dunn, Stonewell Jackson, Jan Howard, Ray Pillow and Michael Martin Murphy.

Sigler has performed at country music’s greatest shrines, including Ryman Auditorium, the Grand Ole Opry, Ernest Tubb Midnite Jamboree and the International Steel Guitar Convention. He says his motivation is simple.

“I just want to carry on the steel guitar sound for future generations,” he says.

Dunlap has played for many of the biggest stars in the industry, most recently hitting the road with Clay Walker. Comfortable playing any style, his musical taste runs from Phish and Jimi Hendrix on one extreme and Webb Pierce and Bob Wills & The Texas Playboys on the other.

Hicks comes from the old school of commercial players. He worked on the “Hee Haw” country variety show for 18 years and also played for Lynn Anderson, Ray Price and Kitty Wells. He is best known for his staccato single note passages.

Sweeney started playing his dad’s flat-top guitar with a pocket knife when he was only 5 years old. He progressed to lap steel, then pedal steel in his teens. After working the East Coast circuit for several years, he migrated to Nashville in 1990.

In Music City, he quickly landed a job at The Broken Spoke, then he hit the road with Clinton Gregory. He also has worked with Jack Green, Vern Gosdin and Ray Price and had long runs at Opryland and The Nashville Palace.

After opening ceremonies starting at 11 a.m. on April 18, local talent will be featured throughout the first day of the show. There will be a dinner break at 6:05 p.m. Entertainment will begin again at 7:05 p.m., highlighted by a singing contest sponsored by Pheasant Hollow Winery. Trophies and $450 in cash prizes will be awarded to the winners.

Action starts at 10 a.m. on April 19. Attendees will see a mixture of local and national talent until a 6:30 p.m. dinner break. After the intermission, heavy-hitters like Dunlap, Sweeney, Hicks,Sigler and Wright will take the stage. There will be an all-star Western Swing Jam at 10:45 p.m. The ballroom closes at midnight.

The final day follow a similar theme, but will conclude with a concert by Leona Williams at 9:50 p.m.

VINCE HOFFARD can be reached at 618-658-9095 or


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