Six of the best steel guitarists in country music, combined with concert performances by T. Graham Brown, Teea Goans, Leona Williams and Dennis Stroughmatt, have organizers of “Steel Guitars In Concert” expecting record crowds.
Lynn Owesley, Mike Sweeney, “Cowboy” Eddie Long, Mike McGee, Tommy Todd and Pat Heller were never the stars of the show, but the intoxicating sound they created made timeless hit records through the years, starting with Ernest Tubb and continuing to Jamie Johnson.
The three-day event kicks off at 10:30 a.m. today at the Mount Vernon Hotel Complex, formerly the Holiday Inn. Tickets are $12 for today, $25 for Friday and $25 for Saturday. A three-day pass can be purchased for $50.
“The talent that we have brought in this year is phenomenal,” says Dow Smith, of Southern Illinois Productions, the nonprofit organization that plans the event each year. ”Expectations are high. This is our biggest and best lineup. The entertainment will be virtually nonstop for 12 hours, three straight days.”
Local steel players will dominate the stage today, followed by a singer contest with cash prizes, and Williams will will perform a set to close the evening. Sets by the steel guitar gurus will be mixed with concerts by standout vocalists on Friday and Saturday.
For more information, contact Dow Smith, 618-967-4635; Cord Finch, 618-927-3158; or Dave Flanagan, 618-214-1864. The complete schedule for each day can be viewed at southernillinoisproductions.org.
Starting in 1985, Brown had a six-year period when he dominated the Billboard charts with songs like “Hell And High Water,” “Don't Go To Strangers” and “Darlene.” He is the biggest name star to appear in the 17-year history of the show.
“We just gave him a call and checked out his price, which was not within our budget,” Smith said. “During our conversation, we told him the proceeds went to the Shriners Hospital and he wanted to be involved.”
Brown will perform at 6:50 p.m. Friday.
For the past five years, proceeds from the event have been donated to the St. Louis Shriners Hospital for Children, a total of more than $21,000.
Developing powerful vocal skills in the family band during her childhood, Williams was talented enough to earn her own radio show in Jefferson City, Missouri, when she was just 15. A few years later, she graduated to playing bass guitar and singing harmony vocals in Loretta Lynn's road band.
Williams made her biggest mark on the country music world through her association with Merle Haggard. She married Haggard in 1978, the year they had the duet hit “The Bull And The Beaver.” The couple divorced in 1983, the year Mighty Merle took “You Take Me For Granted,” a tune Williams wrote, to No. 1. She also penned “Someday When Things Are Good” for The Hag, which topped the charts in 1984.
Williams will perform at 9:10 p.m. tonight, 9:05 p.m. Friday and 10:20 p.m. on Saturday.
Her son, Ron Williams, will join her on stage for each performance. He has more than 20 years of experience in the industry, using his distinct-brand pure country to build a fan base in the United States and Europe. He has opened for Vern Gosdin, Gene Watson and Lorrie Morgan.
Raised in rural Lowry City in central Missouri, Goans grew up singing in church and quickly became a star in nearby Truman Lake Opry. She migrated to Nashville in 2002. Her first real job in the music business was booking warm-up bands at the Grand Ole Opry.
Country to the core, she released her first album, “The Way I Remember It,” in 2010. The project is comprised of tunes written by Hall of Fame songwriters and utilizing only top-shelf musicians like Paul Franklin and Joe Spivey.
The solid honky-tonk flavor of her work led to bookings on RFD-TV and repeated invitations by host Bill Anderson to sing with the all-star cast of the Country Family Reunion series.
Goans released her second album in 2012. “That's Just Me” is a 13-song combination of cover tunes and original songs, including “Nobody Wins,” “Misty Blue” and “Somewhere Over The Rainbow.” She will perform at 8:55 p.m. Saturday.
Stroughmatt is using the steel guitar show to release his new CD “Wrong Side Of The World.” It is loaded with traditional country standards like “Sing Me Back Home,” “Wine Me Up” and “Jambalaya,” plus the Johnny Bush-written title cut. He is scheduled to perform at 1:40 p.m. on Friday.
Picking songs that would showcase the honky tonk fiddle, Stroughmatt solicited studio help from local musicians and legendary Nashville studio players like Buddy Spicher and Pig Robbins for the long-awaited project.
“I have a limited supply of CDs to sell at the steel show, but if I run out, I'll get another limited supply,” Stroughmatt jokes, stealing a line from show organizer Dow Smith.
A master French Creole fiddler, Stroughmatt grew up enthralled by the Western swing style of Bob Wills and classic country of Wade Ray. The Albion native is the regular host of “The Ernest Tubb Midnite Jamboree,” which is broadcast nationally every Saturday night on WSM and satellite radio.