Three direct descendants of iconic Country Music Hall of Fame members George Jones, Merle Haggard, Tammy Wynette and Conway Twitty will converge on stage at the 2017 McLeansboro Fall Festival for a highly anticipated Family Tradition Concert.

Country music history is loaded with famous names following in the footsteps of their talented parents — Hank Williams Jr. has probably made the biggest impact — but assembling a trio with the lucrative heritage of Michael Twitty, Georgette Jones and Marty Haggard is a true industry rarity.

The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 9 on the courthouse square in McLeansboro. Opening the show at 7 p.m. will be Jimmy Fortune, a former member of the Statler Brothers.

This show is the grand finale of three straight nights of free entertainment.

“Bumping up the total talent package was our top priority this year. We are always trying to get bigger and better,” says Jerry Prince, chairman of the entertainment committee for the Kiwanis Club, the McLeansboro civic group sponsoring the festivities.

The fall festival kicks off at 7 p.m. Sept. 7 with a performance by the Scott Wattles and the Blue Suede Crew, performing a special tribute to the gospel music of Elvis Presley.

“We had them booked last year and had a complete rain out,” Prince says. “They have a huge following in central Illinois and have put together a special set of religious material for our traditional opening night of gospel music.”

Kid Kadillac will kick off Retro Night at 5 p.m. Sept. 8 with nonstop music from the 1950s and 1960s. A virtual hit-making machine in both the rock and country music genres, Exile will be the featured at 7 p.m.

Exile cranked out an amazing 10 No. 1 Billboard country singles from 1983 to 1987, including “Give Me One More Chance,” “Hang On To Your Heart,” “She's Too Good To Be True” and “Crazy For Your Love.”

The core five members of the band during its glory days dominating the country charts is still intact, with J.P. Pennington and Les Taylor still sharing lead vocals. Formed in 1963 in Kentucky, the band gained national exposure on the pop chats in 1978 with signature tune “Kiss You All Over.”

Prince said a new event at the festival this year is the Fox Hollow Downhill Derby at 10 a.m. Saturday.

“This is a gravity-powered race with homemade cars. We are going to have them rolling 700 feet down East Main Street,” Prince Said. “I expect the competition to be fierce. We have taken calls from Texas to New Jersey from people wanting to participate.”

Michael Twitty has hosted programs like the Michael Twitty Show, the Memories of Conway Show and the Twitty Bird Show through the years as he toured the globe performing tunes like “Hello Darlin',” “It's Only Make Believe,” “Linda On My Mind,” Fifteen Years Ago” and “I Can't See Me Without You.”

Conway Twitty was only 59 when he unexpectedly died of an abdominal aneurysm in 1993.

Named after Marty Robbins, Haggard was born in 1958 while his dad was serving time in San Quentin prison. He was raised in a boxcar by his grandfather. A true survivor, Haggard was shot and left for dead by a crazed hitchhiker and later took four years to recover from a car wreck that left him with a serious brain injury and memory loss.

The 59-year-old Haggard had minor chart success with 1988 single “Trains Make Me Lonesome.” He has released six studio albums, which include a pair of tribute albums to his late father, who left a tremendous legacy with unforgettable tunes like “Mama Tried,” “Sing Me Back Home,” “Ramblin' Fever,” “I Think I'll Just Sit Here And Drink” and “”Going Where The Lonely Go.”

Merle Haggard died in 2016 after a short bout with pneumonia. He was 79.

The daughter of George Jones and Tammy Wynette, who were married from 1969 to 1976, the 46-year-old Jones sang a duet with her famous father on “You and Me and Time.” Her YouTube videos show her flawlessly covering her mom's classics “Stand By Your Man” and “D-I-V-O-R-C-E.”

George Jones, 81, died of respiratory failure in 2013. Wynette battle several serious illnesses during her life, before dying of cardiac arrhythmia in 1998. She was 55.

Fortune joined the Statler Brothers in 1981, when original tenor Lew DeWitt left the group due to a chronic health issue. He spent 21 years with the band. When the Statler Brothers retired in 2002, Fortune embarked on a solo career.

The 62-year-old Fortune re-energized the Statlers with his songwriting, which included hits “Elizabeth,” “More Than A Name On The Wall,” “Too Much On My Heart” and “My Only Love.”

The fall festival had humble beginnings as Dairy Days, consisting of a few cows being displayed on the courthouse lawn. When local farmer and high school band teacher Prince got involved, the focus shifted to car displays and free music, made possible by donations solicited from local business owners and individuals.

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


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