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Sandwiched between Jason Aldean and Luke Combs on the Billboard Hot Country Songs list for the week ending May 12 will be 11-year old Mason “Little Hank” Ramsey, of Golconda, at the No. 4 position with his song “Famous.”

It is the highest position a person this young has debuted in the history of the chart, surpassing historic names like Tanya Tucker, LeAnn Rimes and Marie Osmond.

The song has been streamed 10.8 million times and it was the second-most sold digital country song for the week ending May 3.

“I loved recording 'Famous' and can't wait for everyone to hear it,” Ramsey said in a news release. “I'd seen Nashville a few times before, but never thought anything like this would happen.”

Just a few months ago, Ramsey was an unknown youngster singing Hank Williams covers at mostly small Southern Illinois shows. When a video of him belting out “Love Sick Blues” at the Harrisburg Walmart on March 27 went viral, he became a household name. Soon after being discovered through internet exposure, Ramsey accepted an invitation to appear on the ABC television program “Ellen.”

His popularity exploded. He went from following his passion to hanging out backstage at Coachella with Justin Bieber and playing the legendary Grand Ole Opry.

Executives on Music Row in Nashville instantly gobbled him up and he signed a record deal with the Music City-based label Atlantic Records/Big Loud on April 27. On the same day, he performed the song on stage with Florida Georgia Line at the super-sized Stagecoach Festival in Indio, California.

The hit tune was written by Sarah Buxton, Canaan Smith and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line, and Corey Crowder, who co-produced the song with Joey Moi, an industry superstar with a client list that includes Jake Owen, Nickelback, Santana, Tim McGraw and FGL.

“He is a star, but more importantly, he is a down-to-earth kid who loves country music,” Big Loud's Seth England said in a recent USA Today interview. “The Ramseys are an amazing family from a small Southern Illinois town, just like me. We understand them, and their goals and simply fell in love with their story and vision.”

Ramsey was raised in Pope County by his grandparents, Francis and Ernest, and learned to sing listening to Hank Williams records in the man cave of his 80-year-old grandpa.

“Grandaddy always had Hank playing out in the garage. I heard it so much I just started singing. It was like jumping in a pool. You just start swimming,” the youngster said before a 2017 appearance at the SI Opry in Herrin.

Ramsey will return to the SI Opry stage at 7:30 p.m. on May 19 and will be backed by a highly anticipated reunion of the Ron Head and the Country Showboys band. Also appearing will be house bluegrass band Cassie Andrews and Calico Creek, Joe Arview will perform a gospel set, and Andrews will entertain the audience at intermission with a tribute to Minnie Pearl.

Doors open at 6 p.m. and lobby entertainment will be provided by Donnie Falknor.

“His grandparents showed a lot of class by honoring their contract to come back and play our show,” said SI Opry manager Richard Melvin. “It's refreshing to see this type of character displayed these days, especially with Mason's recent huge rise to worldwide fame.”

Tickets are $10 and Melvin is anticipating the first sold out show in the history of the SI Opry. Advance tickets are being sold at the Herrin Civic Center. For additional information, call 618-942-6115.

Head and The Showboys dominated the Franklin County country music scene for many years before breaking up and going their separate ways. Three original members will return for the show, including lead vocalist Head, lead guitarist Bobby Reed and steel guitarist Lee Brothers.

The band will also include bass guitarist Ray Bennett, of Herrin, and Nashville musicians Rick Reed on drums and fiddller Tom Campbell.

“Ron and The Showboys haven't played together in a long time,” Melvin said. “They were very popular in the late 1960s and all through the 1970s. Several years ago, they got together for a reunion in Franklin County and drew a crowd of 1,500. They have that great classic sound.”

Brothers, a Murphysboro resident, is an in-demand Southern Illinois steel player. He played steel for Ramsey last year at the SI Opry.

Reed migrated to Nashville and operated a successful recording studio for many years. He has since retired from the recording industry and operates an online business buying and selling musical instruments, with a focus on the steel guitar.

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

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