Saturday, August 16, 2008


Modesto Says Good-Bye to A Favorite Son, Chester Smith

A memorial service for Chester was held at the Calvary Temple in Modesto, California on Saturday, August 16, 2008. Pastor Joe Wright officiated over the service and included testimony by Chester's friends Ronnie Svenhardt and the Rev. B. J. Robinson. We attended this service.

About 500 people showed up, many near Chester's age - a recognition of those from his generation who knew him through the years and quite a few of the younger generation as well. Mr. Wright told of a story about Chester's early life in his family. Chester was the youngest of six children in the family. His mother was a religious person and wanted to instill that same spirit in her children so they, too, would be saved.

Chester took to music at an early age, learning to play the guitar and singing. His mother told him, perhaps prophetically, "You won't amount to anything unless you sing about Jesus." Perhaps it is fitting that his biggest hit was "Wait A Little Longer, Please Jesus", a tune that has been recorded by over 100 artists.

The Herb Henry Family singers then did one of Chester's favorite gospel tunes, "Uncloudy Day", getting the crowd to clap along with their harmonious rendition that is typical of the traditional country music format.

Next up to the dais was Ronnie Svenhardt, a long-time friend of Chester's. He talked of knowing Chester as a Christian business man. He knew him as an astute 'negotiator', remembering that Chester once mentioned he always felt he left something on the table when he wrapped up a deal.

Ronnie spoke of the religious nature that Chester carried with him, citing the quote we saw in his memorial program, "In the world we are driven, but in the spirit we are led." He noted that Chester was now in a place where there is " more pain, no more sorrow."

We learned from Pastor Wright that Chester was offed a movie contract, offered a job if he moved to Nashville. But Chester was a driven person in one regard, he wanted to be the master of his destiny. He never collected a paycheck from anyone - he supported himself and through his thriving businesses, wrote the paycheck for others.

He owned the first country music radio station in northern California.

He then moved into television. Mention was made during the services more than once and in news stories at the time of his death of starting a string of Spanish language television stations. They noted he saw a lot in common with the migrant workers he saw in the farm fields in California to the folks who toiled the fields in Oklahoma before the dust bowl era. It may be the stations were Spanish-speaking, but in another sense, he was providing a bit of relief and entertainment to those folks who were doing the hard labor, a chance to relax and forget their aches and pains from a long day of labor.

He eventually sold those stations to Univision.

The Herb Henry Family Singers then did another of Chester's favorites, the old Hank Williams standard, "I Saw The Light". Pastor Wright noted after that tune, when that song first came out - it resonated with many because they needed to hear that message.

The Rev. B. J. Robinson came to the dais and spoke fondly of his times with Chester. He noted long ago that he had noticed that Chester was kind of sad at one point, perhaps depressed. But when he saw him a few weeks later, he was glowing, smiling and quite a changed person. When asked what caused this change, Chester just smiled and said, "I"m in love." Was it the love for his first wife? Or was it that he had found another calling in his life?

We then got to hear Chester's version of "Wings of A Dove", which included a bit of a recitation piece between verses pointing out the significance of the 'dove' and it's uniqueness.

We learned how Calvary Temple acquired the property it was currently on. It seems that because of Chester's association with the radio station that owned the property at the time (perhaps this was KTRB), that if the station ever decided to sell the property, they had to sell it to the church. But the church was not that well off back then when they were approached about the sale of the land. They asked the church - how much will you pay? And they gave their amount. And then they asked, how do want to pay for this? They told them they'd pay about $10,000 first. Then asked if they could wait another five years before beginning to pay the rest. The deal was made.

A video tribute was a welcome treat during this service. We got to see Chester perform a bit. During a Grand Ole Opry anniversary celebration, Merle Haggard introduced Chester to the Opry audience so they could do a duet on his tune, "Wait A Little Longer, Please Jesus". Chester wryly noted that it had taken him 40 years to finally get to sing on that stage where his idols such as Roy Acuff had performed.

Another snippet included Chester doing a tune as part of a FOX network tour of sorts for Fox affiliates. It had an American Idol background, Ryan Secrest, host of the popular show, introduce Chester to the audience who did one of his tunes as he could only do. Chester seemed to have this way of holding his guitar aloft and picking an instrumental interlude between verses.

We got to see him do a seemingly recent studio session caught on tape, an interview that allowed him to talk about his life briefly, then we got to hear him and his wife do a nice duet number together, "Let's Be Young Again".

Finally, the lights came back up and we got to hear Chester and Merle do one more time, Chester's classic tune.

It was said that Chester was happy during his last days, unafraid of death, knowing that he would be in a better place. It was said that he was the lucky one - he had beat us there and was waiting.

We drove home after the service listening to our copy of Chester and Merle singing the Roy Acuff classic, "Wreck on the Highway"...

Saturday, August 02, 2008


Film festival features local guitar legend

A close-to-home story shares top billing with films from around the world in the 9th annual Real to Reel International Film Festival.

The too-short but trail-blazing career of Cowpens, S.C., native Hank Garland makes a compelling story with ties to a handful of local musicians.

"Crazy" will screen Friday night and, at Saturday's Festival Wrap Party, area musicians who knew Hank and his music and played with him will pay tribute in the lobby of the Joy Theatre.

Bill Allen of Cherryville remembers jamming with "one of the greatest and most influential" country/jazz guitarists from the late 1940s to the mid-1960s.
Garland played on a number of hits with Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline and Shelby's Don Gibson. He worked live or in studios with Chet Atkins, Grady Martin, Jim Reeves, Patti Page, Eddy Arnold, Tommy Jackson and other legends.

Allen took John Reid of Shelby Music Center to Hank's home, where he brought out his own Gibson Byrdland Guitar that he and Billy Byrd (another session guitarist and Ernest Tubb's long-time lead guitarist) designed.

"The Byrdland name comes from the combination of their names," Reid said. "The old ones have greatly increased in value and Gibson is still making them in limited quantities in their Heritage line."

Read the whole article and get some insight into what Don Gibson thought of this legendary musician.

The Star (Cleveland County, NC)


Country legend Jack Greene visits the Northwest

When country music legend Jack Greene performs at the Haynie Opry on Saturday, July 26, it might be the first time a country star of his status plays a show at a local grange since Loretta Lynn performed at the Delta Grange in the 1960s.

At least that's what Matt Audette, coordinator of the Haynie Opry, speculates.

Greene's upcoming performances at the Haynie Grange will mark his first return to Washington state in several years.

Greene still travels the country, plays the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn., and is even scheduled to play a two-week tour in Ireland next year.

"I love it," Greene said of his busy schedule. "Seeing old friends and making new friends all the time, getting to see the world. It's a joy."

He always signs autographs and poses for pictures with fans after shows.

Greene is planning on playing 45 minute to hour-long shows at the Haynie Opry Grange on Saturday. Matt Audette and The Circle of Friends Band will provide backup for Greene.

Read the whole article:
The Bellingham Herald


18th Annual Tribute To Hank Snow - Aug 14-17 in Nova Scotia

If you're looking to learn and hear a bit more about one of country music's true legends, you might consider taking a trek up north to our Canadian neighbor up in Bridgewater, Nova Scotia for the annual Hank Snow tribute. If you ever get the chance, pick up his autobiography and I swear, it will read like Hank was telling the story to you - you hear his voice as you read.

Check out the poster for the show

Check out the Hank Snow site for more details


Grand Ole Opry to Add Thursday Night Opry Country Classics Show to its Line-up of Shows in 2009

Howdy Friends and Neighbors,

Ah, another sign that the folks at Gaylord are not worthy of the Grand Ole Opry franchise. But nonetheless, we hear they have a new show. The only question is - why don't they put it on Saturday night? Are they afraid the ratings might actually increase?

To quote from the Press Release:

"Nashville will have a new entertainment option on Thursday nights next year when the Grand Ole Opry adds Opry Country Classics to its current line-up of Tuesday, Friday and Saturday performances.

The all-new addition to the Opry’s schedule will shine a spotlight on the classic country songs that have defined country music for generations of fans. Opry Country Classics will share country music’s colorful story through a live performance featuring country favorites performed by legends of the genre as well as talented new artists, a rousing live band, square dancing, and more. Like current Opry broadcasts, the show will be heard on 650 WSM-AM."

This is tacit admission that they have been wrong in their marketing of the Opry. If you ask me - fire the management that currently runs the Opry. When was the last time the Opry sold out on a Saturday night? When was the last time a visitor had to write months in advance to get a ticket?

They just don't get it. The Opry was always a family show, attended by families who made it a vacation experience to visit the Opry. Targeting only a small demographic will never get them anything.

Maybe Gaylord should go build another mall?

We hope this new show gains the support of fans so that it eventually ends up being a part of the mainstay Saturday night event.

Read the Press Release:

July 25, 2008

Grand Ole Opry to Add Thursday Night Opry Country Classics Show to its Line-up of Shows in 2009


Blog Archives

July 2004
August 2004
September 2004
October 2004
November 2004
December 2004
January 2005
February 2005
April 2005
May 2005
January 2006
September 2006
February 2007
May 2007
July 2007
January 2008
April 2008
May 2008
August 2008

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?