Hayloft Gang Prod.
The National Barn Dance, which originated in 1924 from WLS in Chicago, was the first of the radio barn dance shows to have both longevity and national recognition. (The Grand Ole Opry began in 1925.) Many of its early performers such as Lulu Belle and Scotty, Patsy Montana, Gene Autry, and Bradley Kincaid had long and illustrious careers in country music. Other acts such as the Girls of the Golden West, the Cackle Sisters, Grace Wilson, the Hoosier Hotshots, and Linda Parker are well-known to fans of the show as well as to those deeply steeped in country music history.
Produced by Stephen Parry and narrated by Garrison Keillor, this beautifully-crafted 60-minute documentary traces the 36-year history of the National Barn Dance from its pre-Depression Era beginning until it succumbed to the onslaught of rock-and-roll in 1960. How then did the Grand Ole Opry survive? By using big-name, jukebox stars such as Ernest Tubb and Bill Monroe while WLS stuck primarily with regional acts. Also, the National Barn Dance had always featured more sentimental music and heart songs and by 1960, the times had, indeed, changed.
The best part of the DVD, of course, is getting to see short clips of the performers: the Cumberland Ridge Runners with John Lair (who founded the Renfro Valley Show in 1937), Homer and Jethro, Lulu Belle and Scotty, and the Cackle Sisters. Also featured are the Prairie Ramblers, with Chick Hurt on mandolin and Tex Aitcheson on fiddle, who were a big influence on a young Bill Monroe who was working at the oil refineries in east Chicago and tuning into WLS.
Anyone who enjoys learning more about the early days of country music and seeing these pioneers perform will want a copy of this DVD. (www.hayloftgang.com)MHH