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April 20, 2014

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Rogersville's own Thursday night "Grand Ole Opry"

Last updated: 3:52 PM, 05/28/2008

Source: The Rogersville Review

Looking for something to do on a Thursday night?

Now in its sixth year, Music Junction, held every Thursday night beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the Rogersville Parks and Recreation Building, could be called one of Rogersville's best kept secrets. But lately, word is starting to spread and the secret is getting out.

"Since the first of the year, I've seen more new faces than ever and we've had just about a full house every Thursday night," said Gene Vance, musician and one of the founding fathers of Music Junction.

Although Vance attributes the growing public interest to more publicity, the truth is, people are hungry to hear good old country music, dabbled with a pinch of comedy, sweetened with a taste of gospel and spiked with the flavor of bluegrass.

"We feature bluegrass, old country and gospel music. We try to hold it to that format," Vance said.

The show began six years ago as a live radio broadcast from Wayne Hawkins' Music Store, which was located in the 66 Plaza. Several local musicians, including Vance, his brother Hale, singer and songwriter Jim Bowman, Kindall Lawson, Jan Lee, Eddie Frost and a host of others brought a variety of musical flavor to the show.

"We worked there for a few months. The show was broadcast over the radio, and crowds began to come in," Vance said.

Soon, the small music store became too small for the growing number of people eager to hear live music.

"We had the chance to move to the Parks and Recreation Building, and so we did," Vance said.

Although the show was no longer broadcast live over the radio, Vance along with his musical partner Linda Bright (together known as Harmony Strings) became hosts of a Saturday and Sunday morning radio show on 1370 WRGS AM. They decided to call the radio show Music Junction to tie it in with the live Thursday night show. Vance began to play recorded tapes from the Thursday night performances.

Soon, the Thursday night show beckoned to other singers and songwriters from the area to come and perform. Today, this talented group of people has become the shows regulars. The show boasts many weekly performers from in and around Hawkins County, including Earnie Graves, Larry Begley, Paul Elkins, Bill Collins, Bob Weaver, Bill Hopson, Carl Jones, Sam Mallory, Sheila Daly, Bill Lee, Jay Tankersley, Milton Wilder, Eddie Frost, The Frost singers and a host of others.

A relaxed atmosphere, those who come to Music Junction can get a cup of coffee, have a seat and enjoy a showcase of local talent for about three hours -- all free of charge. Lawrence Mallory, a supporter of the show since day one, will open the door for you and hand you a ticket stub for a chance to win a door prize. Unrehearsed, the musicians and singers give the audience their all every week.

"I think we have a great program to be what it is. There's no practice. It's just a country music show that features local talent," Vance said.

In the past six years, the show has become a training ground for young singers, musicians, and new songwriters, Vance said.

"There's a lot of talent there, and a lot is being developed," he said.

The sister team of Jessica and Cris Ball, ages 13 and 10, come as often as they can to play new melodies they have learned on fiddle and guitar to the delight of the audience.

Nicole Powers, now approaching her teenage years, began as a nine-year-old singer with a mature voice that wowed the Music Junction audience.

To further showcase local talent, Music Junction has always been a perfect place for songwriters to sing their newest lyrics and melodies. Expect to hear original music from Jim Bowman, Sheila Daly, Hale Vance and others songwriters every week.

In addition to the regulars, guests singers are welcome every Thursday to perform. The Hamblen County Boys, including Fred Miller, Melvin Blair and Bob Wright perform on the show often. Wright is known for helping train television personality Charlie Chase as he got his start at WRGS radio in Rogersville.

New faces and guests often appear at Music Junction. Recently, a seasoned gospel singer Betty Holder, has been soothing the audience with her vocal talents. On March 18, gospel bluegrass group The Victory Trio will appear.

Music Junction has also welcomed famous names, including the late Cas Walker, David West, Joe Franklin, Opry musician Robert Crigger and Tim Stafford, formerly with Alison Krauss and currently with Blue Highway.

In January, the Music Junction radio broadcast expanded and began to air on 104.3 WEYE FM, reaching a broader audience, which in turn has helped bring a larger audience to the Thursday night junction. Music Junction is now listed in newspapers and tourist magazines as one of the top things to do and see in Rogersville. Everyone from age 9 to 90 comes to enjoy the show.

"It's great for the older generation. It gives then something to do. Listening to the music brings back a lot of memories to many of them.

"It's a great thing for the community. There are still a lot of people who don't know about it. I've been told by Nashville people this thing could grow into its own theatre," Vance said.

In its entire six years, Vance said the show has only missed four runs, mainly because of the Thanksgiving holiday. However, by popular demand, the show has gone on for the last couple years on Thanksgiving and welcomed big crowds each time.

Vance commended each musician, each performer and every audience member for their continuing loyalty and support to the show each week. At the pace it's going, Music Junction could grow to become Rogersville's own "Grand Ole Opry."

"I look forward to it every week. I don't schedule anything on Thursday night. I may have to miss some every now and then, but there will be someone there to put it on," Vance said.

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