October 22, 2008

Jamboree is quite the party

As published in The Erin Advocate

I dug up my old cowboy boots a few weeks ago, found the oilskin cowboy hat I use for working outside in the rain, threw my new guitar into the back seat and headed on down to the Olde Tyme Country Jamboree at the Erin Legion.

My singin’ and guitar-playin’ normally happen either at church or at folk music circles, so most of it is not country. Still, there ain’t much music I don’t like, and working up a moderate country twang is as easy as rollin’ off a log.

I was expecting a concert-type event, but it is really a big party, with lots of people up dancing to every song. As a newcomer, I was made to feel extremely welcome. Folks were more than just polite, they were eager to sit down and talk.

“People are very friendly,” said Legion Entertainment Chairman Mark Southcott. “They come from all over the place.”

The Jamboree happens monthly at the Legion, except for December. The next one is this Sunday, October 26, 1-5 pm, followed by a roast beef dinner. Regular admission is $5, but if you sign up to sing or play a couple of songs, you get in free. Dinner is $10, with $2 off for entertainers.

It got going ten years ago, at the suggestion of Ken Paisley. From the start, the musical energy has been provided by Rod’s Country Classics, the house band that will back you up on just about any song you can come up with. It features Brian Stevenson on drums, Boyd Dolson on electric guitar, Wilma Dolson tickling the keyboard ivories and Rod Salisbury playing the fiddle.

“It was a success right from the start – Rod brought in an audience,” said Mark, who is retiring and moving to the Sarnia area soon. The Jamboree is an important fundraiser for the Legion, and organizers would love to have more people from the Erin area come and see what it is like. Cowboy attire and the ability to square dance are not mandatory.

When I was there, about 25 people got up to entertain with the house band, creating an amateur talent show that was lots of fun. When it was my turn, I did Yankee Lady by Jesse Winchester and Kisses Sweeter Than Wine by Jimmy Rogers, and was surprised to have lots of people not only dancing, but singing along.

Jamboree lovers will travel all around southern Ontario to meet their friends at events in places like Grand Valley, Shelburne and Caledon East.

The Erin Jamboree is “the best one”, according to Al Anscomb of Inglewood. Three years ago, he had an elderly friend who was no longer able to attend jamborees for health reasons. Al and his buddies put together a musical group, now known as the Caledon Country Boys, to play at the nursing home.

“We would take the jamboree to him,” said Al. “So many good things can happen when you do something nice for someone else.”

Word spread about the group and before long they were being booked to play in many locations – including a recent gig on Main Street in Erin during the Fall Fair.

The Erin Legion, Branch #442, is located at 12 Dundas Street East. For more information on the Olde Tyme Country Jamboree, give them a call at 519-833-2212.

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