Northeast Texas residents will have a chance to stroll down memory lane on Saturday, Oct. 15, as the Reilly Springs Jamboree celebrates its 55th anniversary.
“We’re really excited,” said event organizer Enola Gay Mathews. “We’re inviting anyone who ever performed to come back for the evening.”
The festivities begin at 6 p.m. and include music, cake walks, a silent auction, stew and other concessions. Tickets are $5.
Francell Lawrence Burnett, one of the Jamboree’s regulars in the 1950s, will be there.
“I don’t really remember how I started playing the Jamboree, but I was there every Saturday night,” Burnett said recently in an interview at her office at Clements Realty in Winnsboro. “I was about 15.”
Burnett, who created the Jamboree’s website, www.reillyspringsjamboree.com, said there was always a big crowd in the old days.
“When Johnny Cash came, they knew they were going to have a big crowd, so they had it in the old Sulphur Springs High School auditorium,” Burnett said as she looked at a photo of the country legend. “I don’t believe he let any of the media take his picture that night. I was one of the very few who got to take his picture.”
According to the website, The Shelton Brothers organized the Reilly Springs Jamboree in the fall of 1956. The duet, whose last name was actually Attlesey, was one of the most successful acts in the country music industry, recording over 150 songs for Decca records. The boys legally changed their names to Shelton, their mother’s maiden name, after it was suggested that they needed something a little more commercial. Although Bob moved to Dallas after the boys began the Jamboree, Joe kept the show going until 1965.
“Entertainment offerings were slim in those days, so it was a real treat to go to the Jamboree and see the show,” said Bobby McDonald, Reilly Springs’ unofficial historian. “The Shelton brothers booked the shows with their friends in the industry.”
In the old days, the entertainers did not mingle with the crowd.
“We stayed in the back rooms,” Burnett said. “There was a porch on the back where we could go to get some fresh air.”
“My mom and dad had gotten me a new accordian for Christmas as a surprise,” she explained.
“My dad always carried the case for me because it was pretty heavy, so I just assumed it was my old one. I didn’t know it was the new one until I started to put it on. I forgot what I was going to play.”
The Jamboree has been open “sporadically” since the Shelton boys finished, according to Mathews.
“Monty Tipps did it for a little while,” she said. “So did Larry Neal. He still comes in and sings for us. We moved it to the VFW for a while and called it the V Jamboree.”
Mathews tries to do a show once a month these days.
“It’s growing,” she said. “Our crowds really love country music and they have fond memories of the Jamboree. Even if people only went to one or two shows when they were young, the experience stayed with them.”
McDonald agrees about the Jamboree’s place in everyone’s memory:
“It’s a piece of community history that is a connection to the people that helped form Reilly Springs and honors the people who helped to make our community. It’s a touch with the past and the people who are now gone from our community, and it’s great to remember a time in Reilly Springs when things were much simpler and life wasn’t near as hurried. Neighbors visited back and forth and we all traveled around in those classic 1950s and 1960s cars with no air conditioning. We can’t go back – and probably wouldn’t want to – but we can still visit for a couple or three hours at a show and remember.”
Past Jamboree stars are invited to perform.
“We want everyone who ever stepped on the Jamboree stage to join us in this celebration,” Mathews said.
The Reilly Springs Jamboree’s 55th Anniversary and Homecoming Show will be held Saturday, Oct. 15, beginning at 6 p.m. Tickets are $5 at the door. Reilly Springs Community Center is located at 109 CR 1439.
For rehearsal or other information, contact Roger Reed at 972-768-9381 or Enola Gay at 903-438-3568.
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