Musician Eric Ambel, filmmaker Dave Hoekstra, engineer Vance Powell, music publisher Scott Siman, and singer Abbey Waterworth explore the oft-overlooked musical history of Springfield, Missouri, during this May 19, 2018, program—held the day before the premiere of “The Center of Nowhere (The Spirit and Sounds of Springfield, Missouri),” a documentary Hoekstra co-produced.
A 1955 film clip of Red Foley performing at the “Ozark Jubilee” opens the event. Scott Siman then explains how his father, Si Siman, not only created the show but then convinced Red Foley to host it. Siman speaks about the small city’s fearlessness and willingness to try something bold, like hosting a network television show.
“I think the lasting legacy of the ‘Jubilee’ ties back into the fact that it really took country music out of the rural America and into the cities and suburbs,” he says. Country Music Hall of Fame members Chet Atkins, Brenda Lee, and Porter Wagoner are just some of the artists with strong ties to the “Ozark Jubilee.”
Ambel describes his experience of recording in Springfield with producer Lou Whitney as a member of the Del-Lords, a rock band from New York City. Powell, who grew up in nearby Joplin, explains how he got connected with Whitney. Hoekstra talks about his interest in telling the city’s story, particularly how its remote location shaped its creative destiny. Waterworth recalls her childhood in the area, playing music at home with her family. She discusses her album, “Rose Bridge,” composed of songs that can be traced somehow to Springfield, such as Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry.”
As the program continues, Siman talks about how his father became interested in music publishing after an encounter with BMI executive Judge Robert Burton. He then reminisces about his bond with songwriter Wayne Carson, who wrote hits such as Eddy Arnold’s “Somebody Like Me,” The Boxtops’ “The Letter,” and Elvis Presley’s “Always on My Mind” (also recorded by Willie Nelson and many others). Siman elaborates about Brenda Lee’s pre-stardom years singing on the “Ozark Jubilee,” as well as the development an area band called the Ozark Mountain Daredevils.
Ambel and Powell share several funny stories about Lou Whitney. The program ends with Ambel’s solo acoustic performance of “30 Days in the Workhouse” and “Always on My Mind.”
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