Chestnutt always a #8216;Hank fan#039;

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 5, 2007

Special to the Advocate

It's time to go &#8220Hankin.”

The 28th Annual Salute to a Legend will be held Friday and Saturday, June 1-2 at the Hank Williams Music Park in Georgiana, AL.

Each year thousands of faithful Hank Williams fans and lovers of country music from across the world gather to renew old acquaintances, fellowship and listen to some of the best and original country music in the world.

This year's lineup of stars will not be a disappointment.

Featured entertainers include: Mark Chesnutt, Gene Watson, Tresa Street, Brad Magness and his band, &#8220The Flying Buffaloes,” David Church, and the legendary singer's daughter, Jett Williams.

&#8220I grew up on Hank,” said Chesnutt. &#8220His music is what it's all about. I've sat and listened to his music so much, and each new time I'm exposed to it, it always sounds better than the last time.

&#8220The real roots of country music go way back, but Hank was the one that brought it forward. He carried country music to new heights, and most of the songs he wrote or recorded have crossed over into other music fields.

&#8220His sounds were original and pure. He was able to touch people with his style in a way most entertainers never will, and you felt the music and words.”

Sharing the stage with Mark Chesnutt on Saturday will be Jett Williams, Tresa Street, David Church, and Brad Magness.

Street, an up and coming artist from Gallatin, TN will be making her first appearance at the festival.

Appearing prior to these headliners will be several members of Hank's band, &#8220The Drifting Cowboys,” plus Mary McDonald, Colon Leatherwood, Bill Floyd, Chase McGinnis, The Jay Girls, Ricky Fitzgerald, Omar Rivers, Larry Darnell, Starla Jones, and Terry Smith.

According to former &#8220Drifting Cowboy” Clent Holmes of Saraland, AL, there are seven former living members, plus Braxton Schufert, who had a Montgomery, AL radio program, and often played with Hank. The other members are: Felton Pruett, Pee Wee Moultrie, R. D. Norred, Joe Pennington, Don Helms, and Bernice Turner, the only female band member.

Teaming up to provide music on Friday night will be David Church and Gene Watson.

Watson has been called, &uot;a singer’s singer.&uot;

&#8220I never did go looking for music–music found me,” he said. &#8220I put every song I sing in a different perspective. I feel each one.”

Though he can sing honky-tonk, Watson built a reputation for soulful ballads in the classical country tradition. Born one of seven children in Palestine, TX, he recorded for a few small-time regional labels during the early ’70s like Wide World and Stoneway.

Watson finally had success in 1974, when a steamy single for Resco — &uot;Love in the Hot Afternoon&uot; — was picked up for national distribution by Capitol Records, igniting a firestorm of national hits: &uot;Where Love Begins,&uot; &uot;Paper Rosie,&uot; &uot;Farewell Party,&uot; &uot;Should I Come Home (Or Should I Go Crazy),&uot; and &uot;Nothing Sure Looked Good on You.&uot;

David Church is best known for his faithful reproduction of Hank Sr.'s music, but he has also made his mark as a talented singer, song-writer, musician and performer.

Church grew up listening to his father and uncle playing the banjo, guitar and steel guitar before he could walk. He was captivated by all the early songs, especially Hank Williams Sr.

&#8220It has been an incredible honor and privilege to play a part in keeping the music of this legend alive,” he said.

Church is a featured regularly on RFD-TV's show, &#8220Midwest Country,” which is broadcast via satellite to over 130 million viewers.

Tentative Schedule:

Friday, June 1: Gates open at 3 p.m. Music starts at 4 p.m. Admission: $15. David Church and Gene Watson will be Friday's featured entertainers, along with other artists.

Saturday, June 2: Gates open at 8 a.m., with music beginning at 9 a.m. Admission: $25.

The festival is held on a five-acre park, adjoining the house where Williams lived several years as a boy that now houses the Hank Williams Museum.

This is an outdoor event, sponsored by the Hank Williams Museum. There is no reserved seating. Bring your lawn chairs. No lounge chairs, coolers, food, drinks, or pets can be taken into the park. The festival is biker friendly.

A special weekend ticket, which will be good for both days, can be bought for $30, through May 31. This is a savings of $10 over the regular single-day admission price. This ticket must be purchased in advance. To order, or for additional information, call 334-376-2396, or log on to:

To reach the festival, take I-65 Exit 114, and go one mile east.