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Shepherdsville Country Music Show still strong after 30 years

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By Mallory Bilger

SHEPHERDSVILLE — It may not look like the Grand Ole' Opry from the outside, but the Shepherdsville Country Music Show has earned a place in local country music history.

This Sunday the Shepherdsville Country Music Show on Highway 44W will celebrate 30 years of providing Bullitt County with a toe-tapping good time Friday and Saturday nights.

The show was founded by Mary Reid, her husband, the late Philip "Chester" Reid, and Sunny Johnston. However, Johnston was only a part of the partnership for a short time.

Mary said her husband had a vision to make live country music accessible and affordable for people in Bullitt and surrounding counties, so he set out to make the show a success. Today between 200 and 400 people still come out on Friday evenings to enjoy Bluegrass music and Saturday evenings to see the show's house band the 44 Country Band and several special guests. Band members currently are Jeremy Nally, Glen Phillips, Bobby Hair, J.R. Noe, Rus Dalton and Producer/Emcee/Vocalist Pat Portman.

Mary can still be seen every Saturday evening selling tickets and greeting guests to the show.

"I enjoy the people and I enjoy the music," Mary said, in between greeting guests. "It's had its ups and downs."

Mary said the small theatre-like building holds 500 guests and has hosted country and bluegrass legends such as Gene Watson, Angie Humphrey, Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley.

But to Mary, the music show is more about showcasing local talent than attracting superstars.

"Mostly all of our talent comes from around here," she said.

Mary said the show has gone through five or six house bands in the past 30 years, claiming that many people move on to what they believe to be bigger and better things. She said usually a band leaves after being at the show six or seven years.

"Keeping a good band is hard," she said.

Mary has fond memories of the current and past house bands.

"It seemed like (the band) would do something funny every week and it made you feel like you couldn't wait until Saturday came again."

Mary said the show has always been popular. Some may say that country is fading, but the folks that have been coming to the Shepherdsville Country Music Show for years disagree. For them, country is alive and well in Shepherdsville.

Evelyn Franz has been attending the show with her husband, Donald, for more than five years. The two travel from Indiana to Shepherdsville each Saturday evening.

"I love this show," Evelyn said. "They put on a good one. I don't miss it. I'd rather miss eating."

Shepherdsville native Raymond Montgomery has been attending the show since it opened.

"I missed the first show because I didn't know they had one," Montgomery said.

To him, the Shepherdsville Country Music Show is one of the best around.

"I've traveled all the states but two and I've been to every country music show from here to there and I've never found one better than this one," he said.

Husband and wife James and Glenna Spratt have managed the sound equipment, as well as other duties, for more than four years. The couple has been attending the shows for more than 15 years.

"We just like country music," Glenna said. "It's a family type atmosphere and there's a lot of loyal people here."

James said people keep coming back to the show because they feel welcome.

"We've gotten acquainted to so many of them here they are just about like kin," he said.

44 Country Band producer, vocalist and emcee Pat Portman said she loves being a part of the house band at the Shepherdsville Country Music Show. She said band members have gotten to know the crowd.

"It's more than just the singing," Portman said. "It's the interaction with our regulars. What I enjoy most is getting to meet all the local talent."

There's no disputing that after 30 years, the Shepherdsville Country Music Show still has a loyal following. Mary said she will run the show until she is physically unable to do so. When she does have to sell the show, she hopes that someone will buy it and keep it the way it has been for 30 years: family friendly, upbeat, alcohol-free and community oriented.

"I'm hoping someone else will keep it going," she said.

As long as the show has fans like Donald Franz, keeping loyal followers shouldn't be a problem.

"I'm the one that when they quit singing, gets up and yells, 'More! More!,'" Donald said.

The Shepherdsville Country Music Show's 30th anniversary celebration is this Sunday at 3 p.m. All previous and current band members and special guests are invited to come and perform. The community is also invited to attend.

The Shepherdsville Country Music Show's Saturday evening shows are at 7:30 p.m. and include the 44 Country Band and three special guests, Admission is $7 for adults, $6 for seniors, $1 for children ages 6-12 and free for children under 6. Bluegrass shows vary during the year. Concessions are available.

For more information, call 502-231-8468, 502- 807-9604 or 502-921-2736 or visit

http://www.geocities.com/shepherdsvillecountrymusicshow/.