Here and there one begins to notice the wispy smoke and sweet smell of barbeque. The daffodils and crocuses are up. The trees are greening. And the songbirds have returned — the human variety, too — they’re busy working out their do-re-mi’s in preparation for this year’s Springtime Jamboree, on Friday, April 7, and Saturday, April 8.
It’s a slice of Sussex County’s rural heritage, with country, Western and gospel offerings from mainstays the Jamboree Boys, and special guests. Beth Ann Cayhall, born and raised in Sussex and now a professional country/Western frontwoman in Nashville, is slated to grace the lineup in a return home.
Proud papa and local Rep. Gerald Hocker (38th District) applauded Cayhall’s progress in Music City. She has her own backup band now, he said, and is establishing some stage credentials at various venues around Nashville.
Hocker said he’d been sending his daughter airline tickets every year, ever since she left home to pursue her musical studies in Nashville at Bellmont College. “The day she started college, she was upset that she was going to miss the jamboree,” he said. “I’ve been flying her home ever since.”
(He won’t be springing for the entire band, though — Cayhall is slated to perform with perennial stage band favorites the Hap Tones.)
Hocker will be playing with the Jamboree Boys again this year, as the bassist, and will again be joined by sons Gerry and Greg (steel pedal guitar and drums, respectively). Reggie Helms, Ken Evans and recent addition Andy Timmons (another pro, rooted in North Carolina-based Dakkota) round out the group.
According to Hocker, the Jamboree Boys started as a trio of family performers — himself, his father (Wilbert) and brother (Wade). He was 34 at the time.
The Jamboree Boys have seen losses and gains in personnel over the years, but even as things change, much remains the same. Although he anticipated some modern country influences at the event, Hocker promised the Jamboree Boys would remain true to “the old country music sound.”
He credited long-time band mates for acting as his “right arm” in pulling it all together for another year, and stagehand/comic relief Scott Evans in particular. “Scott and Gerry have been there the longest,” Hocker pointed out.
Evans and Hocker mix it up, providing a little general goofiness and dry-wit standup (respectively) to make the shows light-hearted all around.
Attendees can expect a few fresh faces as well. Although he said making the decision about whom to ask, and whom to hold off, was always the hardest part, Hocker said he tried to bring in two or three new performers every year and had done so again for this year’s event.
After 24 years, the Springtime Jamboree has earned its place among local traditions. And the family evenings out are all in a good cause. Ruth Ann Marvel, Hocker’s legislative assistant in Sussex County, said the events had raised well in excess of $250,000 for local causes over the past two and a half decades. “We’re hoping we’ll pass the $300,000 mark this year,” she pointed out.
The jamboree will benefit the Fenwick Lions Club this time around. Hocker recognized the Lions as representative of the local will to give back to the community, and suggested the Springtime Jamboree was just another expression of that sentiment.
“This is really a community project,” he said. “I’ve always said, as long as the community supports it, we’ll continue to have it. And it seems like everybody is still enjoying it, so we just keep on doing it.”
They’ll be holding it at a swank venue this year — the state-of-the-art auditorium at the brand new Indian River High School (Armory Road/Route 20, just south of Dagsboro).
Pianist Ron Howard is slated to return for the pre-shows, starting at 6:30 p.m., and the Jamboree Boys and guests will take the stage at 7 p.m. on both nights.
Tickets cost $10, and are available at Hocker’s SuperCenter (539-1788), Hocker’s Grocery & Deli (539-0505) and G&E (539-9662), or for purchase at the door.