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Country crooner Leland Jones: ‘Doing his thing’ for six decades

Living 50-Plus: Jones is a walking, talking, singing miracle

Country singer Fonda Bennett, far right, of Richmond, has been performing with Leland Jones since she was 9 years old. She performed with Leland and sang solo with the band at the June 3 performance. (Photo by Liz Johnson/Richmond News)

By Liz Johnson, Staff Writer

You can take the performer out of Nashville, but you can’t take the Nashville out of the performer, even after more than 60 years in the business.

Local Ray Countian Leland Jones, now well into his 70s and a country music legend in classic country circles, is slowing down because of some health issues, but can still belt out his classics like “Everybody Doing Their Thing” as if he was a teenager. And, judging from the female reaction at his recent show at the Eagleton Center, he can still make the ladies swoon.

How it all began

Leland, the youngest of 11 children, began performing professionally at the age of 12, when he played guitar and sang ‘Slowly’ (Web Pierce’s hit) on the Cowtown Jubilee that aired on KCMO in Kansas City. It was a talent show, and Leland walked away with the first-place award. That’s no big surprise since he came from a musical family.

“Mom and Dad played music,” he said. “All my brothers and sisters played music and sang. I really feel fortunate.”

Leland also had a bluegrass band, the Show Me Bluegrass Boys, when he was in high school. He said he and his band played all over Missouri

“I thought we were pretty good,” he said, “and we were.”

Leland eloped with his high school sweetheart Carole, when she was 16 and he was 18, so she has been a big part of his music life throughout his entire career.

Leland also performed with his older brother Byron for many years singing Wilburn and Louvin Brothers style songs (country/gospel genre).

Byron bought the Farris Theatre in the early 1960s and produced country shows with Leland to packed houses every Saturday night beginning in 1964.

“When we first started up there (at the Farris), there wasn’t a lot of music on TV,” Leland said. “But people would line up two hours before the doors opened – up and down the street in both directions.”

In response to the large crowds, the brothers began putting on two shows on Saturday nights.

“We’d put as many people in there as would fill the place,” he said. “The shows were jam-packed full for a long time.”

The Farris shows were first called the Richmond Opry and later renamed the Farris Opry. Eventually, Leland said, the crowds started dwindling down after other genres of music came on the scene.

It was time to move on.

“I went to the Lee Mace Ozark Opry in Osage Beach in 1968,” he said. He worked there for about three years. “They did 10 shows a week.”

The complete story is in the Friday, June 16, 2017 Living 50-Plus section of the Richmond News.

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