Ray County Music Jam: ‘Doing it because they love to have fun’

Larry Summers, at left mic, and Don Weiglan, at right mic, belt out a country tune for a packed house July 28. Musicians accompanying them (some not pictured) are, from far left: Rick Horn, Leo Reeves, Ron Miller, Larry Rader, Ivan Parton, Shirley Wheeler, Rollie Holt, Art Covey, Iva Dehn and David Simmons. The Ray County Music Jam is now the fourth Friday of the month from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Eagleton Center. (Photo by Liz Johnson/Richmond News)

By Liz Johnson, Staff Writer

The walls of the Eagleton Center bulging on the fourth Friday of the month with the sounds of foot-stomping old country, bluegrass and Gospel music at the Ray County Music Jam. The night is run entirely by volunteers and hosted at the center as not only a place for folks to hang out on a Friday evening, but also as a fundraiser to benefit the Ray County Senior Center.

A new beginning

It used to just be called the “Music Jam,” and always took place on the fourth Saturday of the month at the Eagleton Center. But, the center had become a popular place for organizations to rent, usually on a Saturday night, and Eastern Commissioner Allen Dale told the group of volunteers that organized the jam that they could no longer have it on Saturday nights.

The event stopped for a while, but the volunteers wanted to keep the jam going.

“Allen Dale came into the center one day and Marian (Shaner) and I both said to him at the same time, ‘Why not Friday night?’” said volunteer and emcee Bonnie Fields. “I asked Dale if we could have one then, and he said, ‘Go for it.’”

Dale had Shirley O’Dell, president of the Advisory Council for the Senior Center, check out the possibility of having the Music Jam on Friday nights. Fridays turned out to be available.

“So we took it,” Fields said.

The Music Jam was reformulated and renamed Ray County Music Jam. Fields called all the musicians that she knew, and they got their first Friday jam scheduled. And anyone of any age can perform. It’s an open mic platform.

“Some play instruments, some sing and some do both, like Rollie,” said Fields referring to Rollie Holt.

“I try,” Holt said with a laugh.

“I sing old country music,” said Harold Simmons. “Like jamborees, Ray Price – the good country.”

Volunteer Ileen Downing echoed the sentiment, “The kind of music we have here is old country,” she said. “Foot-tapping music.”

Downing’s comment got the rest of the interviewees – 11 of the volunteers – going after she commented that Holt could yodel.

“I love yodeling,” said Charles Moore, who also sings old country such as Charley Pride and Merle Haggard.

Wendell Hendrix, another volunteer and performer, said he loves to sing country/western and Gospel.

It became clear that not only do these folks love putting together the night of entertainment, but they also love playing music, dancing and singing as a way to support the senior center.

How they do it

“There’s no staff members here,” Downing said. “We’re all volunteers.”

In fact, the volunteers begin setting up for the music jam after the Senior Center closes on Friday afternoons. They put the chairs and tables out and the men put the equipment out.

“We all contribute,” said Marian Shaner. “Every one of us contributes that comes to the Senior Center. That’s why it’s a success … everyone helps.”

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