Emily Burnham | BDN
By Emily Burnham, BDN Employees •
November 22, 2018 1:00 am
Dick Stacey realized he’d caught lightning in a bottle a few years after he started sponsoring the Country Jamboree, the newbie country music showcase that aired reside Saturday nights on Bangor TV station WVII all through the 1970s and ’80s.
He and longtime Jamboree host Charlie Tenan had traveled to Nova Scotia in 1976 to take part in a country music showcase, on the invitation of a native radio station. WVII’s sign had just lately grow to be obtainable within the Maritimes, and the Jamboree had develop into a Canadian hit. On a lark, the pair drove the seven hours to Dartmouth, simply outdoors Halifax, to see what the fuss was about.
To their shock and delight, they got the star remedy. There was a sold-out crowd packed into the two,000-seat auditorium, there to take heed to the music and see the person whose catchphrase (“See these hands? They pump gas! And they STINK!”) had shortly develop into a family phrase.
“I didn’t plan on any of this happening, I really didn’t,” stated Stacey. “But I went along for the ride.”
For many who didn’t develop up with Stacey’s Country Jamboree, it might appear a little weird that a low-budget, country music present produced in Bangor, Maine, would find yourself such a hit. It featured principally unknown singers, some of whom couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.
However for a era of country music lovers and amused late-night TV-watchers, the Jamboree was a cult favourite, and one of probably the most “Maine” issues to ever hit airwaves.
Don’t let your infants develop as much as be cowboys
Stacey was born in 1936, in Brewer, the son of Ethel and William Stacey. He had two older brothers and a sister. Across the time World Conflict II broke out, the household moved to Portland, the place Stacey’s father labored in a shipyard. The household broke up not lengthy after that, and Stacey was despatched again to the Bangor space on the age of 5, the place he bounced round, staying with totally different households till ultimately winding up within the 1941 equal of a group residence in Monroe.
“I milked cows there and carried water and sap up and worked on the farm until third grade, when my mother got me back and we moved to Bangor,” Stacey stated.
Contributed photograph | BDN
Rising up, Stacey was an avid highschool basketball participant, enjoying with former Maine Sen. Invoice Cohen and longtime Bangor-area basketball coach Bob Cimbollek. After graduating from Bangor Excessive Faculty in 1955, he tried — and failed — at a quantity of odd jobs, together with shoveling snow on the then-new Joshua Chamberlain Bridge, driving a dump truck on the development website for the Bangor Auditorium, and chopping meat at C.H. Rice in Bangor.
“I got fired from the bridge on the first day because they said I spent too much time at the water fountain. I got fired from driving truck because they said I was going to ruin the clutch,” Stacey stated. “And I got fired from Rice’s because I failed the meat-cutting test. I figured I’d better get an education.”
Stacey enrolled at Husson School in 1956, the place he stayed for 5 semesters earlier than becoming a member of the Air Nationwide Guard. In 1960 he acquired a job as a enterprise supervisor on the tire middle at Bangor-based trucking line Cole’s Categorical. That job, in contrast to the earlier ones, was a good match, and Stacey labored for the Cole household for almost a decade.
In 1969, he leased a service station in Brewer from Chesley Cole and named it Stacey’s Gasoline Mart, and he later opened gasoline marts in Ellsworth and Harrington. By 1970, the identify Dick Stacey was beginning to be well-known round japanese Maine.
Honky tonk heroes
Stacey marketed with WVII-7, the ABC affiliate in Bangor, for years earlier than a salesperson from the station requested him if he’d sponsor the Country Jamboree, a weekly stay broadcast that was equal elements expertise present, gong present and country and bluegrass showcase.
The Jamboree wasn’t the primary country present to be broadcast in japanese Maine. Within the 1950s and ’60s, there was a present referred to as the RFD Dinnerbell, hosted by Yodelin’ Slim Clark, a Maine country legend. There was additionally the Curly O’Brien Present, additionally broadcast on WVII within the ’50s and ’60s. The Jamboree, which started airing on WVII in 1963, was initially sponsored by Whitten’s Frankenstein Retailer in Milbridge, and was hosted by musician Charlie Tenan.
The Jamboree format was relaxed and unrehearsed. Anybody with a modicum of musical expertise might come to the studio and carry out, as long as they have been “sincere and sober,” as Stacey put it. Tenan, who died in 2012, stored the present operating easily, segueing between “real singers” and much less clearly gifted people who wished to warble a few bars on TV.
WVII started on the lookout for a new sponsor in 1973. As Stacey recollects, when the salesperson approached him, he half-jokingly stated he’d sponsor the entire thing.
“I thought, ‘What the hell, why not?’ They’ll probably forget I said I’d do it anyway,” Stacey stated. “I always liked country music anyway.”
When he was given the contract the next week, he was a little stunned the station had taken him significantly. He signed up anyway, for a 13-week trial run.
From 13 weeks to 10 years
Courtesy of Carroll Corridor
Initially, the present was broadcast on Saturday nights, out of a tiny studio on Farm Street in Bangor. As its reputation grew, individuals would present up on the studio not simply to carry out, but in addition to take a seat in on a taping — simply to see what the heck was on the loopy, kooky country present that week.
Watchers quickly acquired to know regulars together with Perley Curtis, a Maine native who went on to play metal guitar for Loretta Lynn; Don and Duane Nickerson, brothers who for years have fronted in style Maine band Country Mist; and singer Wanda Harris, who went on to higher success as a country artist in Florida.
One of the youngest performers on the present was guitarist Jeff Simon, a Milford resident and still a common performer in Maine, with his band, Mainely Country. He began acting on the present on the tender age of 11, alongside his sister, singer Jolene, even earlier than Stacey took over the present. Simon later toured Maine and the Maritimes with numerous Jamboree performers.
“I think the thing about the Jamboree was that you’d just meet all different sorts of people, from all walks of life,” Simon stated. “I got to play a lot of music with a lot of different people, and I made a lot of friends that I’m still friends with to this day. Especially folks in Nova Scotia. It brought a lot of good people together.”
Maybe most famously, there was Jennie Shontell, an aged Bucksport lady who appeared on the Jamboree a number of occasions through the years to sing a spirited model of “On The Wings Of A Dove,” a country music first made well-known by Ferlin Husky.
To accommodate the individuals who would present as much as watch the present — and to maneuver to a bigger, extra handy location — Stacey in 1976 purchased a motel on Wilson Road in Brewer and dubbed it Stacey’s Plaza Motel. WVII began taping the present within the motel’s vigorous on-site bar and lounge.
Across the similar time, WVII became obtainable in Atlantic Canada.
“The Canadians really wanted to watch Monday Night Football,” Stacey stated. “Getting the Jamboree was just extra, but they took to it.”
The present was an virtually quick success within the Maritimes, and quickly sufficient, the vacationers started arriving within the Bangor space. They might come to city, keep on the motel, do their buying and eating, then take within the present taping within the night.
“It was a total package,” Stacey stated. “And it allowed us to make a little money off it.”
Maritimers and Mainers typically discover kindred spirits in each other. Regardless that a border separates them, there’s a shared cultural heritage within the many individuals of French, Irish, Scottish and English ancestry. There’s additionally a shared spirit of self-reliance, forthrightness and mistrust of moneyed, patronizing “people from away.”
Cliff Murphy, an ethnomusicologist who wrote the e-book “Yankee Twang: Country and Western Music in New England,” stated that sense of authenticity propelled the Jamboree’s cross-border reputation. These have been actual People, singing songs about working individuals — songs not too far off from the Celtic or English people songs performed by Maritime musicians at social gatherings.
“It may sound odd to us today, but I think to a Canadian audience these country singers had this sense of American authenticity. They seemed like the real deal,” stated Murphy, additionally the director of People and Conventional Arts for the Nationwide Endowment for the Arts. “There really was a bit of a mystique about it. It was familiar, and yet it was distinctly American.”
It additionally helped that there was a colourful forged of characters on each week, from the unflappable host, Tenan, to Stacey himself, the jolly, gregarious impresario. Stacey was maybe greatest recognized for his advertisements, which he principally ad-libbed, on the fly — together with his most well-known catchphrase, about his hands stinking of gas.
“It was five seconds to air, and I didn’t know what I was going to say, so when we went live I just threw up my hands and there you go,” Stacey stated. “I just thought up all the ads, on the spot. I guess people just liked the way I talked.”
After the Jamboree
By the early 1980s, the present’s fame had grown past Maine and the Maritimes. Stacey fielded presents from Johnny Carson, David Letterman and “Good Morning America” to seem on nationwide tv with some of the Jamboree crew, although he solely accepted the supply from “Good Morning America,” as he was apprehensive Carson or Letterman would make enjoyable of them.
Across the similar time, nevertheless, WVII’s worth for sponsorship of the present had ballooned. In 1984, Stacey determined to tug his sponsorship, and the present went off the air.
“It just stopped being worth it,” stated Stacey, who with Sue had raised six youngsters (they now have 13 grandchildren). “It wasn’t for any other reason, it was just getting so expensive.”
Stacey for a time booked country live shows within the Bangor space, that includes luminaries corresponding to Porter Waggoner, Hank Snow, Johnny Paycheck, the Charlie Daniels Band and Bangor’s personal Dick Curless. He stored busy with the motel, and with different enterprise dealings within the space.
By 1995, nevertheless, he was largely retired. He bought the gasoline marts within the 1980s, and in 1997, he bought his final remaining enterprise: the motel, at one time the guts of Stacey’s honky-tonkin’ empire. Builders tore the motel down and constructed an 11,000-square-foot Ceremony Help on the location, which is itself now closed.
Stacey and his spouse now spend most of their yr in Florida, although they arrive as much as Maine for the summer time. At age 82, life is a bit quieter for Stacey, although he maintains a giant community of buddies and household, and his identify has stayed within the public eye by means of DVDs and YouTube movies from the Jamboree days.
John Clarke Russ | BDN
There have been periodic reunions of the previous gang, showcasing musicians who’re still round; Tenan, Shontell and others have handed through the years. Most lately, there was an occasion held in 2009 in St. John, New Brunswick, a showcase on the Bangor State Truthful in 2010, and one in Calais in 2011, which Stacey dubbed the “last one ever.”
Although the thought of a stay broadcast on native tv that includes native amateurs looks like an concept of the previous, it might be argued that YouTube — with its freewheeling combination of individuals with actual expertise and different much less gifted people — bears some resemblance to what the Jamboree did 40 years in the past.
“I’d do another reunion show, if I were physically able,” Stacey stated. “I do hear from younger folks who say their mom or dad loved our program or that their parents were musicians and now they themselves play music. I hear stuff like that all the time. That’s a nice thing to hear.”