Grand Ole Opry Members Come To New Jersey To Honor Legacy Of New Jersey’s 'The Burd Boys Country Music Band'
The Burd Boys Jamborees drew thousands of fans and Country Artists from around the country.
By Anne Freeman, The Aspiring Songwriter® [10-20-2002]
On August 12, in the packed auditorium at North Hunterdon Regional High School in small town of Annandale, New Jersey, members of The Grand Ole Opry presented a wonderful family show at the "3rd Annual Tribute To The Fabulous Burd Boys." The tribute was hosted by Ellie and John Burd to honor The Burd Boys, one of New Jersey’s most popular Country Music band in the ’60s and ‘70s, and an important piece of New Jersey’s Country music heritage. The tribute was hosted by Ellie and John Burd of Califon. Nashville’s Steve Hall/Shotgun Red with his Shot Gun Red Band, was the Master of Ceremonies. Grand Ole Opry stars Jan Howard and Jeannie Seely were the headline acts.
From 1967 to their last show in 1974, The Fabulous Burd Boys hosted their famous “Jamborees” on the Burd family’s Hickory Grove Farm near Califon, New Jersey. The two-day Country Music festivals featured Country performers from around the country and reached 5,000 in attendance at their peak. A few of the Country greats whom the Burd Boys performed with over the years include Hank Thompson, Wanda Jackson, Jeannie Seely and Jack Green. The Burd Boys last show was with Country Legend Mel Tillis at the Fairmont Fire Station.
This absolutely enjoyable evening of entertainment began with 15-year-old Country vocalist, Miss Nicole Donatone, grandniece of The Burd Boys. Her lovely voice confirmed that the great Country Music tradition of the Burd family remains alive and well! Additional guests performances included Leonard Rambo of Califon, who was the bass player and a vocalist in the original Burd Boys band. Leonard treated us to old favorites like “I Don’t Believe I’ll Fall In Love Today” (Harlan Howard). Kenny Burd of Flemington, who had his own Country music band Kenny Burd and The Lawman, also joined them on the stage to sing some more classics like “Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain” (Fred Rose). Both “Burd Men” thoroughly enjoyed their time on stage with Steve Hall and the band, as did the audience! Missing from the show that night was original The Burd Boys band member Bernie Hudecek, originally from Califon. Bernie had to cancel his flight in from Ellensville, IN, due to a last minute due to a minor auto accident (everyone is OK). Kenny Burd can still be heard performing on WDVR’s “Heartlands Hayride” on Saturday afternoons. He promises to join the tribute next year.
Steve Hall and the Shotgun Red Band did a great job entertaining us with straight-on Country music, stage banter, jokes and laughter. “How many people here have seen the Shotgun Red Band show before?” Steve queried. A good portion of the audience raised their hands. “How many of you have never, ever seen the show before? – Boy, the almost seem proud of that, don’t they?” (Laughter!) “How many people are sitting next to someone who thinks that they might have seen the show somewhere before?” (Laughter!) “OK, now listen carefully. How many people don’t want to ever be associated with anyone on this stage in this life or the life hereafter?” (Laughter!) “How many people didn’t use deodorant and won’t hold your hand up no matter what happens?” (Applause!) We enjoyed this kind of funny, lighthearted bantering from the stage throughout the night.
Some special treats from the Shot Gun Red Band show included guitarist Sheryl Lynn, who sang the pretty Tanya Tucker ballad, “Two Sparrows In A Hurricane” (Marc Alan Springer), and Mark Peterson, who treated us to his version of the light-hearted hit song that he wrote, “Cadillac Style,” recorded by Sammy Kershaw.
Grand Ole Opry Legend, artist and Grammy-nominated songwriter Jan Howard treated us to a set of great songs from her repertoire, including uptempo numbers like “Evil On Your Mind” (Harlan Howard). “…But us women are suspicious things, we know that men aren't born with wings…What's makin' you so kind, now I'm not smart but I'm not blind… I think that you've got evil on your mind.” (Applause!) Jan contributed to the night’s laughter with her share of stories. “A young couple was about to get married and at dinner one night, the young man told his bride-to-be, ‘Honey, I have a confession to make. I’m a golfer, so you won’t see much of me on the weekends.’ His finance replied, ‘As long as we’re making confessions, I have something to tell you, too. I’m a hooker.’ He thought about it a moment, and then he said, ‘Well, OK…just keep your left arm straight and your eye on the ball and you’ll be fine.’” (Laughter!)
She continued her sets with gems like “But You Don’t Know Me” (C. Walker & E. Arnold) “You give your hand to me, and then you say hello…And I can hardly speak, my heart is beating so…And anyone can tell you think you know me well…But you don't know me…” (Applause!) She jumped into the evergreen “Rollin In My Sweet Baby’s Arms” (Traditional) before closing her set with a Grammy-nominated song that she wrote, “My Son,” her prayer for the safe return of her son from Vietnam, which she wrote before she lost to the war. It was a heartfelt performance.
The final leg of the evening was Grammy-winning singer and songwriter Jeannie Seely, who entertained us with a variety of great songs and stories about her life. She told us about growing up in a musical family with lots of music and instruments. Her daddy loved Country Music, and her mom loved Pop music. “I remember growing up,” Jeannie told us, “and some of my favorite days were the days that Mama baked bread. She always found more time to spend with me on those days. And, if I was really, really good, she’d bake cinnamon bread…so you know we had cinnamon bread a lot…” (Laughter!) “Well, anyway,” Jeannie continued, “we’d be making those loaves of bread and we sing. This is one of the songs that my mama taught me that always brings back wonderful memories to me, and I hope maybe it will to you… ‘Gonna take a sentimental journey, gonna set my heart at ease…Gonna make a sentimental journey, to renew old memories…’” (Applause!)
Jeannie mentioned that she’s been invited to record an acoustic Bluegrass album, which is yet to be named. She’s inviting some special guests to be on the album, including guitar great Steve Wariner. She asked everyone to keep their eyes open for the new CD. Jeannie’s show included the pensive classic from one of her all-time favorite albums, the Linda Ronstadt-Dolly Parton-Emmylou Harris album, TRIO (Warner Bros), “Those Memories Of You” (Alan O'Bryant). “Those memories of you still haunt me…Every night when I lay down…I'll always love you little darling…Until the day they lay me down…” (Applause!) Near the end of her show, Jeannie thanked the audience for being so wonderful and then offered this gem. “I want to sing you the song that took me to the Grand Ole Opey, which I love so very, very much. This is the song that also made it possible for me to win a Grammy award for the Best Female Performance for a Country Record in the year of …pauses…19 such-n-such.” (Laughter!) “It’s gets harder and harder for me to say that!” (Laughter!) “But, I tell you what. I’ll be celebrating my 35th Anniversary at the Grand Ole Opry in September! (Applause!) “I’ve been asked to dedicate this song to Joe Snyder, who is sitting in the audience.”
Before Jeannie started, Steve Hall grabbed a mic and he told Jeannie that the lady who made the dedication is Ellie Burd, who hosted the show. “Ellie Burd has something with her that I’m going to ask her to bring on stage right now.” Steve told Jeannie. Once on the stage, Ellie held up a photograph of a young Jeannie Seely with “The Jolly Green Giant” Jack Green. Ellie said, “Many years ago, Jeannie, you and Jack Green performed at The Shady Lane in Locktown, NJ. I think that it was back in 1967. My son, John, who was the merchandize salesman for The Burd Boys at the time, got everyone in Jack’s band to sign the photograph except for you. I don’t know how he missed you!” Steve Hall then asked Jeannie to sign the photograph for Ellie and Johnny Burd, which Jeannie gladly did some 35 years later! Steve told the audience, “Before I hand this microphone back over to Jeannie Seely, I just want to say that this is what Country Music fans are all about!” (Applause!)
When Ellie Burd returned to her seat and the audience calmed down from all of the fun, Jeannie began the song that put her on the charts and into the Grand Ole Opry, as well as paved the way for her 1967 Grammy win as Best Country Vocal Performance by a Female, “Don’t Touch Me” (Hank Cochran). “Your hand is like a torch each time you touch me... That look in your eyes pulls me apart… Don't open the door to heaven if I can't come in…Don't touch me, if you don't love me sweetheart…” (Applause!) Jeannie’s engaging show was evidence of why she has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry for 35 years!
At the end of the evening, Steve Hall thanked the crowd for a great evening of fun and traditional Country music. “In fact,” he said, “that is what this show is all about. Great traditional Country music. It’s a tribute to The Burd Boys, who brought traditional Country music and 5,000 fans out to a farm on the edge of town, year after year after year. As long as John and Ellie Burd want to put a show on to honor such great individuals playing such great music, I say this is absolutely terrific. I just love it and we’ll be back!” (Applause!)
The wonderful night of music, memories and laughter ended with John and Ellie Burd presenting plaques to Jan Howard and Jeannie Seely in thanks for their participation in the 3rd Annual Tribute To The Fabulous Burd Boys, and a tribute mug for entertainer extraordinaire, Steve Hall. Visit all of these fine artists at: www.shotgunred.com, www.janhoward.com, www.jeannieseely.com, and The Burd Boys Tribute page at home.att.net/~johnmburdjr. See you all next year!
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