One-night-only Barn Dance show returning to Nashville North (Wingham)
BY SCOTT STEPHENSON
A star-studded country show is being put on in the historic Town Hall Theatre in Wingham on the afternoon of Nov. 5, and it’s one that’s guaranteed to bring back that same old-time spirit that, for a long time, was synonymous with the little town. That’s right, country guys and country gals, it’s time again for the sound of Barn Dance to come to Josephine Street.
The show will boast the host with the most - Jim Swan, who’s been the official “Voice of Barn Dance” for over 25 years. Favourite Barn Dance guests from throughout the years will also be performing, including Barn Dance mainstay Paul Weber, and one of the true ladies of country music: Sue Weber.
Also gracing the stage will be the unforgettable Naomi Bristow, whose god-given voice and yodelling prowess first found an audience with the Barn Dance crowd. Since then, she’s been sharing her sound all around any town that will confess that it loves old-time music best.
Memphis Aaron, a most mysterious young man fresh out of Bayfield will be at the Town Hall Theatre on Nov. 5 as well. We may not know too much about this lad, but based on the talent with whom he’s sharing stage space, Mr. Aaron is likely a force to be reckoned with.
Last, but certainly not least on the ticket, is Canadian Country Music Hall of Famer and internationally-acclaimed singer-songwriter George Fox. Born and raised in Cochrane, Alberta, Fox once set out abroad to learn the art of Swedish farming, only to fall in love while there with the country music of his homeland. He has since recorded countless country albums, and has a street named after him in his hometown. Fox has spent decades weaving country gold with his great voice and superior story-telling chops, making a career out of winning awards, travelling the world, and opening for the likes of Randy Travis, Dolly Parton, George Strait and Willie Nelson. His debut singles, “Angelina” and “Goldmine” made the country charts, followed by, “No Trespassing”, “Mustang Heart” and “Breakfast Alone”, to mention just a few.
Today, George lives in southern Ontario with his wife and two daughters, farming winter wheat, corn, soybeans and a small herd of beef cattle in his own little version of “The Garden of Eden”. In 2022, George was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. The allure of Barn Dance has always drawn outsized county talent to the town, and Fox’s upcoming performance is no exception.
The Town Hall Theatre is the perfect place for this blow-out Barn Dance show. Way, way back in 1889, Wingham Council came together and passed a motion instructing the town clerk to borrow $10,000 to build a grand new town hall - one for the fast-growing town to call its very own. That budget was later reduced to $8,000, elegant plans were quickly drawn up, and the Town Hall Theatre became the centre of arts and culture on Josephine Street. It was soon joined by the Wonderland Picture House, which eventually became the Lyceum Theatre - a movie house that evolved along with the early days of cinema itself. Silent film gave way to talkies, and black and white exploded into glorious technicolour right before the disbelieving eyes of the people of Wingham and the surrounding area. At one point, they employed a young projectionist at the Lyceum that went by the name W.T. Cruickshank - a local boy who turned out to have a real knack for technology.
Cruickshank’s casual tinkering with a radio receiver in 1926 led to the creation of the radio station CKNX, which evolved into a truly rural media dynasty that eventually came to include a television station, one of the smallest towns ever to have one. Wingham became famous for live performances and broadcasts of music, exposing a broader audience to the undeniable culture of the county. CKNX Barn Dance evolved from the station, becoming an incubator for country stars and a touchstone of small-town technological advancement. The live Barn Dance shows were broadcast far and wide, entertaining the young and old while creating bona fide stars of sound and screen.
What wild days those were in Wingham! The streets were jam packed with visiting stars native to Nashville rubbing shoulders with legendary locals like mad genius Cruickshank and Canada’s very own singing cowboy, Earl Heywood. So, come on out on the afternoon of Nov. 5 at 2:30 p.m, and taste a little slice of life from the era of Wingham when it was known as Nashville North - it’s a chance for you and yours to become just a little part of musical history!
General admission tickets are $55.00 and are available at Christine’s Clothes Closet in Wingham, A & R Music in Walkerton, and online at www.danitix.com. For more information call (905) 325-5704.