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Renfro Valley

Submitted by Ray Evans

I have always been proud of the fact that I was born 2 ½ miles from Renfro Valley at the head of what now is Lake Linville in Rockcastle county. I can well remember the first broadcast of the Renfro Valley Barndance from the big barn in Renfro Valley. It was neat that what was being broadcast on the radio that Saturday night on November 4, 1939 was actually happening just down the road a piece from our house. The show started with a rousing theme song “Come on along, – We’re going to have a big time tonight.” You could hear John Lair welcoming the radio audience to the big barn in Renfro Valley. It was not long until autos with license plates from every state in the country could be spotted in the parking lot. Some of the performers became quite famous. Most notable were probably: ”Lily Mae Ledford and the Coon Creek Girls” and the musical comedy team of “Homer and Jethro” Some of the songs from that era became country music standards. Among them were John Lair’s “Take me Back to Renfro Valley” and Lily Mae’s “Pretty Polly” At that time, Mr. Lair had one of the most recognizable voices on radio. He was a true pioneer of radio broadcasting and he brought a lot of fame and fortune to the remote Rockcastle county area.

It was a little strange in this remote mountain area around Mt Vernon and Renfro Valley that we were literally rubbing elbows with nationally known radio personalities on a regular basis. In addition when I used to visit my Aunt Woodia Chasteen (1891 1983) in Louisville during the 1940’s, I was treated almost like a celebrity whenever she told some of her friends that I was from Renfro Valley.

In addition to the musical shows, Mr. Lair brought in horse shows and a rodeo to the valley. The rodeo has some of the fanciest trick riding and roping I have ever seen.

Renfro Valley celebrated its 60th year of operation in 1999. My family and I go back two or three times a year to see the barndance and other shows. It has survived some peoples dislike of “hillbilly music” and the onslaught of “rock and roll music” and other forms of entertainment. Mr. Lair called it a place “Where Time Stands Still”. Of course that is not true, but it comes as close as any place else in the world that I know of.