Country music show back in full swing

Published 9:56 am Wednesday, July 15, 2009

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The Saturday Night Jamboree. For years it was a staple of the television viewing audience of the Tri-State.

Starting in 1954 for about a decade the country music show locally produced by WSAZ-TV had a devoted following.

Now a newer version of the show is back and in full swing, thanks to some of those fans who wanted to bring the Jamboree back to the public. The next chance to see the new Jamboree is Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena in Huntington.

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“When I was a kid, I used to watch that show religiously,” Rick Ruggles of Chesapeake, said.

Now Ruggles is lead guitarist and band director for the revived show that is approaching its fifth season and co-owner of the trademark of the show.

“I never thought I would be one of the people playing music for it,” Ruggles said.

It all started when friend Dan Mahoney of South Point saw an ad that local musician Scotty King was looking for fellow musicians to start up the show again.

Ruggles and Mahoney went over the VFW Post in Huntington to audition.

Ruggles offered a range of music from “Hot Rod Lincoln,” Jim Reeves’ ballad “He’ll Have to Go,” and Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues.”

“I have been a musician for 57 years. When I went to the audition, I thought maybe I’d be a guest on the show and get invited back every so often,” Ruggles said. “I never thought I would end up owning the trademark and be the vice president.”

While the original Jamboree was a vehicle for bringing in viewers to the new medium of television, the latest edition is not televised, but instead a live concert, usually held at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena.

Among the performers in the new Jamboree are David Morrison, steel guitarist from Wheelersburg, Kim Browning, base guitarist from Point Pleasant, Brent Williams, drummer, and Jim Rumbaugh harmonica player, both from Huntington, Joe McComas, fiddler from Culloden, W.Va.

Tom Dobbins, rhythm guitarist from South Point, Jay Walker, singer from Genoa, W.Va., Donna Cunningham, singer from Lucasville, and The Ross Sisters from Kenova, W.Va.

“We like the traditional country like the old Hank Williams and Jim Reeves and Johnny Cash. The female singers do Patsy Cline,” Ruggles said. “We are an affordable good family-oriented show. Our goal is to promote the traditional country music.”


Saturday Night Jamboree will be at the Big Sandy Superstore Arena Saturday. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with the show starting at 7 p.m. Tickets are $6; $5 for seniors and children 12 and under free. The Jamboree will also perform at the Huntington Homecoming Apple Butter Festival Sept. 25, 26 and 27 at Harris Riverfront Park.