Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 20, 2018
Midwest Old Threshers Reunion

Allen thrilled for swan song at Old Threshers

Entertainer set to retire this year
Aug 30, 2017
Photo by: Submitted Rex Allen Jr. is winding down his touring career. Allen will only perform in two more events following Thursday night’s Country Gold. The 70-year-old said that Old Threshers, in his mind, is the top festival in the United States.

By Brooks Taylor, Mt. Pleasant News


It was a beautiful day in Nashville, Tenn., and Rex Allen Jr. was enjoying his last couple of days at home before embarking on a trip he had been anxiously looking forward to — performing in Country Gold Thursday night at 7:30 p.m. at the Midwest Old Threshers Reunion.

“I’m just doing great,” Allen said Monday afternoon in a voice that reinforced his claim. “I Googled myself this morning and it said I’m doing fine.”

He was getting some odds and ends tied up before leaving today (Wed.) for Mt. Pleasant. He said he was leaving early Wednesday on the advice of legendary country-music artist Hank Snow. “When I first started, Hank Snow told me the only way you miss a date is if you don’t leave early enough. My dad (Rex Allen Sr.) said the only way you miss it is if you’re dead.”

Allen doesn’t view Thursday night’s engagement in the same light that he does the other 50 shows he does yearly. He’s been on the KILJ stage 10 times, but his last performance was four years ago. The first time he appeared, he opened for Ernest Tubb.

This is Allen’s final year touring, and he said he wanted to be sure that it included Old Threshers. “Old Threshers is one of the best-run festivals (the term he uses for such events) in the United States,” the 70-year-old musician praised. “It is a wonderful thing to be a part of.

“I think the best state fair in the United States is the Iowa State Fair and the best festival in the country is Old Threshers,” he continued. “I can’t tell you how much I respect and enjoy the people there. I’m doing Old Threshers in my final year because the people are so receptive.”

Not only will the concert be special because it will be Allen’s last appearance here, the concert will be broadcast live on Allen said it will be broadcast to 84 countries and on the armed forces network.

But there’s more. Live footage of the concert will be included in a documentary on Allen and western music which will be airing at a date to be determined on PBS outlets and in select major movie theaters. Footage from only one other Allen concert will be included in the documentary.

“They (producers) asked me where they could film one of my concerts, and I told them they had to go to Old Threshers,” Allen proudly said. “The producers knew all about Old Threshers because they have attended the festival. This (documentary filming) not only will showcase Old Threshers but also Mt. Pleasant.”

A filming crew with 12 cameras and overhead booms, etc., will be filming Thursday night’s Country Gold, which also includes performers LeRoy Van Dyke, David Frizzell and Moe Bandy.

Van Dyke is an institution at Old Threshers and Allen said he gladly shares the stage with him. “It is a pleasure to work with LeRoy Van Dyke, and he has the best band (The Auctioneers).”

Producers approached Allen about three or four months ago, seeking his permission to do a documentary on him. Notable entertainers who have contributed to the Allen documentary are Charlie Daniels, Crystal Gayle, Riders in the Sky and Jamie Fricke.

Allen said he tries to arrive early at Old Threshers just to soak it all in — and to enjoy a few hours of anonymity. Topping his “to do” list at the reunion are watching the cavalcade of power and looking at collectibles. “I never know what I am going to do (while at Old Threshers). I can take off my cowboy hat and boots, walk the grounds and nobody knows who the heck I am.”

Many friends and kin will be at the concert Thursday night. “Working Old Threshers really fits into my plan (retirement year). There will be people coming Thursday night from all over. I have people coming from the East Coast and Texas among many other states.”

Only two concerts remain on Allen’s playbill following Old Threshers. He will be with Country Gold in Pennsylvania next month and his final concert will be Oct. 7 in Willcox, Ariz.

The Willcox concert will complete Allen’s circle. Not only is it his father’s hometown, but it is also where he first took the stage in 1954. His concert will be during Rex Allen Days in Willcox, a celebration named after his father.

During his career, Allen has had 50 country music hits, wrote the state song for Arizona, hosted his own television show (Yesteryear) which was a spin-off from the Statler Brothers Show. He also was a narrator in the Jim Carrey movie, “Me, Myself and Irene”. The Allens (father and son) have been entertaining the world for 80 years, he proudly noted.

With a twinge of sadness he said he’s seen many changes in country music — some not for the better — during his 63 years on stage. “Right now, there are two forms of country music — traditional and country today. They are two separate things and people still enjoy traditional country music. In fact, it is the fastest growing music now.

“Traditional country music is an art form,” he remarked. “It’s music about life, not puberty.”

Although he will retire from the stage, he isn’t retiring from music. He said he will still have his radio show and have songs out.

But he knows there is more to life than country music, and he wants to stroll for a while on the other side of the street.

“I look at it more as turning the page,” he explained. “I want to see the world from the other side of the floodlights. It seems like I’ve seen everything with a guitar on my back.”

Allen’s bucket list includes visiting New England in the fall, traveling to Ireland and spending some time in Montana. “It’s not like I am going to sit down and die. I just want to see the world in a different way.”

Before he exits stage, he is thankful he can make one more appearance at Old Threshers, relating that being at Old Threshers is a very special thrill. “I am looking forward to Thursday more than you will ever know. To me, this is the greatest show I’ll do in my retirement year.”

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