Country music show is at home in a barn

Jamboree: Two years ago, Frank Gosman found a new venue for performers in a building that held hay for his cattle.

March 18, 2004|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,SUN STAFF

Frank Gosman's nightclubs are gone, but he found a new home for the country music show he started three decades ago: his Clarksville barn.

Every Sunday afternoon, Gosman opens his doors to the Country Showcase America Jamboree, a show in the style of the Grand Ole Opry. Gosman, as master of ceremonies, tells stories, offers chatty comments and calls up singers from the audience to perform traditional country tunes with backup from a five-piece band.

Halfway through, everyone takes a break for a supper brought in by a participant.

"It's something special," said Arlene Jaye, one of the regular singers. "The music is the center of attention here."

For two years, visitors have traveled up an unpaved drive off Brighton Dam Road and parked near Gosman's chicken coops (fresh eggs are for sale). They sit on folding chairs in the barn, which formerly held hay for beef cattle. In the winter, two wood-burning stoves and a furnace keep the place toasty.

An American flag hangs behind the bandstand, and a gold-painted bust of Hank Williams overlooks the other end of the room as singers step up with guitars around their necks to sing songs by Patsy Cline, Ernest Tubb and other traditional country stars. Hundreds of photographs of previous jamborees line the unfinished walls between wooden beams.

The only modern intrusions on the rustic setting are the professional sound equipment and a computer that broadcasts the show live over the Internet at www.wdavradio.com.

"It's so much nicer" to hold the jamboree in the barn, Gosman said. "I don't have to make money. ... There is no smoking, no drinking, just a lot a fun."

The format is the same as when the jamboree started, he said. "That is country music. ... It's very relaxed." With ad libbed introductions and unrehearsed style, he said, "my show is exactly like the Grand Ole Opry."

On Sunday, Jaye, of Gaithersburg, took her turn on stage singing the up-tempo "Promised Land." She noted that the song was written by Chuck Berry and sung by Elvis Presley.

"It's exciting. ... I love the idea that we're on the Internet," said Jaye, a writer and editor at the U.S. Government Printing Office. "I'm singing to so much more than the people in the room."

Gosman said the jamboree began about 1968, when he owned the Tin Dipper, a club in Beltsville. He broadcast a few radio commercials on WDON radio for the butcher shop he owned, and the station offered him the chance to do a country music show.

He later moved the jamboree to the Big Dipper nightclub, built as a second floor on top of the original club. Gosman sold both clubs in 1986, then revived the Sunday tradition in 1995, when he bought Remington's nightclub in Laurel.

When he sold that club 2 1/2 years ago, "I just felt like I didn't want [the jamboree] to die," said Gosman, who also plays and writes music, and runs a recording label.

In addition to changing locations, the show shifted across seven FM and AM radio stations and another Internet station before landing on Dave Kolesar's station, WDAV.

Three months ago, organizers approached Kolesar, who runs the station out of his College Park basement as a hobby. He said he was happy to add the show to his programming.

The station's other program, which runs live on Friday nights, features Kolesar and his friends talking and playing recordings.

"I certainly hope it grows," he said of the jamboree audience. "I feel like I'm doing my little part to keep a 35-year tradition alive."

The jamboree has a regular following, drawing a few dozen musicians and spectators each week.

When Joe Carta first arrived at the barn for a jamboree, "It looked like an old farm. I was shocked," he said.

Now, the Glenwood farmer, who also leads the Joe Carta Band, is hooked. "I think its great," he said.

Compared with his usual gigs playing country, bluegrass, 1950s and 1960s rock and other types of music for events, benefits and nursing homes, he said, the jamboree "is a very relaxing thing for me to do."

Garry Elders drove from Nashville, Tenn., to Clarksville to play a few tunes last weekend.

"There is a vacuum of people that do this kind of music," said Elders, a full-time musician and former Maryland resident.

While country radio stations were moving toward more pop-oriented songs 15 years ago, it seemed that traditional country would be lost, he said. But, he said he has seen a resurgence of interest nationally and internationally.

"Frank really should be commended for his effort" to offer a venue for traditional county, Elders said. "Frank does it because he wants to support the music."

The Country Showcase America Jamboree is held from 3 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. every Sunday. Information: 301-854- 2917 or www.csajamboree.com.

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