Stroll Down Memory Lane

with Charlie and Carolyn Napier

Remember the Drive-In Theater with metal speakers to hang on the inside of your car  so you could hear the movie?   During "intermission" the car was filled with announcements of concessions available.  Following the announcements,  the latest songs were played until intermission was over and the movie resumed.  On rainy evenings, a "rain pass" was issued so you could return free at another time.  During the winter months, the drive-in theater would close and there wouldn't be very much to do, or many places to go.....except to cruise by the drive-in and watch for the opening date to be announced on the marquee.  This page will contain more stories from the we stroll down memory lane....

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Donnie Shields is trying to locate a family car.  This car is a 1952 Chevy  2door Hardtop with Powerglide transmission.  This car was last seen in Pikeville in 1983 at Hillbilly Days.  This car was owned by Carl Parker and was originally from Mt. Sterling, KY.  If anyone knows the owner of this car, would you have them please contact Donnie Shields at 606-498-7984 or 606-497-2855 or write Donnie at P.O. Box 1091,  Mt.Sterling, KY 40353.  Cruisers, we need your help. 

Donnie Shields--Mt. Sterling, Kentucky

Janice Risgby, Tammy, and Steve Rowland have gone all out to sell Cruisin Shirts.  Janice's motivation goes back to when she was seventeen.  It was at this tender age when she lost her mother to cancer.  Janice wants to have a huge amount to give to Dream Factory of Lexington  this fall.  Her wish is that the Dream Factory will continue to help children see their dreams.
Janice Risgby-Lancaster, Kentucky
Charlie, back in 1961, I was 16 years old and I had a 53 Studebaker, 2door hard top.  It was just like Chuck McFarland's except it was baby blue with red leatherette interior.  Man back in those days I was a cool cat man, 6 foot 4 inches tall and weighed  about 165 pounds.  I had to jump around in the shower to get wet.  I wore my hair all greased back in a duck tail, and I mean I was cool Baby!  Well back to the studebaker.  You see, the car had a bad door latch on the driver's side and had a bad habit of coming open by itself some times.  I had gone to the junkyard and picked up a latch for the door, but I never put it on.  It was lying in the tray in the back window.  One Saturday afternoon, I was coming home from a day of shooting pool down town.  If I remember correctly, I had a hot date that night.  I lived on Winn Avenue in Winchester and to get home I had to go north on main street and cross the railroad tracks, then make a right on Winn Avenue to my house.  Well, as you know, back then all cool cats drove with their left arm on the window sill, turned slightly to the right in the seat and hunched over the steering wheel.  Well that's exactly the position that I was in when I crossed the tracks and made the right on to Winn Avenue.  (running way too fast but I was cool man).  I fell into that corner with tires screaming and the car leaning. Just then that bad latch that I told you about at the start of this story decided to let go.  I came out of that car in a hurry man.  I rolled, I flipped, I skipped like a big flat rock, and after what seemed like about 3 days later I ended up on my back right in the front door of a store that stood there then.  When I opened my eyes, I looked up and saw that I was laying right at the store owner's feet.  He looked down at me and said,"@#$~&*son, are you hurt?"  I heard a  rata-tata-tata sound, jumped up and saw my beloved Studebaker countersunk into a telephone pole still running, and the fan eating up the radiator.  I hobbled up to the car, reached in and cut it off, then sat down on the curb, licked my many wounds and cried over my beautiful car.  I don't remember if I made my date that night, but I doubt it, because I wasn't very cool looking then, what with all the road rash that covered me from stem to stern.  Now, 40 years later, I rarely go around that corner that I don't think about that skinny boy with all that brill-creamed hair that rolled out of that old Studebaker that warm summer day a lifetime ago, back when I was cool, baby...
Wayne Riddle, Winchester, Kentucky
 Reunion Pictures 
Permission was granted for the following story by Johnny Rennaker of Corinth, Kentucky.  This story began in Johnny younger days.  Johnny was a record salesman over several states.  He went from town to town pedaling 45RPM records.  During this job he met a woman.  They had a brief relationship.  Due to family problems, Johnny was ask to never return.  He did just that.  It was in October 29, 2000 that Johnny received the most wonderful shock of his life.  A man called his house.  He identified himself as Paul Davis of Pikeville, TN.  He questioned Johnny about his past and  verified his work record.  Paul, feeling comfortable that this was indeed Johnny Rennaker, revealed to Johnny that his wife was his daughter from many years ago.  Paul arranged with Johnny to meet his daughter the following day.  As Johnny told this story at Northpark Wal Mart, I sat there with tears in my eyes.  Johnny and his daughter, Denise, will leave the past behind.  They have both focused on what's left, the future.  You can see Johnny's wonderful, understanding wife Brenda, Denise, the daughter from a relationship, and Johnny a very proud father below.
Ott Ratliff has a 1964 1/2 Mustang Convertible that was assembled in Dearborne, Michigan, May 10th, 1964.  The car went to a Dealer in Cincinnatti, Ohio and from there it went to a dealer in KY.
The Car was located in Nicholasville, KY, August 1977 and was restored by Joe Estep, of Thelma, KY.  The Outstanding features are: 260 V/8 engine, a generator, and the front driver's seat is adjustable.  It is the only seat that is adjustable.  It has double red lined tires, 3 speed transmission, an autolite Battery, the color is Chantilly Beige with the interior being  a Palmetto Beige. 
Thanks Ott 

It's early 1975.  Pete Stamper was working with Dolly Partin.  Virgina Bray was manager of WRVK radio where Pete and Charlie worked.  Pete said in his book that this day affected Charlie in some way or the other.  He really looks quite happy!

pat boone

Being a DJ was one of Charlie's Greatest dreams.  He always took a very serious approach to his job, but always found fun in the moment.  Pat Boone had arrived in town for the dedication of Red Foley Drive. 

boogie band

This was the last Band Charlie played in.  Jerry "Chicken Man Isaacs" was band leader and won 2nd place on World's Funniest People. 


The setting would be the last time this group of entertainers would ever perform together.  It was shot in 1987 by Doug Brock Studios.  This group of entertainers were among the best to ever stand on the stage at the Renfro Valley Barn Dance. 


It is now March 5, 1977, in the home of Gary Smith, located behind the Renfro Valley Lodge that Charlie and Carolyn said their wedding vows. Times were hard, but their love prevailed.


Charlie was Master of Ceremonies of several special events at the Renfro Valley Barn Dance.  This Show was the annual talent search conducted by John Lair each year.  At this moment a decision is about to be made for the winner.

Christmas 1988, as this group gathered for the last time on the stage not knowing we would never spend Christmas together on the Renfro Valley Barn Dance again.  Seen from left to right in row standing is Al Ballinger(Barn Dance Emcee), Ann Henderson(Daughter of John Lair and owner in 1986), Country Charlie Napier(Other Barn Dance Emcee), right behind Charlie are Marg and Debbie Rhodes(Duets-Mother and Daughter) Edith and Coy Priddy(Coy was one of John Lair's finest acts, Jerry the Chicken Man Isaacs, Old Joe Clark(Comedian for the Barn Dance and Founder of the Old Joe Clark Bluegrass Festival, next in the blue checkered shirt I don't know, and last is Jim Gaskins who was one of two fiddlers for the Barn Dance in 1988.  We always gathered together after the show to fellowship in food and sang Christmas Carols.  This was my other extended family that I will never forget and always love.  We worked together for more than a dozen years.
Featured here is Coy Priddy as he sang Blue Moon of Kentucky.  Coy Pruddy and his wife Edith came to Renfro Valley by way of a Grayhound Bus from Louisville every Saturday night.  Someone would see to it that he got on down to the Barndance to be on the show.  In the later years, Susan Tomes, a school teacher from Louisville, now Rockcastle Tourisn Director, drove her car and brought Coy and his wife to the barndance.  It really didn't matter how he got there, but it was his country boy smile, Kentucky Hillbilly look, and that high pitch voice that brought all the crowds to their feet asking for just one more.  Coy's kind of act is what made the Renfro Valley Barn Dance famous today.  Also in this picture is fiddle player, Bee Lucus, Country Charlie Napier, and Jo Nel Fisher playing rythm.  This group entertained ten of thousands of people from all over the US and Canada.  If you're one of those who came to see us, I will repeat my opening line....Howdy Folks and Welcome to the second half of the Renfro Valley Barn Dance....Country Charlie...Here Coy with Old Rattler  Thanks to Kathy Priddy(Coy's Daughter) for the two above pictures in the Valley where time stands still.
Being taught that country truly does come first, Charlie had entered Eastern Kentucky University in the year of 1971 from Somerset Community College.  On his mind were two things, getting prepared to be a teacher and preparing to go to the US Army if duty called him to go. Today, Charlie is Serving the military as a civilian member of the United States Selective Service System.  That 55 Chevy in the background was his main ride.  Don't know why it doesn't have any caps.  Suppose the tire had to be rotated too often.

This Picture was recently taken in Oneida, Ky in May of 2001.  The guy with the red scarf around his neck is "Fiddling Little Ralph Marcum" a former Renfro Valley Barn Dance Star.  I was the emcee that usually had the pleasure to bring on Ralph.  When he walked up to the microphone, he gave the audience their money's worth.  One of this favorites fiddle tunes was Black Mountain Rag.  The fiddle hair would fly and the audience would scream for more.  There's not many of the original cast left.   Maybe we'll be able to get them together sometimes for our website.  Ralph actually came to Renfro a little before I did, but we left together in 1987.
Ralph continues his museum in Jackson County collecting relics to place there for generations to come.  On this day Harvey Conner brought him a cannon ball and some civil war pictures.  We're going to get up to Jackson County and visit.  It is just out of Berea, Kentucky on highway 421.  When you get to McKee, just ask anyone where Ralph Marcum's museum is located. 

We have had the pleasure of working with many entertainers in our Renfro Valley Career.  Below is a Picture of Donnie Riddle who played with Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Osborne Brothers, Country Charlie, and many others.  In Donnie's words, "I played with most of theses guy when they were just starting.  Donnie is currently on tour with a Bluegrass band.

David Pelzer, who's story will touch anyone's life, has been on the Best Seller's list for seven years.  David was a survivor of a horrendous childhood.  Dave has dedicated his life helping others to help themselves.

A former Air Force Air Crew Member, Dave played a major role in Operations JUST CAUSE, DESERT SHIELD, and DESERT STORM.  Dave's job entailed midair refueling of the once highly secretive SR-71 Blackbird and the F-117 Stealth Fighter.

Dave has received commendations from Presidents Reagan, Bush, and Clinton.  In 1993 Dave was honored as one of the Ten Outstanding Young Americans.  Other Recipients have been President Kennedy, Walt Disney, and Anne Bancroft.  In 1994, he was the ONLY American to be honored as the Outstanding Young Person of the World.  Dave was also chosen to carry the Centennial flame for the Olympic Games.
Dave is the author of four inspirational books: A Child Called "IT", which was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, The Lost Boy, A Man Named Dave, and his latest book, Help Yourself, which has also been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.  Dave's Books have been on the Best Sellers list for nearly 7 years combined, and Dave is the only author to have four #1 International Best Sellers and to have four books simultaneously on the New York Times Best Sellers List. If you believe in helping children and want to increase your depth of understanding, read all four books.  You'll be changed forever. 
Charlie Napier

jake One of the highlights of my music career was being hired by Mr. John Lair as a member of the Renfro Valley Barn Dance and having the opportunity of working with Charlie Napier. 
Thanks Charlie,
Jake Kessinger




  In 1987, this reunion was the last time Charlie performed on the stage at Renfro Valley.  Pete Stamper hosted this event, and we had one super show.  Many of the greats in this picture are gone now, but will be remembered and loved by many around the country.  Bob and Jesse Baker, Old Joe Clark, Coy Pruddy, Virgina Bray (Sales Mgr.) are among those missing. Renfro Valley during those years did indeed seem like a place that time would stand still.  That's what John always said.  The cast there varied some, but the likes of Old Joe and Terry Clark, Pete Stamper, Curt Caldwell, Al Ballinger, Goober, Virginia Sutton Bray, Kellie and Jan Cummins, Patty Fly, Country Charlie Napier, Marge and Debbie Rhodes, Red Creech, Jim Gaskin, Susan Tomes, Vernon Rainwater, Graddy Hockett were among the group that the Lair Family Counted on for  the Saturday night Barndance.  Our comedians, who were Old Joe, Pete Stamper, and Goober kept crowds wiping tears from laughter every Saturday night.   The Lair Barndance was simple, but known around the US and Canada.  It was indeed a great privilege to work for Mr. Lair and be a part of the group that pioneered the Renfro Valley Barn Dance. Question?  Do you know what was used as the bell on the Sunday Morning Gathering?  On radios across the country it sounded just like a bell.  Email me with an answer at with an answer.  It will surprise you if you don't have a clue.
 Dr. Carl Hurley(Picture)
On this cold dark November night as Carolyn and I headed in the barn for the 62nd homecoming of the former Renfro Valley Entertainers, I glanced over to my right and saw a very familiar face.  A teacher I had in College in 1982.  Dr. Carl Hurley, who now is one of America's Funniest Professors, was awaiting his next show.  As I approached Dr. Hurley, he stood there with his usual grin and a great big howdy.  The class he taught was one of his final classes before starting his new career in comedy.  I reminded him of how much I enjoyed his class.  He reminded me that he was preparing on us to get his material ready for the road.  Dr. Hurley takes stories from his life and tells them like it is.  In a sense we all have the stories, but Dr. Hurley has the gift to tell the stories.  Dr. Hurley was the headliner tonight for the new barn, and there was a sold out crowd to see him. Dr. Hurley grew up in the hills of Rockcastle and Laurel Counties near Renfro Valley.

 Old Joe Clark (Photo)
Wow, Old Joe Clark was one of the best friends a boy could ever have had in Renfro Valley.  I first met Old Joe when I was but a very small child.  I was on a field trip, and we stopped by the radio station that day.  Old Joe wanted someone to talk on the radio, and I stepped up.  Little did I know that I would be a disc jockey for WRVK in the future.  I was excited to meet such a famous man.
As time had it, Old Joe moved out of the radio to pursue his singing career as I had just begun my teaching career.  Old Joe and his son Terry were among the most popular acts on the Bluegrass circuit.  Any time Joe wasn't on the road, he and Terry would play the Renfro Valley Barn Dance.  Joe and his sons started a bluegrass festival that remains to this day one of the best in the USA.  The Old Joe Clark Bluegrass Festival is held annually in July at Renfro Valley, just off I 75 near Mt.Vernon, KY.  Being one of the great Icons of Renfro Valley, the above statue was erected of Old Joe Clark in the center of Renfro Valley, KY.....Here's a conversation between Old Joe and I in 1985.....Click Here
Reunion of Renfro Valley Entertainers
Pete Stamper headed up the reunion of the Renfro Valley Entertainers.  We had a lot of fun, but as this picture shows, my mind was racing back in time.  The valley where time is supposed to stand still.  The clock stopped on me there in 1987.  It was a strange blessing, because that was when I decided to hit the trail doing car shows.  It was strange sitting there on that bale of hay.  I was used to being the guy talking, setting up the acts, and making sure my half of the Barn Dance was going strong.  I liked to hit the stage running, and always felt a bit excited just before I greeted the crowd.  As I pondered in time, it suddenly occurred to me that the best thing that ever happened to me was in Renfro Valley.  Here I met a girl that I fell in love with and married.  Carolyn was an usher, and she said she didn't even like me.....Yea! Right!  I got proof 26 years later that she was wrong.  Like the car shows, I had an extended family here.  Pete Stamper was one of my very best friends, and my boss at the little radio station, WRVK.  We worked very well together and ran a great country music radio station.  I was the advertising manager. 
I remembered the reason how I got to Renfro Valley.  I was Pete's son's teacher.  We met at a parent teacher conference.  Pete invited me to come down to the station.
I remembered when John Lair came into the radio station that cool gray Saturday moring and ask me if I could sing.  I told him I could.  He invited me to be a guest on the barndance that Night.  That would lead me to several guest appearances, before landing the $10 a show for performing.  Mr. Lair always had very high expectations.  I tried to reach them.  John's daughter, Ann Henderson, would later ask me to be the last master of cermonies of the Lair Dynasty.  What a legacy the Lair Family left for us.
I remembered the SPRING.  Bob and Jesse Baker took me to the spring every Saturday night for a drink.  Yes, I had a nip or two with the boys.  That was their turff I was on. Mr. Lair ask us one weeknight to play for a group from Nottingham, England.  We took them all to the spring.  We had a jolly ole time that night.  Needless to say, Mr. Lair was a bit unhappy with this matter.  Reg Cooper, BBC Broadcaster, would later exchange radio program with me.  His audience was in the hundreds.  He said mine was a quarter of a million.  They really enjoyed their stay in the STATES, especially Renfro Valley.  I thought of how lucky I was to have been a part of this incredible place called Renfro Valley.  There is a huge story here I may in time share, but today time will stand still once more.
 Emery and Linda Lou Martin
 Plays Banjo with his feet
 Linda Plays the Fiddle
What a treat to be entertained again by these two.  Emery was known as a the man who picked the banjo with one arm or better yet his feet.  The fact that he had one arm never hampered the vast talent Emery had.  His wife Linda was blessed with talent as well.  Linda could fiddle with the best of them.  We salute these two veterans of days gone by. 
 Judge Ray Korns
Ray was a judge who made a difference in Kentucky's Educational System.  Well, I knew this part of Ray as the teacher in 1990, however, I knew Ray as the Comedian.  From time to time The Lair Family would call on Judge Ray Korns to fill for the resident comedians.  Judge Korns could keep tears in your eyes with his funny stories and stand lines.  It was indeed a pleasure to see the great Renfro Valley Blast from the Past.
  The Chicken Man
I first met Jerry Isaccs when we were out playing the circuit.  Junior Anglin had told me about him, so we hooked up on a show together.  He was a hoot.  Jerry and I soon became good friends and I joined Jerry's band better known as the Red Hen Boogie Band.  We traveled over three states picking and trying to break even on gas and food.  I remember Mr. Ronnie Cash asking us to play for the RCHS student body.  I told the band we were in for a long hour and a half.  We opened the show with and bang and left a student body standing screaming for more.  I fortunately made a video of that event which is now precious to us.  Jerry came and went a couple of times in the Valley, but his Chicken Song would be enough to hold him a spot in the current shows in Renfro Valley.
Here a historical picture of three guys who spent a lifetime working together in Renfro Valley and at WRVK.  The fellow on the left is Pete Stamper, who first brought me on my own radio show at WRVK.  It was around 1974.  Pete was resident comedian at the show, Emcee of Barn Dance, and morning disc jockey in the little Renfro Valley Radio Station.  The fellow on the right is Al Ballinger, who worked his day job, had his own Saturday radio show, singer, and Emcee of the Renfro Valley Barn Dance.  The other fellow is the cowboy who is in the middle.  He too sang, played, disc jockeyed, and Emcee The Renfro Valley Barn Dance.  Each one has a complete history on the other.    Pete has a book out called, " It All Happened In Renfro Valley".  This picture was taken as history was once again being made in Renfro Valley, August 16, 2006.  WRVK , under the management of Charles and Bobbie Saylor, was getting ready to kick off the first ever live band singing radio show on the Station.  It went well.  If you want to listen in on Tuesday evenings, turn to 6:00pm till 8:00pm.
  Wow, what a trip my wife Carolyn and I have had.  We have enjoyed watching the car shows grow from one here and there to hundreds of them all over the country.  It's been a journey like no other DJ will ever enjoy.  We go back to 1980s at least and even early seventies in radio.  Cruise Ins weren't even on the minds of any one much less shows.  Just a few major shows.  We were fortunate to win the favor of many beginning clubs like Southern Nights, Rockcastle Street Rodders, Greasers, Black Diamond Street Rodders, and a few others.  It was the day of the forty five records.  That was an experience.  I have had them to melt on the turn table.  From this grew an industry that started the notion of city cruise ins...One of the first was in Georgetown, Kentucky.  The industry was growing so fast that it suddenly turned into something that not even I could have imagined.  The likes of great crusins like the ones in Somerset, Corbin, and many other who were looking for something for their cities.  Carolyn and I have supported the events of everyone with our website with access to launch your events.  Have you figured that I'm getting some age on me?  Our intentions are to continue to cruise into the sunset.  Oh, one of my favorite things is watching the sunset.  Watching for that perfect sunset. This one we saw in Jamaica in June, 2007.  Jamaica Sunset While I continue to watch for many more sunsets, I want to thank the thousands of country music fans and car buffs who have been a part of our lives. 
SAYING GOODBYE TO OUR OLD TRAILER It is October 3rd, 2009 as I sit here at home pondering the past.  We have almost 9 years on the trailer you just clicked on, and it's time for a change.  Boy it's hard to say goodbye to it.  As we announced we had bought a new trailer, in the same breathe, I mentioned the old one was for sale.  Alvin Hardwich from Monticello said I want to buy your old one, and he did.  Reality set in.  I had now sold my trailer and inside it was 8 plus years of our lives with many of you.  Ten of thousands of miles of travel, good times, wonderful friendships, and great shows.  We took all the dash plaques off the walls.  What a job.  Jessica Rodgers came by, felt sorry for me, and starting popping the plaques off.  By the end of the show in Russell Springs for Another Level, the trailer was vacant.  An empty feeling set in.  Hey, I had to shake it off.  It's just a trailer with 10, 000, 000 memories.  BO from Gatermade Trailers in Somerset stopped by and said hey I'd like to do your new trailer's lettering and detail it on the outside.  This was just what I needed.  Someone to give me that new zeal to move on to the next trailer.  So many friends, so many towns, so many great times, and each one of you that came up to that window, left my Wife and I with memories that won't soon be forgotten in the old trailer.  No, we're not quitting.  We're now looking forwards to another 10 million memories, dozens of towns, and the company of all of you.  Come to think of it, I sure don't miss the days of setting out in the sun all day, maybe under a tent.  I'm looking forwards to my new wheels. 

Tell us us your memories of the 50's/60's.
Send comments by e-mail and we will post them here, where oldie songs and
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