Thursday, August 7, 2014

I have the keys to the John Lair House

Renfro Valley, Kentucky
Renfro Valley RV Park
Pull Thru #207

Renfro Valley Entertainment Center is celebrating its 75th anniversary, so besides going to the dinner show tonight we decided to visit the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame this afternoon which is part of this entertainment complex.  

I've never enjoyed the Football Hall of Fame and wasn't too excited about going to the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame but we're here on the grounds so decided to check it out.    

After paying our $7.00 senior admission, I wasn't surprised.  There were some display cases with posters of entertainers and clothes (which weren't originals).  The girl that gave us the tickets, said it was self guided and would take 45 minutes.  Yeah, sure, I could walk past the cases in 5 minutes.  

Okay, maybe this is better, a gown and shoes worn by the Judds.  

I have to say, the further into the museum, the better it was and it kept going and going.  It told the story of music in Shakespearean times to present.  

There were audios that played when you entered each section of the museum.  Music played around every corner.  There were some videos with seating areas, but they didn't have closed captioning and I knew by the tone, Bill would have trouble hearing them.  

While the museum gave a lot of history on Kentucky from the 1700's to present day, it also included the immigration from Europe and how music played its part in history.  

We are learning and hearing a lot about the wilderness trail.  
The story of the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame should start with the history of Renfro Valley and the story of John Lair who returned to Rockcastle County after serving in WWI. John returned to the family farm which was subsequently sold to settle his fathers estate.  He then left the area to work in Chicago but his heart was still in Kentucky.

While John Lair was working in Chicago for an insurance company, he persuaded musical entertainers, Carl Davis and Hartford Connecticut Taylor to come to Chicago to perform.  They were soon  broadcasting on  WLS radio show.  Their success and acceptance brought Kentuckians, Doc Hopkins, Gene Rupps and the Cumberland Ridge Runners to Chicago to also perform on WLS.  

John recalls "closely studying the audiences from week to week.  I noticed that a great many folks who attended the barn dance came from out of town, apparently combining the show with a trip to the city and a general outing for the party.  This set me to thinking that it might work the other way around--that city folks might enjoy a trip to the country to see a show.  Right then is when the idea of coming back to Renfro Valley and building a barn to broadcast from and hold shows in began to take on the semblance of a possibility." 

The dream started to take shape in 1937 with their debut over WLW radio which had paid sponsors.  With the revenue from the broadcast, Mr. Lair began buying land and constructing the buildings in his home area of Renfro Valley. The first building was a barn for the shows and to broadcast from. Later, people came to the area to stay at the Renfro Lodge and 12 log tourist cabins.  (As an aside, an RV park, with full services, was added in 1995.)

Saturday night, November 4, 1939 you could hear Mr. Lair say,  "Howdy folks and welcome to the Renfro Valley Barn Dance and welcome to Renfro Valley for the the first broadcast from the big barn down here." 

The displays just kept getting better and better and, doesn't this man look like he represents Kentucky?  

This was a produce car which had all these instruments in the back showing that the musicians had to travel from show to show.
I never realized how many entertainers were from Kentucky.  Jerry Chestnut was from the area and Elvis Presley presented him with this belt and buckle.  

All ages of people will enjoy this museum.  There's a lot of hands on exhibits for all kinds of music and instruments.  I'm glad I gave it a chance, because in the end it was very good. 
I had to have a photo of one of my favorite entertainers--Boots Randolph.
The gift shop had a large selection of CD's for sale from many on the showcased artists from the hall of fame.  If you want to be in the hall of fame, you can start by buying an instrument from the gift shop. 

I asked the girl in the gift shop about the John Lair House which is on the grounds of the entertainment complex.  She said it was closed but opened the cash register drawer and handed me a key.  She said "you'll have to enter by the door by the garage and to please lock it back up when you leave".  Can you imagine anyone doing this in any other part of the country?  She didn't even ask my name, or request a driver's license to hold until I returned the key.  
 This is the back of the home.
I believe they rent out the home for different occasions. 

Certification that John Lair House and Stables are on the National Register of Historic Places.  
This is the front of the completely furnished John Lair home.

We decided to have an ice cream at Aunt Polly House next door, but it was closed.  

Oh yes, I did return the key.

Turtle Safely.....

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