Pete Stamper

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For sixty years, Renfro Valley has highlighted some of the biggest and most influential names in country and folk music. The show began in the 1930s as a combination radio broadcast and stage performance, and today it has grown into an array of shows and headliner concerts featuring old-time country music, country gospel, modern country, bluegrass, and comedy acts. John Lair, the ambitious and deeply committed founder of Renfro Valley, was fascinated with the past. He created the Renfro Valley Barn Dance to give radio listeners the experience of an old-fashioned rural hoe-down. He resisted the encroachment of popular "cowboy songs" and kept the stage and the airwaves filled with authentic Kentucky mountain music. Lair's vision struck a chord with music fans: on some Saturday nights, more than ten thousand people arrived at Renfro Valley and performances went on all night to accommodate the audiences. Pete Stamper, a forty-seven year veteran of Renfro Valley, traces the show's history from its early radio days in Cincinnati and Chicago, through the glory years in the 1940s, the lean times in the 1960s when rock and roll seemed to take over the music scene, to its renewed popularity in the 1990s. Once known as "the valley where time stands still," Renfro Valley has updated its programming while maintaining the feel of the folk culture on which it was founded. Red Foley, the Coon Creek Girls, Slim Miller, Pee Wee King, Old Joe Clark, and a host of other musicians and performers helped shape the development of Renfro Valley. Stamper describes the role of the Valley in the commercial history of country music and highlights John Lair's invaluable contribution to country music as a talent scout, businessman, and collector of traditional music of the South.

Stamper is the kind of community historian who seems to know just about everything about a place.... Informative and just as entertaining as the place it describes. -- Appalachian Journal

Introduces readers to the characters, the shenanigans, and the business deals that have evolved into over half a century of unique entertainment. -- Appalachian Quarterly

Introduces us to one of the veteran comedians of country music and provides much-needed insight about the sadly neglected but indispensable province of rural humor. -- Bill Malone

This substantial tome will give hours of fascinating reading. -- Country Music People

Renfro Valley has meant so much to every person in country music, especially older folks like me. We have all played there or played with people who have and we think of it as legend. -- Dolly Parton

The first definitive history of the Renfro Valley music and entertainment scene. -- Kentucky Living

An affectionate yet candid look at the 60-year history of the Rockcastle County music institution. -- Kentucky Monthly

A remarkably good book. -- Loyal Jones, in Now &Then

Peter Stamper received the Stephen Foster Award for Broadcast Excellence.

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






John Lair, Renfro Valley, Renfro Valley Barn Dance, Kentucky, Country music


Cultural History

It All Happened in Renfro Valley
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