Concerts key for fair, rodeo

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ALABAMA, Lawrence, Bowen, others to perform in Lovington

ALABAMA, which was founded decades ago by Randy Owen, center, the late Jeff Cook, left, and Teddy Gentry, will close out the Lea County Fair and Rodeo on Saturday, Aug. 12, and will be the highlight of the New Mexico exposition’s concert series.

LOVINGTON, N.M. – In 1981, a trio of cousins from a small town in the South jumped into the country music stratosphere when the song “Tennessee River” catapulted to the top of the charts.

Four decades later, Alabama is synonymous with down-home hits and a nation’s love affair with the group’s unique sound and style. Randy Owen, Teddy Gentry and the late Jeff Cook are the foundation of the group, which is the highlight show during the Lea County Fair and Rodeo’s concert series.

ALABAMA, which has had 43 No. 1 singles over its 50-plus-year history, will close out the fair and rodeo with its Saturday, Aug. 12, show. With it, they will share a big portion of their long list of great songs like “My Home’s in Alabama,” “Old Flame,” “Love in the First Degree,” “The Closer You Get,” and so many more.

  “I’m really happy with our concert series,” said Kris Allen, chairman of the Lea County Fair Board. “The Lea County Commission was willing to up their game a little bit (financially) and get more quality. Alabama is a group that’s tough to get, so to get them to come is really cool.

“I think the whole lineup is going to be successful. It’s top notch.”

The concert series will begin with the Hispanic Heritage Celebration, which will feature Los Rieleros Del Norte and Los Invasores de Nuevo Leon on Friday, Aug. 4. The music will return four days later:

  • Tuesday, Aug. 8: Wade Bowen
  • Wednesday, Aug. 9: For King + Country
  • Thursday, Aug. 10: The Frontmen featuring Larry Stewart of Restless Heart; Tim Rushlow, formerly of Little Texas; and Richie McDonald, formerly of Lonestar
  • Friday: Aug. 11: Tracy Lawrence
  • Saturday, Aug. 12: ALABAMA

In the early 1980s, Alabama had 21 straight No. 1 singles, a record that may never be broken in any genre. The group established itself as a major product, but the members never backed off their Fort Payne, Alabama, roots.

The final few days of the fair and rodeo will be packed with classic country, with Lawrence headlining the Friday night concert. Raised in southwest Arkansas, his classic baritone vocals filled the airwaves in the 1990s with eight No. 1 hits like “Sticks and Stones,” “Alibis,” “Can’t Break It to My Heart,” “My Second Home,” “If the Good Die Young,” “Texas Tornado,” “Time Marches On,” “Find Out Who Your Friends Are,” and 14 other singles that made the top 12 on the charts.

After opening weekend, the concert series will resume with Texas Country/Red Dirt artist Wade Bowen, who kicked off his career in and around the clubs in Lubbock, Texas.

“That style of music is pretty big in this area, especially with the younger crowds, who go to Lubbock, Midland (Texas) and Abilene (Texas) to see those bands,” Allen said. “It’s a good, successful Tuesday night, and we’re able to capitalize on the Lea County Xtreme Bulls we have that night as well.”

For King + Country will be the highlight of the Faith and Family Night, showcasing the talents of Joel and Luke Smallbone, who, as a team, have collected multiple Grammy awards.

The Frontmen will add to the classic country flavor of the 1990s with three distinguished voices in Larry Stewart of Restless Heart; Tim Rushlow, formerly of Little Texas; and Richie McDonald, formerly of Lonestar.

Each of those groups is known for harmonies, so the combined talents make for glowing reviews. Between them, Stewart, Rushlow and McDonald have sold more than 30 million records and had more than 30 combined hits.

“In my opinion, I think our concerts keep getting better every year,” Allen said. “I think the success of our concerts over the years lays into that a little, but we also get an early start on it. We see who we can draw in and get a good crowd.”

It’s a formula that has worked for a number of years, and the local officials continue to make sure the annual concerts remain a highlight for the Lea County Fair and Rodeo.


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