A little more than 2 1/2 years ago, one of Southern California's most important musical showcases was formed. Ronnie Mack, a singer who'd been active on the local rockabilly circuit, began the Barn Dance, a live radio show presenting mostly new country music acts and patterned on such '50s country music television showcases as "Town Hall Party" and "Cal's Corral."
This afternoon, numerous local musicians will pay tribute to Mack, who also plays Wednesday nights at the Tam O'Shanter in Los Feliz, in a special matinee program at the Palomino. That club has been the Barn Dance's home since August, 1987, when Mack moved the Tuesday night program there from the smaller Little Nashville club. The radio broadcasts ceased when the Barn Dance's outlet, Cal State Northridge-affiliated KCSN-FM, dropped its country music format. But the show goes on.
"Ronnie's always been very generous," said guitarist John Jorgenson of the hit-making Desert Rose Band. "He's always given me the opportunity to try out new musicians or new material. I also like the Barn Dance as an opportunity to interact with other guitarists in front of an audience. There aren't a lot of places you can do that."
Dale Watson, a young country singer who came to Los Angeles from Texas last year, compares Mack to the '50s disc jockey who first brought rock 'n' roll to a mass audience: "I think of Ronnie as the Alan Freed of country music, showcasing bands who don't have a reputation yet."
Several acts that have been (and who, in many cases, continue to be) Barn Dance regulars have won recording contracts: Jann Browne, Rosie Flores and Jim Lauderdale with Warner Bros., Chris Gaffney with ROM, and Watson with Curb.
Jorgenson and Watson both point out, accurately, that Mack loses money on the Barn Dance shows. "It'd be a lot easier on him if he'd drop the whole thing," Watson said. "But he does it because he loves it."
Jorgenson agreed. "The thing about Ronnie is, he really loves the music."
Jorgenson won't be at this afternoon's show; the Desert Rose Band is scheduled to be in Michigan. But he did play last Tuesday's Barn Dance, as a member of the "Hellecasters" with guitarists Will Ray and Jerry Donahue.
Browne isn't expected either. But the list of celebrities who have promised to show for this afternoon's festivities includes Watson, Gaffney, Flores and Lauderdale, Will Ray, James Intveld, King Cotton, the Mustangs, George Highfill, Lucinda Williams, Dave Alvin, the Trailer Park Casanovas, Eddie Baytos, Mandy Mercier and the Crawfish Wranglers.
The Tribute to Ronnie Mack will take place from noon until 8 p.m. today at the Palomino, 6907 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood. Admission is $5. For further information, call (818) 764-4010.
"The Shari Famous Show," a showcase for singers, musicians, comics and heaven knows what else, has relocated from Tuesday nights at Cafe Largo in West Hollywood to Sundays at The Pink in Santa Monica.
Singer/comic/actress Famous has presented acts including Exene Cervenka, Sandra Tsing Loh, Chuck E. Weiss, Robin Ryan and Philip Litell. Several acts perform relatively brief sets each night, and the one constant--other than Famous herself--is the guarantee of plenty of variety.
"The Shari Famous Show" is held Sunday nights beginning at 7:30 at The Pink, 2810 Main St ., Santa Monica. Admission is $5, with inexpensive food and drink available. For information, call (213) 392-1077.