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The Barndance door is closing

Ronnie Mack's legendary showcase for country music will take a bow Jan. 7.

December 30, 2012|By Jonny Whiteside
  • Ronnie Mack, who has hosted Ronnie Mack's Barndance for 25 years, will present his last show in early January at Joe's Great American Bar & Grill in Burbank.
Ronnie Mack, who has hosted Ronnie Mack's Barndance… (Tim Berger/Staff…)

When the barkeeps announce last call at the next edition of Ronnie Mack's Barndance, it'll sound the death knell for an extraordinary musical showcase that has been a backbone of the Los Angeles country scene for the past 25 years.

What began in 1988 as a low-key weekly shindig at North Hollywood honky-tonk the Little Nashville quickly roared into life as a resume-must for both local and touring performers, and has attracted such guest performers as Bruce Springsteen and Screamin' Jay Hawkins.

But with the next Barndance on Jan. 7, Mack is calling it quits, and his departure is going to leave a significant void in our musical culture.

For decades, the offer to appear on one of Mack's Barndances signaled a rite of passage for Southern California musicians, one that afforded an aura of down-home prestige. For fans, it was a delightful, de rigeur good time that always combined social merrymaking with plenty of first-rate music. Featuring a stellar house band and half a dozen guest acts on each edition, Mack's kaleidoscopic variety format and wide-open booking policy ensured a great evening.

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The singer-bandleader, a Baltimore native who arrived in Los Angeles in the mid-1970s first made a name for himself at the world-famous Palomino club with a popular Ricky Nelson tribute act. He quickly fell in with the few renegade rockabilly performers trying to reintroduce that near-extinct sound. Working with Texas originator Ray Campi and guitarist Billy Zoom (soon to join Hollywood punk royals X), Mack barnstormed Europe and the West Coast, played on plenty of Rollin' Rock Records releases but by the mid-1980s settled into life as a professional country entertainer, with a regular “sit-down” job at Johnnie White's Little Nashville.

“Johnnie had a deal with KCSN radio to broadcast live from the club for an hour a week as the KCSN Barndance, and he had a talent show every week and put the best performers from that on the air.” Mack explained. “I was playing there regularly also, and after people like Rosie Flores, who had just put out her first album on Warner Brothers Records and was getting very popular, and James Intveld, who was in her band at the time, started sitting in and drawing some pretty good crowds, he asked me if I wanted to host the radio show.”

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