History of the Reilly Springs Jamboree

Dreams of a local country and gospel opry came true when the Reilly Springs Jamboree was organized in the early fall of 1956.  5The Shelton Brothers, who grew up in the Reilly Springs community, as Bob and Joe Attlesey, were from a musical family and took their talent “abroad” when they left the community to “seek their fortune” and “hooked-up” with Jimmy Davis, who was running for Governor, in the neighboring state of Louisiana. With their homespun humor and musical performances, they’d front Davis in a small farming community, and open for his “stump” speeches, as he campaigned across the state. Brother Bob had gone on to Dallas, appearing on KRLD in its early days, “spinning yarns” and homespun humor to the listeners, while Brother Joe had served as “Highway Commissioner” in Governor Davis’ Louisiana Cabinet, as a “token’ favor for helping get him elected. 1

It was much like a  musical variety show that Bob Shelton had been a part of in the Dallas area. They were among the more successful brother acts of their era, at least based on the number of recordings they made – 150 sides cut for Decca alone, as well as songs for Victor and King.  They made music with Bob singing, playing guitar and fiddle, and Joe on vocals, guitar, and mandolin.  They recorded for the first time in Chicago in 1933, working under the name of the Lone Star Cowboys.  Bob and Joe accompanied Jimmie Davis on his recordings for RCA-Victor.  In 1935, they began recording for Decca Records, the upstart company that was revolutionizing the record business with its low prices and aggressive marketing.  It was then that it was suggested the Attlesey brothers needed a more commercial name, for which they reached back to their mother’s family name and became the Shelton Brothers, also changing their names legally.  It was during the period that ensued that the brothers cut some of their most memorable songs, including originals like “Just Because” and “Deep Ellum Blues”.  Bob and Joe both remained busy performing live and on radio out of Shreveport, on KWKH, home of the Louisiana Hayride. 2

With their musical backgrounds and the contacts that they had acquired all across the South, the brothers were “naturals” to begin a music variety show, for the entertainment of the public, back home in their hometown of Reilly Springs. Thus, with the help of friends, neighbors, and a population eager for entertainment, the Reilly Springs Jamboree was born on the stage of the Reilly Springs School house. The show was broadcast on Saturday nights from KSST in Sulphur Springs and “packed” the small school auditorium in Reilly Springs.1

Reilly Springs, a rural community nine miles southeast of Sulphur Springs at the junction of Farm roads 1567 and 2560 in southeastern Hopkins County, was named for James Reily, who in 1841 and 1842 bought up several tracts of land in the county that had been given to soldiers as pay for service in the Texas Revolution. 3

 Both Bob and Joe were living in the area at the time of beginning the Reilly Springs Jamboree.   Soon Bob moved back to Dallas and Joe took over running the show.    Joe worked out a deal with Bill Bradford, owner and operator of Radio Station KSST in Sulphur Springs, to furnish advertisement for the show in return for a 30 minute program early each morning by remote from Reilly Springs and a 30 minute broadcast from the stage of the Jamboree on Saturday night.  Lou Erck was with KSST and even though he did not perform, he became Joe’s partner and his job at the Jamboree was to make sure that the sound for the show was just right. 

The first part of the show was broadcast live on KSST radio by remote broadcast.    A few years later Lou left the station and moved to Montana.    Clovis “Peavine” Pinion, also from KSST Radio Station became Joe’s partner at this time.  He had already been playing bass and also did some singing.   “Entertainment offerings were slim in those days, so it was a real treat to go to the Jamboree and see the show,” said Bobby McDonald, Reilly Springs’ unofficial historian. “The Shelton brothers booked the shows with their friends in the industry.” Musicians from all over Northeast Texas entertained audiences every weekend.   Shows were not held during the summer months due to the building not having air conditioning.   When the seating was filled, it became unbearably hot.5   Reilly Springs Jamboree musicians packed in the crowds during its heyday.  . The Reilly Springs Jamboree was a place you could take your family and enjoy a night of music and fun!  The Original Reilly Springs Jamboree closed in 1965.

1957 – One Year After First Show


1 Bobby McDonald editor of Front Porch News http://frontporchnewstexas.com/reillyspringsjamboree100911.htm

2  Answers – http://www.answers.com/topic/the-shelton-brothers

3.BIBLIOGRAPHY: Florene Chapman Adams, Hopkins County and Our Heritage           http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hnr22

4  A Jamboree Family by Leisa Greene Nelson, April 27, 2012   –

 http://erckfamily.com/ and  http://rubyjeweljamboree.com/category/press/

5  Terry Mathews, My Sulphur Springs Jamboree, October 8, 2011 My SS News – http://www.myssnews.com/mysslife/entertainment/16350-reilly-springs-jamboree-hopkins-county-institution-celebrates-55th-anniversary.html

Additional Information Obtained

6  Letter from Mary Attlesey (widow of Joe Shelton) to Francell L. Burnett, June, 2010, Private Collection of Francell L. Burnett

7   Francell Lawrence Burnett, a Jamboree regular in the 1950s and Creator of the website – www.ReillySpringsJamboree.com

8   Roger Reed, Co-Producer of current Reilly Springs Jamboree

9  Enola Gay Mathews, DJ on KSST, Co-Producer and entertainer of current Reilly Springs Jamboree

10  Bill Jones, Official Winnsboro Historian, The Winnsboro News, February 2, 2012, Started    in 1956, Reilly Springs Jamboree is still going strong, and was Chairman of the
Wood County Historical Commission for 10 years.Wood County Historical Commission for 10 years.

The Reilly Springs Jamboree – 1956

Some of The Early Performers

How many do you recognize?

Through the years there were several different members of the house band called the Sunshine Band.  They were called the Sunshine Band because they performed on a 6am live show on KSST Radio.  Some of these were Carrol “Meatball” Meeks, Arvilee Pritchett , Albert Talley (Hero of Western Swing Award) , “Cannonball” Nations, Benny Bowman, Hugh Blair,  Ruby Allmond and others.  Also, playing at times as a regular band member was Charles Carter, a teenager from Greenville who later played with George Jones and Tammy Wynette and then became the leader of Tammy Wynette’s band after George and Tammy split up.  Others appearing often on the Reilly Springs Jamboree were The Carter Brothers (Don and Charles), Charles McGuyer, The Asbill Trio, The DuValls (Rita and Mae), Randy Byrd, Darrell Felts and the Rebels, Francell Lawrence, Billy Don Williams, Connie Coker, the Underwoods, and many others.

Francell Lawrence Burnett was still in high school when she appeared as a regular on the stage playing the accordion.  “I don’t really remember how I started playing the Jamboree, but I was there every Saturday night.  The entertainers didn’t mingle with the crowd, we all just hung out back stage and outside getting fresh air.”  Burnett created the website in 2010, www.ReillySpringsJamboree.com and keeps it current with photos from all the shows. She plays her accordion occasionally now on the show with son, Brett Burnett on the saxophone.

Talent was booked from across the South and many of those talented individuals, such as George Jones, Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two , June Carter, the Carter Family, Tony Douglas, Merle Kilgore, David Houston, Johnny Horton, Ernest Tubb, Bill Carlisle, Stringbean, Slim and Mallie Ann Harbett, Al Dexter, Del Wood, Moon Mullican, Burton Harris, Dale Berry and his trained horse (who actually came up the back steps onto the stage), Buck Trent, Roger Miller and others, made their way to the stage of the Reilly Springs School house, to appear on the show. However, it was a steady stream of local talent appearances that “got to appear on the show” and “rub shoulders” with those who later would acquire fame.  Lou Erck’s friends were concerned when he started advertising on the radio that George Jones was playing for the
Jamboree that very Saturday. They told Lou he was crazy and that he was going to be very disappointed when the guy doesn’t show up. “No one thought he would show,” says Lou with raised brows and a smile. “Well, he did!”4

“Jamborees have been held sporadically since the 1980’s” according to  Enola Gay Mathews.  “Monty Tipps did it for a little while,” she said. “So did Larry Neal.  He still comes in and sings for us.5

In October 2006 musician Roger Reed returned home to begin a family business in Hopkins County along with his brother Richard.  He contacted Enola Gay Mathews, a local DJ and singer, who had already been putting on Jamborees a few times a year.  Enola needed volunteer help and a permanent house band, and Roger needed a stage to hone the musical talents of himself, nephews, neices and granddaughters. They decided they’d try it as a team to restore the show’s history and heritage, and scheduled their first one for 2009. Since then, the Reilly Springs Jamboree has been recognized with a Chamber of Commerce “Community Pride” award, and continues to delight loyal audiences with a monthly showcase on the third-Saturday night of each month.

Members of the 2013 Sunshine Band are Jerry Knight on lead guitar, E. J. Cates on drums, Rickey Rainey on the keyboard, Hugh Blair on steel guitar (an original 1950s band member), Roger Reed on bass, Gary Don Jones on lead guitar, and Leo Ibarra as Soundman.  Entertainers appearing on the restored Reilly Springs Jamboree’s stage have been the Porter Sisters, Devyn Ibarra, Jessica Ibarra, Stanley Johnson, Josh Davis, Dale Cummings, Jessi LaRae, Hannah Kirby (one of the 2009 band members), Taylor Heard, Kirk Reams, Monty Tipps, Jamie Bounds, Bill Grant, Tanner Young, Jodie Miller, Payton Swift, Kurt Bittner, Dalton Baker, Hannah Breck, Hailee Kristee  and many others.   “It’s growing,” Mathews said. “Our crowds really love country music and they have fond memories of the Jamboree. Even if people only went to one or two shows when they were young, the experience stayed with them.”

The history is all remembered  at The Reilly Springs Jamboree’s Anniversary and Homecoming Show, the third Saturday of each October, when Enola Gay gathers musical talent, some of those who originally appeared on the early 1950’s and 1960’s Jamboree,  and many  who attended the show, for the Jamboree’s Anniversary Show. The ladies from Reilly Springs bake some of those delicious homemade cakes and pies, that are available in the kitchen and occasionally in the old- fashioned “Cake Walk,” conducted in the back of the school house.  Meals are served at each show for the usual price of  $5.  The kitchen is open at 6:00 each night of the show.  Reilly Springs Community Center is located at 109 CR 1439.

The Reilly Springs Jamboree was a rung on the ladder to success for many of the entertainers.  Several went on to the Louisiana Hayride and even the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.  They came because of their love of music and all had a message to share.

McDonald agrees about the Jamboree’s place in everyone’s memory:  “It’s a piece of community history that is a connection to the people that helped form Reilly Springs and honors the people who helped to make our community. It’s a touch with the past and the people who are now gone from our community, and it’s great to remember a time in Reilly Springs when things were much simpler and life wasn’t near as hurried. Neighbors visited back and forth and we all traveled around in those classic 1950s and 1960s cars with no air conditioning. We can’t go back – and probably wouldn’t want to – but we can still visit for a couple or three hours at a show and remember.”5

According to Bill Jones, the unofficial Winnsboro Historian, in an article in the Winnsboro News, “The Reilly Springs Jamboree is a Hopkins County treasure and inspiring to both present and future generations”. 10