By Duane Crawford
The Daily Iowegian
---- — On Saturday, April 19 at 8 p.m. the curtain will open on the Rathbun Country Music Theater’s stage to warm the hearts of music fans after a long, frigid winter.
Though John Bain Sr., and his wife, Shirley, purchased the theater from Willis and Faye Dickerson, he gave his son, John Jr., wife Karen and their two daughters, Sylvia and Sophie, the opportunity to launch a new era at the musical paradise. After 40 highly successful years of entertaining countless fans from far and wide, the Dickersons’ decided to retire.
Deeply appreciative of his parents’ generosity and love of music and his family, John explains, “We aren’t strangers to Rathbun. When I was a young boy, my grandparents went there a lot and they took me many times. I always enjoyed the show.”
Attracted to music at an early age, Willis invited John to perform on the Rathbun stage in a guest slot. Smiling, John recalls, “I was about ten at the time. The first half of the show went fine. As I began to walk on stage for the second half, a button on my shirt caught on a guitar string and broke it. Embarrassed, I told Willis of my problem. He unstrapped his guitar and calmly said, ‘Here, take mine.’”
Young John turns 40 this summer, the same age Willis was when he started at the theater. John’s been a piano and guitar teacher for over 25 years. For many years, he’s been traveling with bands to play in clubs or wherever else they were booked. “Time to settle down,” he says, grinning. “No more packing.”
John owns an electronic business in tiny Lovilia, called High Octane Audio. In addition to repairing pro-audio equipment, he designs and builds custom guitar amplifications and records CD’s and albums.
Karen, as a loyal and hardworking half of the Bain team, will do the theater duties that Faye did for 40 years. She’ll head the support team and be responsible for public relations.
“I want everyone to feel welcome,” she says with enthusiasm.
As for the two teenage daughters, Sylvia is musically talented and can play nine instruments, sings and writes her own songs. She will appear in the show. Sophie, though she is excited about the music venture, is artistically talented and will help with other duties.
A humble gentleman, John Jr., was inducted into the Iowa Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 as a member of the Yeti Bluz Band.
He explains, “From 1966 until 1973 the band traveled but then disbanded. In 2006, two original members asked me to become a member and help resurrect the band.”
One of the band’s performers was Tim “Buddy” Lawler, himself a two time member of Iowa’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“Buddy and I have been friends for years,” John states. “He plays the drums, sings and will be part of the house band.” Buddy is no stranger to Rathbun as he performed for Willis for some time.
Another nominee to Iowa’s exclusive music hall is Danny “Dano” Oliverson. He will play the bass and rhythm guitar with the house band, John adds. He is a member of the Vietnam motorcycle club Freedom Riders.
As for the structure of the show beginning on April 19, there will not be any noticeable changes. Admission is $10, curtain opens at 8 p.m., there will be an intermission and the show will be over around 10 p.m. Fans will be pleased that the patriotic decorations will remain. The concession stand will provide food and refreshments at reasonable prices.
Beginning on opening night, Willis and Faye will be there to help ensure a smooth transition. While Faye will assist Karen’s support team with the necessary administrative duties, Willis will be on stage with John and the house band. The baton will be passed from Willis to John on opening night, but John intends to have Willis back from time to time.
During the first three weeks, John intends to only have members of the house band on stage.
As before, the members of the house band will rotate Saturday nights. Jay and Tammy Roy will appear as guests on May 24 and Wade Landry and Teresa Bowe eventually will come up from Branson for a performance. A grand opening is planned for May.
John and Karen have other ideas to attract people to beautiful Rathbun Lake and the theater. They are considering a car show and catered BBQ before an occasional evening’s entertainment. A bike show for the region’s motorcycle bike clubs, a rhythm and blues evening on Friday nights and Sunday afternoon gospel singing are all possibilities.