As a country music and comedy fan, I’m both honored and saddened to have the opportunity to pen a final tribute to the musical era of Willis and Faye Dickerson. During the past 20 years, I’ve enjoyed writing about them and their faithful musicians, family and friends. Many members of the band, guest performers and fans wanted to voice their gratitude in this article, but space limited the praise the Dickerson couple rightfully deserves. I apologize to them.
On Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, Southern Iowa’s Grand Country Opry and the Hawkeye State’s longest running music and comedy show will close. After 40 years of entertaining thousands of music fans, Willis and Faye will say a final goodbye to their countless followers, band members, guest performers, and close the curtain for the final time. Even though the Dickersons’ band members and fans end the final show with a myriad of treasured memories, there will be hugs, sadness and tears.
To the thousands of heartland music lovers, the immaculately clean, smoke and alcohol- free and air conditioned theater, located near the southeastern shore of beautiful Rathbun Lake, will always be home away from home on summer Saturday nights. Because of the patient, inspiring and humble leadership of Willis and Faye, a family bond was forged with the house band, guest performers and heartland music fans.
Willis and Faye are highly admired by everyone for having a close-knit Christian family with impeccable American values. Besides their humility, they and their children are honest, trustworthy, sincere and patriotic. The Dickersons’ musical success story would not be complete without mention of their talented children.
They all started performing on stages at a young age. Steve played the drums and recalls playing square dances for a couple of dollars, but he also spent many nights on the Rathbun stage. Brent learned guitar playing from Willis, played at the theater and later formed his own band. He hops on stage at Rathbun a couple times a year to perform a duet with Willis. As for daughter Gena, she was only two when she sang her first song. Some of the songs she sang were “Ja-Da” and “Slow Poke.” Though Gena is a highly successful business executive for Hallmark in Connecticut, she comes home once a year to sing on stage. A son, Timothy, passed away in 1975.