As enthusiastic music fans arrive and fill the lobby, they socialize with friends and meet new ones. After the house band concludes their rehearsal, the theater doors are opened and people can easily find their seats and anxiously await the curtain to open.
Two or three guests perform at every show. They are gifted musicians who come from all over the heartland and are common, hard-working, and patriotic folks like the fans. Most have faithfully appeared through the years, and they love the Rathbun crowds.
Willis is the master of ceremonies and plays the lead guitar. He never gets frustrated or seems worried, and he moves the show along at a smooth pace. Sometimes a former member of the house band or someone Willis knows with talent will be asked to get on stage to perform.
Willis, members of the house band, and guests interact like family, and egoisms and jealousies do not exist. There is a spirit of cooperation, genuine friendship and good-natured humor flowing throughout every show. The crowd loves the mixture of comedy and music.
The order in which the faithful house band came to the show is: Willis (1974), Milt Albertson (1981), Cindy Rhoades (1994), Milissa Shineflew (1996), Peggy Wardenburg (1997), Steve Head and Pat Sharman (2002), David Pitt (2003), Doug Davison (2007), Darin Manson (2007), Lonnie “Lonzo” Erwin (2008), Jerry McIntyre (2010) and Sharon West (2011). They all sing.
Milt Albertson says of his 32 years on the show, “I’ve long ago grown to appreciate and be amazed by the talent Willis displays. He and his family are great people and show friendliness, patience and understanding to the members of the band, guests and loyal audiences. Willis and Faye give me and other musicians a chance to have fun. No other couple could have been such a success for forty years. My wife, Karen, and I consider them life-long friends, as well as the countless fans that come to Rathbun.”
On Saturday, Oct. 26, Rathbun Country Music Theater will be packed with faithful members of the music family and no one will want the show to end. Fans and the house band will give Willis and Faye a heartfelt show of appreciation for providing the heartland with fun and music for so many years. They have left an indelible legacy! We wish them many years of health and happiness. For reservations call: (Home) – (660) 344-2310 or theater (641)-724-3505.