News Column

'Back to our roots': Norville Dollar brings traditional country to Dupo

September 12, 2013

YellowBrix

Sept. 12--Margaret Penn will get a little help from Norville Dollar in her quest to promote traditional country music.

Dollar, a country singer who hosted his own show on KPLR-TV in the 1960s, will perform at a music festival Penn is organizing this weekend.

"I used to watch his show on Saturday nights on Channel 11," she said.

Penn, 71, of Collinsville, is a singer and former talent booking agent. She founded the Traditional Country Music Foundation in 2004.

The festival will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday with singers from throughout the region performing music from the 1940s through the '70s.

"They can keep the stuff that they've got out there now," Penn said. "Just stop calling it country.

"It's more pop-rock. You can't understand it. You can't dance to it. It doesn't have a story. It's not even in the neighborhood of country music. We need to get back to our roots."

Dollar's own life could be a country song.

He grew up on a farm, idolizing Hank Williams and dreaming of becoming a star. He started singing at 16.

"I had to come up through the school of hard knocks," said Dollar, 76, of Festus, Mo. "I sang at all the bars and honky tonks. That's what you had to do. We were called hillbillies back then."

Dollar made his way to Nashville in 1962, did some recording, performed with legends such as George Jones and Loretta Lynn and appeared several times at the Grand Ole Opry.

"I wasn't a member," he said. "I didn't want to be. They only paid you $10 a night. As a guest, I got paid $15. I was on the show with Marty Robbins."

Dollar hosted "The Norville Dollar Show" on KPLR-TV from 1965 to 1967 and briefly revived it in 1974 before quitting show business to become a family man.

He bought a construction company and reared three daughters with wife Brenda.

It was Brenda's death in 2006 that led him to return to the stage. His daughters hoped it would cheer him up.

"My girls came to me and said, 'You took time off from music to raise a family, and we'd really like to see you pick up where you left off,'" he said.

Since that time, Dollar has gone back on the road, performing at festivals and other venues. But he steers clear of the bar scene.

Dollar has recorded three CDs with a mixture of covers and original music.

"My signature song is 'Continental Queen,'" he said. "I didn't write it, but it's a cute song. It's an up-tempo song. I get a lot of requests for it."

True to country's roots, some of Dollar's lyrics tell stories about life's heartaches. One of the more colorful titles is "I Hope You Choke."

"His gal found someone else, and (the other man) fed her a line of bull," Dollar said. "And he says, 'I hope you choke on it.' That's just the way country songs are written."

Dollar's favorite song is "You Hold the World in Your Hands," which he wrote about his wife before she died.

"It's just a song about a good person," he said. "She was a lovely wife and a good partner of mine for 44 years. We had a wonderful marriage."

Today, Dollar leans on companion Gerri Jennings, who also serves as his manager. He's enjoying his second round in entertainment.

Dollar will perform from 3 to 3:20 p.m. and 5 to 5:30 p.m. Saturday at the Traditional Country Music Festival. No doubt he'll show up in his trademark blue jeans, Western shirt and cowboy boots.

"They call me everything from 50 cents to a quarter," he said. "A lot of people think Dollar is my stage name, but it's my real name. If they don't believe it, I'll flip out my wallet and show them (my ID)."

Penn isn't sure how many singers and musicians will show up for the festival. She has confirmations from Ross Key, of Nashville, Tenn; Don Brewer, of Perryville; Mike Silvernail, of Green Valley; J.R. Love, of St. Louis; David Byers, of Festus; and Donna Bennett Wilson and Elmo Linton, of Arkansas.

"(The festival is) supposed to end at 6 o'clock," Penn said. "But if we still have singers and we still have a good crowd, the manager at the VFW said we can keep going."

At a glance

What: Traditional Country Music Festival

Where: Dupo VFW Post 6368, 200 N. Fifth St.

When: 2-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, but may go longer (doors open at 1 p.m.)

Admission: $10; free for children under 12

Food and drinks: Sold by VFW

Information: Call 618-792-3335

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(c)2013 the Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Ill.)

Visit the Belleville News-Democrat (Belleville, Ill.) at www.bnd.com

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