FAIRMONT — Tribute acts are a dime a dozen.
Half the time, they don’t even look like the artists they’re paying tribute to.
But glance at the grey-muzzled man with those familiar long salt-and-pepper, auburn-tinged braids.
Add that distinctive red bandana, patriotic red-white-and-blue guitar strap and beat-up blue jeans, it’s got to be Willie Nelson.
Take a slightly longer look.
It’s Casey Ferguson.
Awhile back, people kept telling the Cassville native he sounded and looked just like the old Outlaw ... Shotgun Willie himself.
So he capitalized on that and for the past 20 years, he’s traveled all up and down the East Coast as a professional Willie Nelson impersonator.
Now he’s come back home from that life on the road and in Nashville to open Shotgun Willie’s Nashville Jamboree, a new venue that offers pop, classic rock, and old and new country favorites.
Opening on March 7, each Saturday the place, located at the former Vintage Hall on Route 50 East of Grafton, features house band Mama’s Pride, with special guests, many of them friends of Ferguson’s.
Doors open at 5 p.m., followed by open mic, 6-7; house band, 7-8; and special guest, 8-9:30.
This weekend it’s the Willie Nelson Tribute Show, featuring none other than Ferguson and his Shotgun Willie Band.
“I’ve been on the road for several years. I took over the former Vintage Hall on Route 50 East near Grafton and turned it into a theatre.
“The patriarch of Mama’s Pride, he and I and his kids are more like family than friends,” he said. “He talked me in to getting off the road and bringing acts from Nashville here. I’d been wanting to do that. But the stars weren’t lined up until recently.
“Other great acts are coming. We had Ronnie Pitman from Nashville here last weekend.”
Carolina Eagles with Cathy Knight will be the guests on April 4, he said.
“Every weekend we’ll do something different. These people I’ve known through the years. They’re returning a favor. They’ve been in shows before. They know what I’m doing here. We have a lot of good talent lined up.”
As Willie Nelson, Ferguson has played the whole circuit ... casinos, fairs, festivals (including Grafton’s Fireman Festival and Clarksburg's Italian Heritage Festival), country shows (including Sagebrush Round-Up), and corporate events and conventions.
“I was pushed into being Willie Nelson about 21 years ago,” he said with a laugh. “Everybody kept saying I looked and sounded a lot like Willie.”
“Do something with it,” they told him.
“Oh, one of these days,” he replied.
“Well, ‘one of these days’ came and I gave it a shot. I’ve been on stage ever since. It fits like a glove.
“I’ve been very fortunate and blessed. He’s such a popular person. It was easy to fall into being an impersonator. Everybody I’ve talked to likes Willie.”
How can you not like “Mr. Farm Aid” himself, the man who composed “Crazy,” “Always on My Mind,” “Mammas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” and “On the Road Again”?
He said he’s been endorsed by the Willie Nelson Family Museum in Nashville.
But even Ferguson couldn’t keep up with the hard-working, 75-year-old music legend.
“I wanted to come back home and relax, and spend time with my family and open up a venue here,” he said.
So he did.
For 15 year of those traveling years, he called Nashville home. For two years, he was manager of the “Willie Nelson General Store” and “Outlaw Museum” in Nashville.
“I’ve traveled all up and down the eastern half of the united Sates, primarily from Ohio and Pennsylvania south to Georgia and Floria.”
He’s also played Vegas, the West Coast and New England.
“I made a living at it. Many musicians in Nashville have to have second jobs. There’s so much competition among singers, songwriters and entertainers. Because I had a specialty act, more doors opened to me than to many of my friends.
“I felt that when I had the opportunity, I would bring them out and let them make a paycheck. Music is what they love to do. It’s part of their livelihood.
“It’s difficult to make a living. I was able to do that without having a second job.”
Back to those other tribute artists. Sometimes they have to put on wigs or wear outlandish costumes to let you know who they want you to think they are.
But not Casey Ferguson.
Just to show you how dedicated he is to being the ultimate Willie Nelson experience, you should know something.
That hair ... those braids that cascade all the way down his back and past his belt?
It’s all real.
For more information about Shotgun Willie’s Nashville Jamboree, call Ferguson at 304-276-0277.
E-mail Debra Minor Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FAIRMONT — Tribute acts are a dime a dozen.
MusicFest Saturday at East Marion
According to mental health indicators collected by federal health agencies, West Virginia has a long road to travel.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports the state is among the highest in the country for individuals experiencing major depressive episodes, to say nothing about general psychological distress.
‘Woman of Courage’ book signing Saturday
The Marion County Historical Society will be hosting Bob Thompson, author of “A Woman of Courage on the West Virginia Frontier: Phebe Tucker Cunningham,” from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday for a book signing.
Traditional Music Day set May 11
With April showers behind us, the days are getting warmer and the sun brighter. It’s a good time of year to sit in the sun and enjoy it, and Pricketts Fort wants to help make it happen.
Country Music Hall inductions Saturday
The Sagebrush Round-Up, which houses the Country Music Hall of Fame of West Virginia, is hosting its second annual induction for West Virginians who have made significant contributions to the country music scene here in Marion County and across the state and country.
‘Follies’ celebrating 40th year
The word calls to mind the Broadway shows of the 1940s and ’50s with their elaborate costuming and big production values.
History Expo April 6 at courthouse
“History doesn’t have to be boring. History can be fun.”
Dulcimer Gathering in Clarksburg Saturday
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of different kinds of instruments in the world, but on average we see comparatively few when we listen to bands or go to concerts.
Scout-A-Rama chance to raise awareness
You might not know it, but there are more than a dozen Scout troops operating in Marion County.
Raising awareness and providing a fun educational opportunity for these kids is what motivated officials within the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America here in Marion County to start the Scout-A-Rama, an annual event hosted at the Middletown Mall coming up again this Saturday.
Concert funds health-care scholarships
North Central West Virginia has a strong, thriving medical infrastructure, with numerous hospitals and medical facilities in need of qualified health-care professionals to staff them.
‘Defying Gravity’ set at FSU
The explosion of the Space Shuttle Challenger shortly after launch in the Florida skies was an event that shook the nation to its core.
The 1986 disaster left a spectre over manned space flight in the nation for years and, for the families of those involved, a host of unresolved issues.
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