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End of an era: Nashville Country Star plans finale

By Ed Lisenbey

WA Nashville Country Star

I was a shy kid by nature, but always loved all kinds of music. What moved me the most was Elvis Presley, from the time I was 2.5 years old, and I loved listening to my folk’s country music collection as well.

I did very little singing publicly. Growing up, I only sang in the privacy of my bedroom to my Elvis records. It wasn’t until I was around 25 years old when my brother, Glen, started his own country-rock band (The Night Riders) that I would truly sing on stage.

It was an afterthought really, rightfully so, as the only instrument suited for me was a cowbell, tambourine and a pair of maracas.

Of course, I had almost zero singing experience other than behind closed doors. In fact, not until a couple of weeks before The Night Riders’ first show at the Riverside Grange was it even mentioned that I should sing.

The band's drummer, Gary Bowling, was a classmate and one of my best friends. Gary was the one that suggested I should guest sing a couple of Elvis tunes. I played the part with a white denim jacket and white jeans, along with a couple of low-key Elvis moves. The hall was packed, and the crowd responded very well to the songs, so the Elvis section was added to all of the bands shows. This led to a lot of fun for me, and I sang with the band for over 11 years.

I made the tough decision to leave the singing behind to spend more time with my kids. They were growing up so fast and at the time, I was singing two-to-five nights a week along with working a day job.

However, The Night Riders are still playing today and despite a few member changes, after 41 years they are still going strong.

The original members— Gary Bowling, Tom McCoy and Glen Lisenbey — still play together. They are now joined by a talented young man who wasn’t even born when the band was formed, one of my favorite Nashville Country Star contestants, Brock Hires.

Occasionally I would go listen to the band play and they would always invite me up to sing, but it didn’t take but a few months of being out of the music scene to let me know just how much I was going to miss it. So, I got busy and put together a show I called “Entertainment Extravaganza”.

Entertainment Extravaganza

I was very fortunate to find a way to keep music and performing in my life, yet still make sure my family came first.

“Entertainment Extravaganza” was created strictly for Omak’s beautiful Performing Arts Center and continued from 1993 to 2005.

These shows where also a fundraiser for the Omak school clubs or teams. The performances were mostly country songs and '50s-'60s rock-n-roll, along with some variety like comedy routines, piano pieces and dancers.

We would organize two or three shows a year, and yes, Elvis would make an appearance and usually finish out the show.

The Night Riders would perform songs as well, and sometimes back my Elvis act. We had individual singers from county-wide towns and usually there was at least one band performing but occasionally we had as many as three.

At first, a lot of the acts were adults, but gradually we started to have younger kids come and perform. Their talent was phenomenal, and it got me thinking that most of up older singers had “been there, done that” but the younger performers had very little opportunity to do much more than sing in the school choir and had almost no solo singing opportunities. So, in 2005, I made the decision to switch from the “Extravaganza” shows to a high school singing competition called “Nashville Country Star”.

Nashville Country Star

Thirty schools within a two-hour radius of Omak were invited to have their students perform. The top finalist would receive prize money.

The first year was a big success and the audience had a ball. Over the next two years we expanded our invite zone and eventually opened it up to sate wide participants. Kids came from the farthest reaches of the state to compete.

“Nashville Country Star” would see 16 seasons of competition before it came to an end in 2020 with a virtual performance because of COVID-19.

The last year was difficult due to everything being shut down for over a year but despite the program ending, we have continued to provide the occasional show with our amazing alumni performing.

The “Washington State Nashville Country Star” program has been extremely important to me. It allowed me to bring outstanding young singers to the Omak community, provide amazing entertainment for a very low price and to offer an opportunity for kids to get on stage and showcase their talents in front of a live audience. Along the way I got to meet so many great kids and their families. It has honestly been one of the great joys in my life for almost 20 years.

In life we strive to raise a family, love our spouse, our kids, and our parents. We also strive to love the dear friends we make along the way. But we hope that we are good enough people to set good life examples for our kids and hopefully contribute to our communities as well.

Finale Show

I also know that the “Nashville Country Star” program means a lot to so many of the past contestants.

You will be able to witness this firsthand, because for one final time, we will bring 14 of the most amazing singers in the history of Nashville Country Star back to the Omak Performing Arts Center stage.

These talented singers will perform for a prize of $8,000.

Please do not miss this show. The most amazing vocal talent ever assembled in one show will be in our area!

The show will be at 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 8. Admission will be charged.



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