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Homegrown singer back for jamboree

Roosevelt County's homegrown country music singer/songwriter Will Banister has his eyes set on a big goal: one day appearing on the stage of the Grand Ol' Opry in Nashville, Tenn.

But this Friday he happily returns to a closer and more familiar stage, the one at Floyd High School which was "the first place I ever performed with a band," Banister said.

And he promises, "It's gonna be fun."

After a multi-year hiatus, an evening dubbed "Will Banister and Friends" has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday to celebrate the 70th Floyd Jamboree, the Floyd Lions Club's annual gift of music to the community. That's according to Dave Nash, Lions Club member and longtime emcee of the event.

Many things about Friday's performance are new this year, Nash said.

The biggest one is that rather than the usual 15-20 different acts, this year's show is headlined by Banister, who got his start on the Jamboree stage in 2001, according to the Portales News-Tribune, and who has since become a full-time professional singer and songwriter.

It's also one night only this year.

The doors will open at 6 p.m. at what Nash calls "The Floyd Civic Center," perhaps better known as the school gymnasium. The $10 tickets will be sold at the door (kids under 12 may enter for free), and a full concession stand will be available.

Don't forget your dancing boots, Nash said. Besides seating, there will also be space set aside for kicking up your heels.

Old-timers may remember that the Jamboree got started at Floyd in 1950 as a fundraiser to help the school buy new basketball uniforms.

If you add 70 to 1950, you come up with a number none of us like very much: 2020. It was in fact in March of 2020 while a full Floyd Jamboree cast was preparing for its 70th anniversary days when the world shut down.

After a few years off and wanting to jump-start the tradition, Nash said the Lions voted to "make a huge change" and showcase one of the most successful musicians to grow up with the Jamboree, with some more-than-able assistance from the seasoned Jamboree band.

That band - the "and Friends" for this event - includes Linda Miller Brown on bass and vocals, Ronnie Fouts on keyboard, Johnny Mulhair on steel and lead guitar, and Chek Rippee on fiddle, guitar, and vocals. Nash is polishing off his stash of jokes to serve as emcee.

For Will Banister, returning to Floyd is both coming home to the school he attended through ninth grade and stepping back onto the stage he dreamed about from the time he was a toddler.

"I remember thinking I couldn't wait until I got to play at the Jamboree," he said. "It was a pretty big deal for a little kid."

Banister is dovetailing this benefit performance into a string of other commitments that keep him regularly on the road. He'll be packing up after Friday night's show for an appearance in San Antonio, Texas, on Saturday.

He has also been busy recording new singles, mostly in Nashville. His latest, called "When I Get There," was released earlier this month and he has four more lined up to follow.

While Banister's shows are typically 90 minutes of "mostly my stuff," Friday's audience can expect to hear "a lot of covers" of classic country tunes, ones that both Banister and the Jamboree band can play with their eyes closed.

Banister cut his teeth on those classics, growing up listening to his dad's collection of vinyl records put out by legends like Hank Williams, Charley Pride, and Merle Haggard. He knew early on that he wanted to try to follow in their footsteps.

"I don't remember a time when I didn't want to do it," Banister said. "My grandma told me that Reba McEntire went to school to get a teaching degree as a backup plan."

He adds with a grin, "I told her I didn't need a back-up plan."

When he's not on the road, Banister is home in Portales with his wife, Tessa, who is a literary coach in the Portales preschools, and their four children, who are 11 and under.

Banister also has another local gig coming up in April. He's slated to open the Aaron Watson concert at 7 p.m. April 29 at Greyhound Arena in Portales. Those tickets run from $20-$50 and are on sale at .

Wherever Banister is, you can count on this: he'll be playing only country music.

"I love classic country," he said. "It's stuff that means something. It makes you feel."

Betty Williamson predicts a rollickin' good time in Floyd on Friday. Reach her at:

[email protected]

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