|Ray Benson of Asleep at the Wheel. Photo (c) Ruth Ellen Gruber|
By Ruth Ellen Gruber
The program for the International Festival of Country Music to be held in February in London's Wembley Arena and other venues is expanding -- Charlie Pride and Asleep at the Wheel have been added to the line-up. Acts now include headliners Pride, AATW, Reba McEntire, Ricky Skaggs, and Lonestar, as well as supporting acts Narvel Felts, John McNicholl, Jo-El Sonnier, Will Banister, George Ducas, Sandy Kelly & George Hamilton IV, Raymond Froggatt, and Tim McKay.
The Festival kicks off Feb. 26, 2012 at Wembley -- scene in the 1970s and '80s of famous country music festivals -- and then travels to Belfast, Zurich and Germany.
Returning to Wembley after more than two decades thus really marks a symbolic return of big-time country music to the mainstream arts agenda -- and signals a revival of popularity in the genre. As the web site says:
The International Festival of Country Music introduced country music to the British public almost 45 years ago. The shows, promoted by the legendary Mervyn Conn, ran for 23 years from 1969 to 1991 at Wembley Arena. Hugely popular, the shows always featured the biggest stars of Country music fans were treated to outstanding performances by artists including; Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Tammy Wynette, Jerry Lee Lewis, Crystal Gayle and many more.
Now after a gap of 20 years the Festival is back, and one thing that has not changed is world class line-up.
International Festival of Country Music founder Mervyn Conn said: “I’m bringing the International Festival of Country Music back after over twenty years due to popular demand. The regard for Country Music has grown significantly in the UK since the first year I promoted this event and I believe that now is the time to reintroduce this once hugely popular event to converted fans of country music and to a new and emerging group of country music lovers”.
Reba McEntire comments; “My band, crew and I are really looking forward to going back to Europe to play our music. The last time we performed there was in 1999! We have been very busy for the last 10 years doing the REBA TV show and concerts in North America. Now, we are so excited to be able to travel abroad and do both our new and old songs for our European audience, who has always been so good to us.”