A Sunday afternoon in 1963

I recently ran across a six year old article in Philadelphia Weekly on a very famous country music park in SE Pennsylvania, “Sunset Park”, which hosted country music shows in the 50s and 60s. This was back when there was still country in country music.

For a dollar, one could sit on a plank bench during a balmy afternoon or summer evening and watch “package shows” by people such as Bill Monroe, Hank Snow, Merle Travis, The Stanly Brothers, and The Stoneman Family, all performing from the Sunset Park stage two or three hours’ drive from Nashville. This was the time before BG festivals, with a mixture of various styles of country music just like you could hear over the radio in those days. It didn’t happen just in PA of course. For example, there were similar shows in the county park off of Hwy 33 between Ventura and Ojai, though you weren’t going to get the variety of big stars that venues closer to Nashville featured…

Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper

We’ve reprinted the entire article with added photos, most of which were taken at Sunset Park. ***Click Here*** for the article.

-Peter

About Peter Feldmann

Peter Feldmann has long been a musical mainstay in Santa Barbara and Southern California. Besides actively performing bluegrass and old time music with a variety of groups, Peter is also known as a bluegrass historian, collector, music consultant, teacher, and producer, both of live concerts and radio/tv programs throughout the area. His music has been heard in clubs, concerts, saloons, universities, pre-schools, at weddings, wakes, parties, barn-raisings, calf-ropings, rodeos, auctions, fund raisers, wine tastings and chili cook offs.

Peter founded Santa Barbara’s Old Time Fiddler’s Convention (1972), UCSB’s Old Time Music Front (1964), and The Bluebird Cafe (1971). Through these and other outlets, he was the first to bring many prominent folk, blues, and bluegrass artists, including Bill Monroe, Mance Lipscomb, The Stanley Brothers, The New Lost City Ramblers, Fred McDowell, Furry Lewis, Rose Maddox, the Balfa Brothers, and many others to the Santa Barbara area. Peter also helped others access the music by teaching privately, and in group classes for Santa Barbara Continuing Education, UCSB Extension, and McCabes Guitars. He was the first on the West Coast to produce and market instruction Lps – three on How To Play Country Fiddle, and one each on Clawhammer Banjo, and Maybelle Carter Style Guitar. He still presents lectures on country music history at UCSB, Santa Barbara area libraries, and for various interest groups, festival workshops, etc. In 2006, he presented his monograph titled “The Big bang Of Bluegrass Music” (describing the origins of bluegrass 1938 – 1946) to the worlds first International Music Symposium at the University of Kentucky at Bowling Green. He has also been very active in radio, television, and film work, producing weekly shows on country and bluegrass music over a 21 year period on various commercial and public stations. Peter currently maintains three music-related websites, a music blog, and an entertainment service company, “BlueGrass West!”, based in the Santa Ynez Valley in Southern California.

Peter performs tunes and songs from the heart of America’s musical treasure chest. His shows can include fiddle, guitar, banjo, and mandolin. Well-known as a historian and teacher, Peter is first and foremost an entertainer, sharing his respect, energy and love for the music with his fellow musicians, friends, and audiences.

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6 Responses to A Sunday afternoon in 1963

  1. Pete says:

    An e-mail letter received from Bill Townsend, of Morgantown, PA.

    ———————-
    Monday, October 13, 2008, 9:08 PM

    Dear Peter:

    My name is Bill Townsend and I have been playing Country Music since I was ten years old. I joined a professional band in 1971 after getting our of the Navy. I spent many hours playing for fun on board the USS Intrepid, 1968 to 1970.

    I was surprised and delighted to see the article on Sunset Park Chester County, West Grove PA. I was raised in nearby West Goshen in Chester County. I grew up listening to Alex and Ole Belle broadcasting live on radio at Sunset Park every Sunday in the summer. My dream was to play Sunset Park. After moving to Morgantown area I joined up with 3 musicians 2 of whom were tired of traveling with a band and wanted to play closer to home. The 3rd was the son of one of two musicians who hired me to joined them. They played and harmonized great without me but wanted a 4th musician to groom into playing lead guitar, Banjo, and help load the equipment.

    After 3 years of playing almost 900 shows we auditioned on Labor Day of 1974 at Sunset Park. Lawrence booked us in 1975 to be in the lineup with the house band, Alex Campbell and Ronnie Milsap. Alex Campell was playing along with us back stage so we asked him and he played a set with us. What an honor. I was so lucky to have played Sunset Park several times with many famous performers and musicians.

    I always felt so honored and excited to play Sunset. Seeing the article was very dear to me. I still run into people who saw me Sunset Park with Hank Snow, Ronnie Milsap, Billy Crash Craddock, The Kendalls, Bill Anderson, Johnny Paycheck, and Conway Twitty. The band was the Green Hill Drifters and Changed their name to the Nashville Drifters when I joined. Thank you this great tribute to the most wonderful place that anyone could play. Mr & Mrs Waltman and Sunset Park. Thanks to the many friends and relatives of the Walmans who worked at the Park.

    Bill Townsend 316 Swamp Road Morgantown PA 19543

    Web page http://www.themajesticsband.net

  2. Donna Peck says:

    My Mom & Dad & Uncle Merky, (Troy & Pansy Ferguson & the Country Gentlemen) were also regulars @ Sunset Park. They played there for years, & opened for & backed up many stars, including Loretta Lynn, & Johnny Cash. I sang with them at times, & years later my brother Mark Ferguson (steel & fiddle) played there as part of Micky Gilley’s band

    • Hi Donna, and thanks for your comment. We’ve gotten lots of interest in the early music parks like Sunset. Out here in California, there weren’t as many, but they did exist, like one in Ventura near the oil fields that were very active in the 40s and 50s. Bill Monroe did some of his first California shows there. Someone needs to do some research and writing on this subject.

  3. Edward Frank says:

    played Bass, in the Parking Lot. 1963 into 1964..

  4. Bill Turner says:

    I’d always loved attending the Sunday concerts at Sunset Park…as soon as I’d gotten my first car, I began attending that summer. I’d attend the Sunday afternoon concert and then go tearing up the highway back to north NJ to make it to a 9pm gig with my own band. I just loved seeing Bill Monroe, the Osborne Brothers, Jimmy Martin and others

Your comments are always welcome!