Music has always been an important part of WILL-TV programming—from world-class orchestras to pop stars to local Dixieland favorites. Back in 1980-81, WILL-TV even produced its own “Country Music Hall.”

Popular groups like Sunny Norman and the Drifting Playboys, shown in this clip, loved the exposure they got when the program was distributed to other PBS stations.

Mark Kelley produced the program. “PBS was airing ‘The Grand Ole Opry’ and ‘Austin City Limits.’ The audience loved them, so we thought we’d try a local country show. For the opening, we filmed the exterior of a milk barn north on Route 45,” he said. “We lit it up like something big was going on inside. But actually everything took place back in our studio. The goal was to make it seem like a hidden place somewhere in the Midwest where you could go on Saturday night and you never knew who might show up.”

Another popular group, Pork and the Havana Ducks wrote the theme song and headlined the first episode. “We knew we had a good show when the guy who owned the milk barn called me to say that for the past three weekends, he’d had people trying to buy tickets to get in his barn,” Kelley said. “We had some good times and some great music.”

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