As promised, Clayton rocked the Edwards County Fairgrounds on Saturday night, despite the chilly weather and threatening skies.
But, before Clayton wooed the crowd, there was a whole lot more going on in Albion on Saturday! Yard sales across the city began first thing in the morning, and Cusumano & Sons produce pick up started later in the morning at the Fairgrounds. Several booths were set up at the Fairgrounds as well, but what kept everyone’s attention the most was a toss-up between the food trucks, Lil Buddies BBQ and The Smoking’ Pig (who were set up for lunch) and the two goats! Even Clayton Mann and his band members stopped by to visit with the goats before their show.
Starting at 4:30 p.m. at the grandstands, there was a fantastic performance by award-winning Christian band, Judah First Band, followed by a heartwarming presentation on behalf of the band to a family they blessed.
A few weeks ago, Ryan Overbey and I discussed an idea he and his wife, Carmen, had come up with. He explained he was trying to convince a preacher and his family from Flora to come to the show, because he had something laid upon his heart for some time.
Ryan told me, “this preacher’s wife taught herself to play guitar. And now she’s teaching their kids how to play…she only has one guitar…she always plays my guitar when they see us perform and loves it. So, my wife and I bought two and I want to surprise her at the show with them.” He really felt their performance at the Albion Fall Family Fun Day was the right time for this blessing on the Closson family.
That was all it took for me to hop on board and, between the two of us, along with the staff of the Navigator and the Albion Area Chamber of Commerce, we were able to help his idea come to fruition on Saturday.
I contacted the preacher, Ron Closson, about two weeks ago letting him know he had been nominated for, and had won, a family pack of tickets for Albion Fall Family Fun Day. We coordinated for him to receive the tickets at “will call” on Saturday.
According to Ryan, Ron was aware of the idea of Ryan and Carmen’s to get his family to the Albion Fall Family Fun Day for the performance, but was perhaps having some difficulty, though he never let on to me.
However, on Saturday in front of the crowds at the Fairgrounds, Ryan called the Closson’s up on stage to present the two guitars. It was a tear-jerking, heartfelt experience for all involved. After the presentation, Judah First Band- accompanied by Dennis Stroughmatt on his fiddle - sang Happy Birthday to the Closson’s son, Joel. The following Tuesday, Ron said, “It was awesome, a day we wont forget anytime soon. Thank you all for your hospitality! Good community there!”
David Lane and Abbi Cook took the stage next, describing how they’d actually only been performing together for about a month. I’m not sure anyone would have been able to tell that, though, because they were completely in tune with each other as they played crowd-pleasing favorites songs.
Before I knew it, Albion resident Dennis Stroughmatt, along with his Honky-Tonk Circus Band, were up on stage playing his fiddle with both expertise and abandon. This was the first time I’d had the opportunity to see and hear him and Dow Smith, Cord Fitch, Jimmy Beers and Doug Hawf (the Honky-Tonk Circus) play, and I was not disappointed one bit.
It was starting to get colder, raining on and off, and next thing I knew, Albion Area Chamber of Commerce President, Jessica Gwaltney was rushing me up to the “cage” so she could introduce Clayton and I (though we’d had a few conversations, we obviously hadn’t met yet). Then he and his band began playing, and didn’t really stop for…I don’t really know…two, two-and-a-half hours? Three?
These young men, despite the cold, were a force to be reckoned with. Joey DiDonna on bass and back-up vocals, Russ Garner on drums and Matthew Bryan rocking the lead guitar like nobody’s business added to Clayton Mann’s vocals and guitar were definitely of the high-energy end of the spectrum. Not to mention all the commentary Clayton provided between songs. Who knew we would be getting a comedy show, too?
He sang “Cooler,” his debut solo single and gave the crowd an exclusive performance of his up-and-coming, not yet released next single, “One Day at a Time,” a poignant melody with honest lyrics and sure to catch Nashville’s attention in a few weeks after it’s released. I think it has a great potential.
During the evening, Clayton told the crowd a story about when he was in Arkansas a few months ago, he learned how to gig frogs. I imagine many in Edwards County are quite familiar with this summer past time. Clayton found the experience to be so hilarious, challenging and inspirational that he wrote a song about giggin’ frogs, which he sang. I’m not going to lie, I thought that song was absolutely fantastic and should be included in his sets from now on (maybe he should consider releasing it as a single at some point, too).
Clayton’s covers of Johnny Cash, the Eagles, Alabama and Bob Seger and so many more were worth the continued chill in there air. His rendition of “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” was spot-on, the only thing missing was the fiddle - which Clayton later said he should have asked Dennis Stroughmatt to join in. However, that was remedied when catcalls for “Rocky Top” were made. The crowd’s reactions proved Clayton, his band and Dennis, did the song justice. He then took a few more audience requests, including “Copperhead Road” and “Family Tradition,” which provided some exciting audience participation that Clayton had no issues with encouraging!
Before long, Clayton announced that it was the last song they’d be playing for the evening. However, with “encore” catcalls - which mostly emanated from his family members in the crowd, but quickly caught with everyone in the grandstands - Clayton came out on stage solo for one last song, “Amazing Grace.”
After the show, Clayton’s mother, Julie and I talked for quite a bit about all sorts of things. She explained that her two other sons, twins Jonathon and Bryce, joined the Marines “while waiting for Clayton to grow up,” as they are a few years older than Clayton. The three of them once were known as REBELMANN® in the early part of the decade.
Clayton’s family members at the performance, to include his parents and grandparents, were all wonderful to speak to and seemed to enjoy the down-home feel of Edwards County. Before he and his band members got in the van to drive back to Nashville, Clayton reminded those of us standing there that he couldn’t wait to come back to Albion, and hoped we invited him back. Albion, should Clayton Mann be invited back? Inquiring minds want to know.