Home of the original Carolina Barn Dance (aired in 40’s/50’s) needs help
SPRUCE PINE, NC — A Famous History – A Promising Future
The Carolina Theatre, a cultural event center in downtown Spruce Pine, was built in 1937 during the heyday of the Silver Screen. Now The Carolina Theatre Preservation Association, Inc. (a 501©(3) corp) hosts a plethora of entertainment and fundraising events for classic country enthusiasts and historical buffs in efforts to restore this theatre to its historic roots.
The grand, neon-decorated marquee(now a little worse for wear) survives and juts out prominently over the city sidewalk. Countless banners were hung from it, hawking the movies and live entertainment of the era: The Frontier Badman starring Lon Chaney; Gone with the Wind; all the Sing Cowboy films; and, of course the famous Saturday morning cartoons such as Buck Rogers and The Gang.
By the late 40’s, a huge variety of entertainment was brought to this small mountain town as well as being the home of the nationally recognized Carolina Barn Dance. The show became highly successful locally, and the house was packed each Friday night. It featured live performance country music and comedy by local talent as well as by regionally known performers. The format was classic country: if the Carolina Barn Dance show did not invent the format used by the Grand Ole Opry, Hee Haw, O Brother Where Art Thou, and countless others, the company most certainly enhanced it.
Around 1949, the Liberty Broadcasting Company in Dallas, Texas put Spruce Pine “on the map” by broadcasting the Carolina Barn Dance live on 512 radio stations across the United States. From 1949 until sometime in 1954 the Carolina Barn Dance was broadcast by radio to every state in the nation, except Washington.
As the show’s popularity grew, just about everybody who became anybody in country music performed on the Carolina Theatre stage. The Spruce Pine Newspaper archives are full of references to the upcoming plethora of performers: Patsy Cline, Bill Monroe, Hank Snow, Sonny James, Kitty Wells, Chet Atkins, String Bean, to name just a few who later became famous. Other performers included Scotty and Lula Belle Wiseman, a local duo that became widely recognized for having written and performed the song, “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You”. Fiddlin' Red Wilson, a local fellow who became one of North Carolina’s Living Treasures, also performed on this stage during this time. Alas, the Carolina Barn Dance show ended sometime in 1954 or 1955; probably television largely contributed to its demise.
In 2004 the building sat abandoned and in a state of significant disrepair. As fate would have it, along came two hapless individuals, Davis Godwin and Bill Hudson. The Carolina Theatre Preservation Association, Inc. was created and fundraising events have been hosted since in efforts to restore The Carolina Theatre to the state of its former glory.
The future depends upon our awareness of the past. The value we place upon our heritage and how well we preserve it, will be the benchmark for generations to come. (Eldredge)
We need your help! We welcome items for our lobby museum, curtains, lighting, sound equipment, and anything else…
For more information: , call Bill Hudson: 828.766-6963, or go to the Carolina Theatre Website.