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Musical Lineup Makes the Fair Sound Good : Two singing groups show that all the good acts don't necessarily come from Nashville.


It wouldn't be the Ventura County Fair without a good helping of country music. So here's your clip 'n' save guide to highlights Wednesday through Aug. 27. Watch the column next week for a rundown on where to find our local country talent performing at the fair.

Two male vocal groups, Boy Howdy and the Smokin' Armadillos, prove not everything country comes from Nashville.

Each member of the current Boy Howdy lineup spent at least 10 years playing brutal club dates on the Los Angeles smoke-a-torium circuit before the band scored its first Top 10 hit single, "A Cowboy's Born With a Broken Heart," off their debut "Welcome to Howdywood" album. Then Curb records signed them, and their second album spawned these national hits currently heard on the airwaves: "She'd Give Anything (to Fall in Love)" and "They Don't Make 'Em Like That Anymore."

Jeffrey Steele, Hugh Wright, Larry Park and his brother, Cary, take pride in their tight harmonies and Bakersfield country sound. That's why founder Larry Park chose the band's unusual name.

"It's like a celebration of country music," he told the press recently. "In the old Western movies, you'd see somebody riding off on a horse, and they'd say, 'Boy, howdy, did you see that?' " Well, you can see Boy Howdy on the Ventura Station stage at 7 and 9 p.m., Aug. 19.

Closing the fair same time, same place Aug. 27 will be another Curb recording group, The Smokin' Armadillos--six squeaky-clean guys, ages 18 to 25, who met at Bakersfield's North High School.

It's a Cinderella story of a rock-edged country garage band that made good--real good, real fast. The fourth time the Smokin' Armadillos played in public two years ago, they opened for Nashville guitar wizard Steve Wariner. They've done the same for other heavy-hitters, including John Michael Montgomery, Sawyer Brown and Willie Nelson.

Their rapid acceptance by fans of all ages is more impressive because they perform almost all their own songs. The band's second single, "Red Rock," was included in the popular rodeo movie "8 Seconds," featuring Luke Perry. And Curb will release a single off their new, still untitled album in October.

Pam Tillis, the acclaimed songwriter and 1994 Country Music Assn. female vocalist of the year, will perform at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 21 on the Grandstand stage. Tillis' concert at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza in May left no doubt of her range as a singer and performer. She could easily fill a concert with her Top 10 hits, including "Don't Tell Me What To Do," "Spilled Perfume," "Mi Vida Loca" and the currently airing ballad "In Between Dances."

Opening for Tillis are singing comedians Williams & Ree, who bill themselves as "The Indian and the White Guy."

The legendary Oak Ridge Boys are also making a repeat performance in our area; the last was in March. This upbeat country-gospel quartet has won Grammy, Dove, Country Music Assn. and Academy of Country Music awards by the bushel. Catch them on the Grandstand stage at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 24.

Admission to the fair--$6 for adults, $3 for seniors 55 and older and kids 6 to 12--includes the concerts. The events take place at Seaside Park, 10 W. Harbor Blvd. in Ventura. For more information, call 648-3376.


After some down time to rest her voice, Lancaster-based singer Darlene O'Connell is back in the saddle along with the Dixie Flyers. They'll make a local appearance Friday with the KHAY Country Band at Mullarkey's in the Oxnard Radisson Suite Hotel. The evening starts with dance lessons by Vince Fiske, 7 to 8 p.m. Tickets are $7.50 at the door. Mullarkey's is at 2101 W. Vineyard Ave. For details, call 988-0130.


You're invited to enjoy a mix of East and West Coast swing 8:30 to 11:30 p.m. Friday at a smoke-free dance and West Coast Swing Jack & Jill Contest sponsored by the Ventura County Swing Dance Club. Melinda Comeau will teach at 8 p.m. and deejay Jim Christensen provides the music. Entry fee for the contest is $5. Admission to the dance is $8. It all happens at Poinsettia Pavilion, 3451 Foothill Blvd. in Ventura. For more information, call 643-3114.


The Acousticats will perform progressive bluegrass music from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday in the main plaza of Heritage Square, 7th and B streets in downtown Oxnard. Plaza seats cost $1, and lawn seating is free. For details, call 483-7960. The group will also play at 5 p.m. Sunday in Thousand Oaks for a free "Summer Concert in the Park" at Conejo Community Park, Dover and Hendrix avenues. Call 499-4355.

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