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County Fair's Musical 'Memories' Are for Old Times' Sake


The theme of the 1996 Ventura County Fair is "Planting Memories."

But with the past so well-represented, the fair's musical lineup--including Pat Boone, Wayne Newton, the Grass Roots, Edgar Winter, Firefall, Gladys Knight and Elvin Bishop--seems more in the spirit of "Exhuming Memories."

The thing to remember about music at the fair, though, is that there is something musical going on each and every day at no additional cost after paying six bucks--or half that if you're old or young enough--to get inside the Ventura County Fairgrounds located at Seaside Park, a truly great location.

Those who think Ventura really is Bakersfield-by-the-Sea will get a chance to shout "Wahoo!" and such when Willie Nelson, singer on over 100 albums, opens the fair Wednesday evening. Also pleasing to the pointy-shoed country music fans is Highway 101 on Aug. 16 and Patty Loveless on Aug. 22.

The group named after the road near the venue, has had 13 Top 10 hits in its decade of existence. Patty Loveless has become a country superstar since her 1987 debut. Her 1995 album, "When Fallen Angels Fly," earned her female vocalist of the year by the Country Music Academy and the album was the CMA's album of the year.

The Pikeville, Ky., native calls her music "traditional country with an edge." Also on the bill with Loveless is rising Tejano star, Emilio.

Things seem to be going swell for Gladys Knight. Her hometown just hosted the Olympics, the Braves are in first place and the Atlanta-born singer has been building up her fan club since she was 4 years old.

A founding member of the Pips in 1952--later Gladys Knight & the Pips--that group scored 10 No. 1 hits including "If I Were Your Woman," "I Heard It Through the Grapevine" and "Love Overboard" among others.

Pip-less since the late '80s, Knight has released a pair of solo albums and continues to tour, stopping by the fair Aug. 15.

It's not music but Gallagher, the Freddy Krueger of the supermarket vegetable section, who will be slicing, dicing and splattering stuff everywhere Aug. 19. In addition to being a slayer of our vitamin-laden friends from the fruit and veggie group, Gallagher is an accomplished stand-up comic, not just bearer of the Sledge-o-Matic. He has 13 cable comedy specials on his resume so far. Don't wear white or stand too close to the stage.

In 1955, while Ike was standing toe-to-toe with the godless Commies, one person was the epitome of the safe and secure amid the threat of nuclear annihilation: Mr. White Bread himself--with white loafers to match--Pat Boone. It's been 40 years since Boone's tame version of "Ain't That a Shame" sold a million copies.

Boone would have to play longer than the Grateful Dead in their prime to play all of his 60 singles that hit the charts. Among them are "April Love," "Love Letters in the Sand," "Moody River" and "Speedy Gonzales."

Active in church and charity work, Boone apparently has lived the life the Cleavers and the Nelsons epitomized. If three people live forever, it'll be Dick Clark, Jack LaLanne and Boone. Next up for the smooth crooner after his Aug. 20 gig at the fair--and this should be a classic--Boone is working on a heavy metal album. Pat, duuuude.

Also on the bill with Boone are the New Chordettes, a '50s girl group that scored a couple of hits with "Lollipop" (not to be confused with "My Boy Lollipop") and "Mr. Sandman." Since this is a 1 p.m. show, Boone and the Chordettes can get a chance to work on that tan.

Later on that evening, Immature (which should be the name of 90% of rock bands) brings its R & B and hip-hop-flavored grooves to the beach. The only really contemporary act this year, Immature scored with "Never Lie" and "Constantly," hit singles off the group's gold debut album from 1994, "Playtyme Is Over." Last year's "We Got It" has established the group as teenage superstars.

Wayne Newton, forever to blame for "Danke Shoen," has been an established star in Las Vegas for decades. Not bad for a guy who once, along with Elvis, flunked Ted Mack's auditions for "The Original Amateur Hour." According to his bio, Newton has performed before over 15 million people. He should be a hit with the Geritol set. Better get there early for the Aug. 21 show.

Also performing two times each is Elvin Bishop, a blues guitarist who first came to fame with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band in the '60s and has since released more than a dozen solo albums. The Grass Roots had 13 hit singles in those silly '60s, including "Midnight Confessions" and "Let's Live for Today."

Hotel California is obviously an Eagles tribute band, but you figured that one out. Edgar Winter is a veteran rock guitarist with over 20 years experience and Firefall played soft rock in the '70s.

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