Sioux Falls concert celebrates Hank Williams

Sioux Falls concert celebrates Hank Williams "A Celebration of Hank Williams," a concert of Hank Williams' songs by four South Dakota musicians � John and Susan McNeill of Springfield and Owen DeJong and Nick Schwebach of rural Wakonda � will be presented at 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 21 and 22, at the Belbas Theater of the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls.

The concert promoters hope the show's success will mirror its inaugural presentation. That concert in late July was the fourth scheduled at Gayville Hall, which filmakers Doug and Judi Sharples of Wakonda opened on Gayville's main street this summer, and the popularity of the Hank Williams show surprised them.

The filmmakers had to turn away customers after a standing-room-only crowd of 227 filled the hall. Many stood for the two-hour show or sat and listened from the adjacent art gallery. Despite those conditions, the concert was a success.

"Better than Branson," said one visitor from Missouri. "When are you going to play it again? asked several. "Why don't you bring it to our town?" said others.

John McNeill, who is a regular performer and master of ceremonies at Gayville Hall, sings the majority of the Hank Williams songs in the concert, plays drums, guitar, harmonica, and banjo, and weaves a commentary about Williams' life and music between the numbers. McNeill suggested the all-Hank Williams show and was not surprised by the big crowd. He lived in Hank Williams' home state of Alabama for a number of years and knew the appeal of the artist.

McNeill was born in Oklahoma and grew up in Indiana and Connecticut. He has performed at night clubs, fraternal organizations, churches and other venues in the Midwest and South many years with his wife Susan, a native of Clark. He teaches at the Springfield State Prison and was on the faculty of USD-Springfield. He has composed music for documentary films and hundreds of songs.

Susan MCNeill plays bass and sings several tunes in the concert, and DeJong plays fiddle. Schwebach plays steel guitar and sings Lovesick Blues. DeJong and Schwebach have performed together for 22 years in the Public Domain Tune Band and for a decade and a half in the popular Vermillion area band, Poker Alice, which Schwebach founded.

Schwebach, a Dell Rapids native who is a graduate of USD, operates Seven Dogs Furniture in rural Wakonda when not performing. DeJong, born in Pipestone, MN, earned degrees from USD and is a former teacher at the Wakonda public school. He is classical music director at South Dakota Public Radio.

Tickets for the concert are $15 at the Pavilion box office. Call 367-6000 or 877-WashPav.

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