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Who Harry Weger
When April 25, 2007
Where Terre Haute, IN
What Country music pioneer Harry Weger dies at age 80
 

Terre Haute, Indiana — In his lifetime, country singer Harry Weger performed all across the United States, met, promoted and played with dozens of country music stars, hosted a radio show, wrote several well-known songs and even starred in his own television program for children.

The man who was known for his great singing voice and gracious personality died Monday at age 80.

Weger’s love of country music and the Grand Ole Opry led him to pursue his passion onto the stages of Terre Haute and beyond.

Daughter Vicki Weger of Terre Haute said some of her earliest memories include curling up in her father’s guitar case backstage and falling asleep.

“He played music my whole life, he was playing music when I was born – it was all we knew,” Vicki Weger said during a phone interview Wednesday.

Harry Weger hosted a radio program on WBOW called “Harry Weger, the Hoosier Folk Singer,” beginning in 1949.

Local bluegrass musician Louie Popejoy said Wednesday that because of Weger’s radio show, “the whole community for miles and miles knew of him.”

Also, in 1949, Weger auditioned to perform with Roy Acuff and the Smoky Mountain Boys at the Grand Theater in Terre Haute.

When Weger began to play “Love Sick Blues,” the crowd became so excited that Acuff invited Weger to tour with him.

Weger toured throughout the Wabash Valley and the country with his band, “Harry Weger and the Hoosierland Hoedown.”

Popejoy said Weger always drew a crowd.

Popejoy said he first met the country singer around the time Weger’s family was managing the Brown County Jamboree at Bean Blossom in southern Indiana on Sundays.

Vicki Weger remembered those days, as well. She said that Bill Monroe, the musician who developed bluegrass music, owned a country music park in Brown County where he staged Sunday festivals.

Monroe booked the country and western stars who played on Saturday nights at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn., to come play the Brown County Jamboree at Bean Blossom on Sundays.

“[Monroe] hired my dad and his band to open the show and emcee,” Vicki Weger said. “Over the years they became very good friends.”

In 1954, when WTHI first went on the air in Terre Haute, “Harry Weger, The Bronco Buddy and the Big Ten Western Feature” became the first television program in town.

Vicki Weger, who said she was only about 6 years old when her father’s show began airing, said the Bronco Buddy Club became very famous.

“Every kid could write in and get their Bronco Buddy Club card,” she said.

Weger’s song, “The Ballad of Jimmy Bryan,” in honor of race car driver Jimmy Bryan, earned national acclaim in 1961. Bryan, the 1958 winner of the Indianapolis 500, died in 1960 during a practice race.

Another Weger song, titled “The Ragged Edge,” inspired a movie of the same name.

In 1962, Weger was honored at the Grand Ole Opry as “Mr. DJ USA.”

Weger garnered other awards, including a Sagamore of the Wabash and a Kentucky Colonel honor. He was inducted into the Wabash Valley Musicians Hall of Fame in 2005.

When former Sen. Birch Bayh ran for the legislature, Weger and his wife Docie campaigned for him. The families were neighbors and fellow members of the farm bureau, according to Vicki Weger.

“Senator Bayh was notoriously late,” Vicki Weger said laughing, “so daddy would take his country and western show to keep the crowd all warmed up. And when Senator Bayh would show up, he loved to sing. So he’d sing, and daddy would play.”

After his touring days, Harry Weger settled down in Terre Haute where he owned and operated the Harry Weger Record Shop downtown, along with his wife.

Married for 63 years, Harry and Docie Weger were promoters of various Grand Ole Opry artists who came to town.

When fellow promoters and members of the Opry asked Weger if they could include a new “girl singer” for one of the shows, Weger agreed. The “girl singer” turned out to be Loretta Lynn, who performed for the first time in Indiana as part of the Harry Weger Show in Terre Haute.

Vicki Weger said she remembers the night very well. After that, Weger said, Lynn wrote post cards to Harry Weger.

“Daddy always kept those post cards in his guitar case,” she said.

Vicki Weger said her dad enjoyed his touring days, but eventually chose to stay in Terre Haute and be with his family.

“So many of the big artists would stop at the record store and try to get my dad to go on tour with them, but he wanted to stay here with his family. That was the choice he made,” she said.

“In recent times, he told us that when it came to going out on the road, he said he’d been there, done that,” she added. “He loved the city and he did love being with his family.

“He was a wonderful man, and he was so kind. He never ever said anything bad about anybody.

“He made our life very rich in a lot of ways,” she said.

 
Contact Deb McKee
Terre Haute Tribune Star
deb.mckee@tribstar.com (812) 231-4254


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