Dick Stacey realized he’d caught lightning in a bottle a few years after he began sponsoring the “Country Jamboree,” the amateur country music showcase that aired live Saturday nights on Bangor TV station WVII throughout the 1970s and ’80s.
He and longtime “Jamboree” host Charlie Tenan had traveled to Nova Scotia in 1976 to participate in a country music showcase, on the invitation of a local radio station. WVII’s signal had recently become available in the Maritimes, and the “Jamboree” had become a Canadian hit. On a lark, the pair drove the seven hours to Dartmouth, just outside Halifax, to see what the fuss was about.
To their shock and delight, they were given the star treatment. There was a sold-out crowd packed into the 2,000-seat auditorium, there to listen to the music and see the man whose catchphrase (“See these hands? They pump gas! And they STINK!”) had quickly become a household phrase.
“I didn’t plan on any of this happening, I really didn’t,” said Stacey. “But I went along for the ride.”
For those who didn’t grow up with “Stacey’s Country Jamboree,” it can seem a little bizarre that a low-budget country music show produced in Bangor, Maine, would end up such a hit. It featured mostly unknown singers, some of whom couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.
But for a generation of country music lovers and amused late-night TV-watchers, the “Jamboree” was a cult favorite, and one of the most “Maine” things to ever hit airwaves.
Don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys
Stacey was born in 1936 in Brewer, the son of Ethel and William Stacey. He had two older brothers and a sister. Around the time World War II broke out, the family moved to Portland, where Stacey’s father worked in a shipyard. The family broke up not long after that, and Stacey was sent back to the Bangor area at the age of 5, where he bounced around, staying with different families until eventually winding up in the 1941 equivalent of a group home in Monroe.
“I milked cows there and carried water and sap up and worked on the farm until third grade, when my mother got me back and we moved to Bangor,” Stacey said.
Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.
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