BLACKFOOT — Media Day for the 2019 Eastern Idaho State Fair is coming up Tuesday. How time flies.

My first full day back in Blackfoot as editor of a daily Blackfoot newspaper after being away for over 20 years was the last day of August last year — the first day of the 2018 EISF.

Man, what a way to be welcomed back — the first day of the busiest nine days every year in Bingham County, especially busy for the hometown media.

Until last year’s fair, I had been back a few times through the years to enjoy some of the fair with the family — horse shows, Tiger Ears, draft horse hitches, fair food, livestock barns, more fair food ...

But in the days dating back to when I was younger and a newspaper guy at the fair, one of my favorite things to do every year was to enter the fairgrounds flashing my press pass, walk up to the grandstand flashing my press pass, enter the arena and walk right up to the stage with a camera hanging from my neck to shoot photos of the stars playing in concert.

I saw quite a few acts close up, all of them country, and that was okay. I saw some great shows. Through the years, I saw more shows than I can count. But I’m going to dig into my memory bank and try to pull out some of my most memorable ones.


This was well before I ever started working at a newspaper in this area. In fact, this was well before I even lived in this area. My mother made the trip from Salmon to go to the fair when she could, and in my much younger days I can recall seeing acts with her like Mel Tillis and Charley Pride in Blackfoot when they were at their prime.

The Roy Clark concert, though, that was my first-ever live stage show. And Roy tore it up.

You gain a whole new respect for the abilities Roy had when you listen to him playing “Malaguena,” especially as he was getting near the end and he’d go into that strumming/picking/tapping combination of his, your jaw would hit the floor and you’d be left asking yourself, “How’d he do that?”

He was a master musician.


Now we’re getting into the days when I was living and working in Blackfoot, but these guys were a favorite of mine going back to childhood when I just had to have the album “Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy” in my record collection (yes, I had a bit of a collection dating back to childhood). In the Dirt Band, there was pure country, there was some rock, there was the smooth vocal sound of Jeff Hanna and great harmonies, traditional instrumentation. This was a chance for me to relive some childhood memories, in “plain dirt fashion.”


Their debut album caught my attention, mainly because of Marty Roe’s clean vocals and some fine playing behind him. They didn’t disappoint in Blackfoot.


This was around the time Tanya was getting a lot of traction in the supermarket tabloids because of her good-and-bad love life. Things were a bit of a mess for her around that time, and she might have reflected that in a comment she made after something made her laugh hard onstage. She spoke three words with a sigh of relief.

”I needed that.”


Great, jazzy voice. An underrated crossover performer. But one thing will always last in a lot of people’s memories about Loretta Lynn’s little sister.

That hair. On the stage in Blackfoot, wearing a long dress, it was that hair flowing down to right around the bottom of that dress ... amazing.


This was a band that was just fun to watch, especially when lead singer Mark Miller would dance and prance around the stage on some of their more upbeat songs, but then they could tug on the heart strings on a song like “The Walk.”

And they’re coming to Fort Hall in just over a week.


How long was this guy basically the king of country music? He’s done it all, played country rock, country, bluegrass, taken a job with a band called The Eagles.

The one thing I remember most aside from that voice of his in Blackfoot, though, was this: that boy could flat-out pick on guitar.


Speaking of kings of country music ...

I was “on board” with these guys the first time a country radio program director came into the studio in Idaho Falls where I was working one afternoon and told me to give a listen to a new 45-rpm single, a song called “My Home’s In Alabama,” and the B side had the 6 1/2-minute version of the song. I cued it up on the turntable, flipped a switch, and went on the air with it.

These guys cooked.

What I remember most from the Blackfoot show was just how good a musician Jeff Cook was. Those were the days.


I don’t care where I’ve seen a live concert or what genre it was, this concert right here in Blackfoot was the best show I’ve ever seen. Tritt did his usual rockin’, honky-tonklin’ best to open it up. Then Charlie and his band came on and rocked the joint. And THEN, the two forces joined together onstage and all ... heck broke loose.

These guys played so long and so loud, I had to leave before the show was over to get back to the office to process film and print photos in time for the next day’s paper. And as I walked out of the fairgrounds, I heard them all the way.

What a night.

And that combo is supposed to be coming to Fort Hall Aug. 18.


John Miller is editor of the Bingham County Chronicle. Feel free to contact him at with story suggestions for any local entertainers.

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