For Ashland's Birthday, a Ray of Sunshine 

click to enlarge street42_stanley_200.jpg

The town of Ashland — with just a few days to go before its big 150th birthday bash — hasn't had much luck with digging holes in search of the time capsule it buried a few decades back.

But while that moldy box of memories remains elusive for the still-searching residents of Richmond's near-north neighbor, they've managed to uncover another time capsule of sorts. This one, of the auditory variety, will be unveiled at 3 p.m. on the main stage of the town's official birthday celebration Oct. 18 on the campus of Randolph-Macon College.

Lifelong Ashland and Hanover County resident Ginger Stanley and her cousins, Dick and Don Workman, plan to troll through their bag of musical memories, performing songs made famous on their parents' radio show, the Old Dominion Barn Dance.

That legendary AM radio broadcast of the 1940s and '50s featured live country music performances by the show's sweet-voiced, accordion-grinding host Sunshine Sue and her celebrity guests. It originated every Saturday night at Richmond's 1,400-seat WRVA Theater at Ninth and Broad streets, and it was heard as far away as Chicago, Canada and even South Africa.

Sunshine Sue, along with her husband, John Workman, and his brothers, Sam and George, performed as the Rock Creek Rangers and served as hosts of the show from 1946 to 1957.

“The Barn Dance is the thing most people around here remember — if they're old enough,” says Stanley, daughter of Sunshine Sue. Her parents, though famous for their Richmond show, lived in and loved Ashland.

“To them, Ashland was the place to land and raise their family,” she says.

Stanley was 9 when her mom and dad last hosted the show, famous for featuring such performers as Gene Autry, Brenda Lee and the Carter Family. But as occasional performers, Stanley and her cousins — then known as the Workman Twins Band — plan to resurrect a bit of the magic. “It's sort of a tribute to do some of the songs our parents did,” Stanley says.

Those songs will include Stanley's mom's signature tune, “You Are My Sunshine” — sans Sue's signature accordion. “I didn't have the good fortune to inherit my mother's sweet voice,” Stanley says. “But I can carry a tune.” 


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