Loretta Lynn Peggy Sue and a friend of mine2

The girl who liked “hillbilly” music

Diakon staff member Anita Bussard, an administrative assistant on the Robinwood Campus of Diakon Senior Living – Hagerstown, supports the organization in a number of ways—including arranging for various entertainers to visit the senior living community for residents to enjoy. Her background has positioned her well for this unique contribution!

Growing up in the late 50s and early 60s, the high time of rock ‘n’ roll, doo-wop, and swing, I was referred to as “the girl who liked ‘hillbilly’ music.”

Classmates, as friends, were few but my admiration and love for the music never stopped.

My father, Robert P. Gearhart, was a traditional country admirer, with Roy Acuff, Grandpa Jones, Kitty Wells, Jean Shepard, Hiram King Williams (Hank Williams Sr.), Webb Pierce, and many others among his favorites. My mother, Joan Gearhart, leaned toward the honky-tonk clear sounds of Faron Young, Max Powell, and Bill Anderson (in photo with me below).

Bill and me

My brother, Robert D. Gearhart, would have nothing to do with “hillbilly” music; for him it was all soul. Therefore, I had to listen to all types of music and learn to appreciate everything from bluegrass to soul, Bill Monroe to James Brown.

Weekends were always family time. If we were not going to the river to fish and swim, we were in the car driving to Nashville in all types of weather. I remember, as a child, standing in a line that would go around the Ryman Auditorium, the “Mother Church of Country Music,” eagerly waiting for the doors to open.

On Sundays in the summertime my parents and I would attend concerts at Williams Grove Park, which is now abandoned. Al and Jean Shade, who are country music artists, managed the park for several years. They booked artists such as Loretta Lynn, Bill Anderson, Conway Twitty and many, many more at the park. (The photo at top shows Loretta Lynn and her sister, Peggy Sue; a friend of mine, Betty Myers; and myself.)

These were always great times because we would arrive early in the morning, ride the rides and then pay $4 to see two shows the same day! Imagine seeing Loretta Lynn or Conway Twitty for $2 a show!

When the shows were over, the artists always came out, signed autographs, posed for photographs, and just talked. It was nothing for the artist to come over to our table and grab a bite to eat. In fact, none of this was a big deal—it was just people enjoying being with one another other and not having to worry about stalkers and crazy fans as they do today.

My parents were amazing and insisted that I learn and use manners all the time. They coached me on my behavior around entertainers and how to respect the people and their talents.

My father was unique—and that is putting it mildly. Without going into details, I can tell you that he was awesome at making fake press badges and teaching me the ropes of the concerts. In fact, as I write this, I am beginning to remember so many funny things.

For example, there was the time my dad hid my mother behind a soda machine as he and I left the Ryman after the first show. When the Ryman doors opened for the second show, Mom jumped out from behind the machine and sat down in the front row, saving seats for dad and me.

Another unique experience was in 1966 at Sunset Park when Brother Oswald (Pete Kirby) was charging a small fee for people to see Roy Acuff sleeping in his car! But enough of that! I cannot give away all the Gearhart secrets.

Other memorable events include eating at a Barbara Fritchie restaurant with a well-known entertainer; sitting on the Grand Ole Opry stage numerous times watching the show or just talking to the many different artists behind the opry stage; dancing with my father at a show while Jay Lee Webb (Loretta Lynn’s brother) sang; spending an Easter with Loretta Lynn at her home in April of 1968 (pictured in the photo below); and having had several entertainers at my home.

At Loretta's Home

I remember when Peggy Sue (Loretta’s sister) and Loretta wanted me to sing on The Wheeling Jamboree while my dad played the harmonica. Loretta thought everyone could sing until she heard me ….

On the other hand, my dad could play a mean harmonica.

Our home was never without music. The radio or record player was always on, sometimes both. Many evenings my dad would play the harmonica or guitar while I played the guitar and attempted to sing. My father could sing and when folks asked me if I could sing, I’d reply, “I can’t carry a tune in a bucket because my bucket has a hole in it!”

Folks, that is the truth, I cannot sing a lick.

But I feel very fortunate to have met so many different artists and to call some of them my friends. I am blessed that my parents believed in and taught me manners and respect. And I consider myself a huge supporter of music and a supporter and promoter of traditional country music.

I am truly grateful that I have been afforded the opportunity to do this for the residents we serve.

Anita R. Bussard

Administrative Secretary
Diakon Senior Living – Hagerstown

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Comments

  • Anita, what a great writer you are! You had me reading with excitement and I think you should definitely consider writing a book or even collection of short stories about your lifetime of experiences. The folks of Diakon are blessed to have you as I was when you were working with me. I’m thankful to know you and thankful to have seen this. Please share more!!

  • Anita and I were classmates at Williamsport High School. Anita was always vivacious and outspoken, telling it like it is, which is what I love about her. I had no idea that Anita had all these experiences with her family in Nashville. This article allows me to get to know Anita on a more personal level and understand why she carries such good morals and values. Anita is a great person, who obviously loves hillbilly music. I loved this article, very refreshing to see how Anita had all these wonderful experiences shared with her family. The residents and staff at Diakon are blessed to have Anita. With her background, she is able to bring such wonderful, true Nashville, country artists to perform for them. I just think you are awesome Anita. You are a very special person!
    Mary Jo Britner

  • What a wonderful article.. Anita truly is a historian as well as a huge fan of country music. Now when I say country, I mean the real deal in traditional country music. I am blessed to call Anita and her husband John my friends, as s gospel and country music artists I travel a lot and would be honored to stop and sing for your folks there in Hagerstown .. Blessings to you and yours. I know you’re a great assest

  • What a nice recount of lovely memories!
    To know that Anita is still living them & making new ones USA blessing.
    I’m glad to know her as a dear friend & proud that she shares my love of real country music, as well as having a deep appreciation for all music.

  • Read the article and enjoyed it very much. Like you, I’m a country music lover but am not in favor of the current selections.

  • Anita,
    Is a dear friend. What a wonderful article on this lady. She has always been ready and willing to help out folks at the first chance she gets. The folks at Diakon Senior Living Center in Hagerstown,Maryland are very blessed to have an angel among their mist. Congrats to you Anita on this fine article. Although it don’t even cover the joy you bring to folks one quarter of the way. In order to do that they would have to write a book about you. As for my wife Jaye and myself,we are honored to be able to call John and you friends. Many blessings and much success to you in the future.

    Always God Bless,
    Jerry J.Thomas

  • Excellent article! Anita was also not only a dear friend but quite an assest to my sister-in-law, Penny DeHaven, when getting started in here career.

  • Anita truly loves hillbilly music. We met her and her husband John in NashvilleI last June and she was front and center at every event. She has more energy than Jumping Bill Carlisle and as comical as Minnie Pearl. Great article for a true country music fan that it a legendary fan to the entertainers and friends to all that she meets.

  • Great article! What great experiences she had as a child, I’m sure her knowledge helps in her position.

  • We were members of WWVA Wheeling Jamboree. We live in Tennessee. Also play the Opry and also were members of Louisiana Hayride.
    We met Anita last year with her husband in Nashville. We took them to the ROPE Awards. This young lady was very impressive in knowing all of our friends in the music business and they all knew her and loved her and her husband. She is a true professional lover of country music. We all love her and her husband.
    She talked about her job in Hagerstown and the way I understand from artists they love her and she is a great worker and she loves her job and the people. We as artists, if we get near Hagerstown we will stop by and entertain the people there. We love Anita and her husband. God Bless them.

  • I am very blessed to know Anita…She has taught me alot about country singers..She’s a wonderful and genuine lady,and I feel that God led her to Diacon so that she can share her blessings with the patients there.. She is where she is supposed to be!!

  • Anita, I enjoyed your story and your love for HillBilly Music. What wonderful memories you have growing up with your mom, dad and Bobby in Nashville.

    Now I know why Bobby attended all the fire hall dances. Music was part of his life, also.

    It is great to hear you are sharing your love of music with our seniors, I am sure they love every minute of it. You always have had a big heart.

    Carmel

  • We were members of WWVA Wheeling Jamboree. We live in Tennessee. Also play the Opry and also were members of Louisiana Hayride.
    We met Anita last year with her husband in Nashville. We took them to the ROPE Awards. This young lady was very impressive in knowing all of our friends in the music business and they all knew her and loved her and her husband. She is a true professional lover of country music. We all love her and her husband.
    She talked about her job in Hagerstown and the way I understand from artists they love her and she is a great worker and she loves her job and the people. We as artists, if we get near Hagerstown we will stop by and entertain the people there. We love Anita and her husband. God Bless them.

  • Anita is a very vivacious , lovely lady that has a lot to offer these residents !! Her love for people & willingness to go out of her way to make things happen is truly a gift. She is definitely a great addition to this staff <3

  • GREAT article about one of the MOST PASSIONATE people who loves REAL COUNTRY MUSIC that we know and have ever met!!!! Anita Bussard has had a lifetime of loving and living country music, and has collected her memories into a HUGE assemblage of authentic memorabilia since her childhood all the way into her adulthood!!! She has had some amazing experiences with some great artists and legends!

    We appreciate that we, 2Country4Nashville, have had the opportunity to perform for the Diakon-Hagerstown residents this past year and we look forward to coming back again this year. It’s a pleasure to perform for the great folks there who really enjoy the music, and it’s great that Anita can use her connections in Country Music to bring some great live entertainment to the center.

    Again, our compliments on an entertaining and informative featured article. I know Diakon-Hagerstown is blessed to have Anita Bussard working there!!

  • I love this article about my friend anita..very impressive..I learned so much about her I did not know ..ty for sharing

  • Nice article about a hometown girl who loves country music and can take that love of music to give joy to the residents of diakon.

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