AUGUSTA – Pioneer Ira Allen will return from Nashville to his native Maine Sunday, April 3, to help celebrate the Maine Country Music Pioneer Show’s 20th year. The show will begin at 1 p.m. at Cony High School.

Joining him will be pioneers Burt Truman, Flo and Charlene Hooper, Fred (Tommy) Thompson, Malinda Liberty, Bob Elston, Marlene Carpenter, Don Cote, Gary Stevens, Coastline Charlie Gilliam, Jackie King, Yodeling Wade Dow, Lisa (Johnston) Higgins and Pard Higgins.

This year’s special guest star will be Danny Harper, 56, who opened for more country performers than any other Maine artist. Harper, who’s been part of country music since he was 11, made his first TV appearance at 14. He opened for Conway Twitty, Reba McIntire, Connie Smith, B.J. Thomas, Lee Greenwood, Dottie West, Johnny Paycheck, Boxcar Willie, The Bellamy Brothers, The Kendalls, Bobby Bare, Mel McDaniels, Moe Bandy and Gene Watson.

Acting as master of ceremonies for the show will be 103.3 WMCM Real Country’s DJ McCoy. The house band is Frank Coffin and the Pioneer Band; and the future pioneer is Justine Child.

Harper’s favorite part of the music business is writing songs. He recalls writing songs in study hall while in high school. “I’ve probably written some 500 songs, some finished and some unfinished,” he said.

Harper wrote 12 of the 13 songs on his new CD, “One More Time” released in 2004. He wrote one song, “The Flame has Lost its Glow,” Thanksgiving night 16 years ago with his daughter. She died unexpectedly the following June.

Harper’s first TV appearance was with the Mallett Brothers on the Hal Lone Pine Show. By 1972, Harper had his own TV show on Channel 7, Bangor. The same year, he cut his first record, a 45, featuring “95 to Nashville,” written by his longtime friend Craig McIntire.

In 1986, Harper recorded his first LP, “Honky Tonks Have Been my Home,” followed a year later by his first Nashville-produced album, “New Horizons.” His second Nashville album, “Living, Loving and Losing,” was released in 1988.

In 1987, Harper was invited to open for Johnny Tillotson and remained with him for the next two years, touring New England and Canada. Harper performed with Maine country music legend Dick Curless from 1994 to 1995, when Curless died.

In 1994, Harper returned to his insurance business which he’d been a part of since 1975. Overcome with sadness over his daughter’s death, Harper said his depression showed in his performances.

“An audience knows when your heart is not in it, and it’s not fair for them nor the performer when this happens,” he said. So he chose to leave the music business for good, selling his tour bus and sound equipment.

During this dark period, his only grandchild, Ryon, was born, giving him hope and inspiration for his new CD and for the first song, “I’m Just Lovin’ It.”

Although Harper is retired from the country music scene, he continues to be recognized for his contributions through his writing, singing at weddings and funerals, and occasional concerts and benefits.

Show tickets are $14 in advance, $16 at the door. They are available at The Musicians Choice, 190 Western Ave., Augusta; Brenda Millett, Lincoln; All-Rite Accounting, Norway; Carroll’s Music Center, Lewiston; Come Spring Cafe, Union; Newport Citgo, Newport; Music Gallery, Waterville; and the Kennebec Cafe, Fairfield. Or people can call Norm Poulin, originator of the show, (207) 547-344, and leave a message.

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