Little Bit Country Jamboree encore performed at Anderson University

Oct. 27—ANDERSON — The Little Bit Country Jamboree came full circle for an encore presentation on the Anderson University campus.

Generating toe tapping and clapping, the jamboree returned Thursday night to be part of this year's ongoing Madison County bicentennial celebration. The jamboree performance in 2021 at the Paramount Theatre in downtown Anderson had been touted as the final iteration of the annual event.

Little Bit Country, which benefits Special Olympics of Madison County, took place in 1990 in Byrum Hall on the AU campus. The encore presentation returned to campus Thursday, this time at Reardon Auditorium.

Bret Busby said that in 1980, former Madison County Sheriff John Gunter and Jeff Hardin had a radio program on WHBU. Gunter's friendship with Anderson businessman Carl Erskine, who plays the harmonica, eventually led to the formation of the Cops and Robbers band, which then gave birth to the Little Bit Country Jamboree.

Gunter and Hardin were law enforcement officers by trade. Erskine had played baseball for the Brooklyn and Los Angeles Dodgers before returning to his hometown. Gunter has since passed away, and Erskine, who is 96, no longer plays with the band.

But Hardin has performed at every one of the annual jamborees.

"Carl (Erskine) came to John and wanted to do a concert to benefit Special Olympics," he recounted. "This is great. I've been playing music with these guys my entire life."

Tim Lanane, chairman of the local bicentennial committee, said there was no better way to celebrate the county's 200th birthday than through music. He noted that Madison County has been home to great entertainers throughout its history.

The concert opened with Dan Daugherty playing the national anthem on the harmonica.

Carol Grace, who attended Thursday night's jamboree, said she used to go to all of the Little Bit Country performances at the Paramount.

"I was glad they were having the encore. This is local people with talent," she said, nothing that the concert has played an important role in supporting the local Special Olympics.

Jean Anne Huffman said she made plans to attend the encore presentation as soon as it was announced.

"I pretty much went to all the concerts," she said. "I enjoyed the good music and great entertainment. This all goes to a good cause."

Busby said the key sponsor, the Sycamore Financial Group, would match donations made to the Special Olympics during the event.

The 2021 jamboree raised $50,000. The amount of money raised by this year's jamboree has not been announced. Proceeds will be used to cover Special Olympics expenses such as equipment, practice facility rental, uniforms and expenses for traveling to competitions.

Madison County Special Olympics serves more than 200 athletes with intellectual disabilities from all over the county. The organization was founded locally in 1968 through Erskine's leadership.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.