About Heartlands Hayride

By Frank “Napp” Napurano

Heartlands Hayride, the WDVR FM’s live, on-air, Traditional Country Music show, was created in the late summer of 2000 by Frank “Napp” Napurano, Ginny Napurano and Fred Boenig. The idea was hatched in little more than an hour, at a casual meeting when Frank, Ginny and Fred were reminiscing about an earlier on-air production, “Americana On The Air”, a live radio play.


Originally, Frank wanted to convert his Friday night country show, “The Country Store”, to a live, audience show. But the mythical “Country Store” with the pot bellied stove didn’t lend itself well to a live audience production because of its reliance on several “Off-stage” characters, monologues, audio props and the active imagination of the listener. So the discussion quickly turned to the creation of a new show, ala the old barn dance-hayride shows circa 1940s.


The amazing part is, the idea and determination to do it, including the name of the show, was completed in little more than an hour. It was agreed that Heartlands Hayride would be created to foster, encourage and actively promote the musical arts. The show would invite participation of new and upcoming local talent who would not ordinarily have access to performing on the radio.


Heartlands Hayride debuted on September 30, 2000 in the Loft @ Studio D, a large studio on the second floor of  WDVR’s studio building. It then moved to the Brethren Church when the audience grew beyond capacity and then was located at the Kingwood Township Fire Company Banquet Hall, Route 519, Baptistown, NJ, live, every Saturday from 6 to 8 pm.


At that time, The Hayride owed much of its success to the Chris Val Band with the inimitable Chris Val whose vocals and yodeling are legendary. The band consists of Bill Brandon on lead guitar, Al Raney on bass, Arnie Raney on percussion and John Farrell on steel. Hayride regulars include Ann Brown, Chuck Pierman, Joe Adda, Tish Zimmerman, Len Rambo, Jeff Randall, Bill Turner,  Jeff Wilson, Dave Bond, William Burk, Don Cogan, Steve Garcia, Roy Hollabaugh, Nancy Supko, Holly Loux, Judy Perry, Bill Ponnett and other visiting artists.


The Hayride troupe also performed “On The Road” at many venues, county fairs and churches around New Jersey and Pennsylvania to an audience of thousands. There are also many fans around the world who listen regularly on WDVR’s full-time live Internet programming stream: www.wdvrfm.org.


Heartlands Hayride has hosted some major talent such as BR549, Tracey Graemer, Moot Davis, Peter Finger, The Summer’s Dream full sized Orchestra, Rosie Flores, James King, Big Al Downing and Wayne Hancock, just to name a few. There have also been many of the great bluegrass bands such as  PastTimes Bluegrass Band, Dixie Highway, Bobby Hamm’s Male Pouch Express, Dick Saylor and Friends, the Sugar Sand Ramblers, The Forgotten Mountain Boys , Louie Setzer & The Appalachian Mountain Boys, Mark Miklos and the Raritan Valley Ramblers and The Still River Band, just to name a very few. 


The Hayride has become quite a “happening” on a Saturday night for many regulars who not only enjoy great country music but also look forward to their Saturday night dinner and “America’s music” with local friends and neighbors. It is a truly an American institution that harkens back to the rural agrarian, American Heartland of yesteryear; when every Saturday night local farm families gathered  to free themselves of their weekly toil and enjoy a barn dance.


As a live on-air radio production, the “Hayride” is carefully timed for its allotted two hour broadcast and is skillfully produced by Richard Evans who is also the show’s Em Cee. The two-hour show usually features a visiting country or bluegrass band in addition to the regulars, Each artist or group getting two sets. At the present time the show airs the 2nd and 4th Saturdays of each month. The house band consists of Bill Brandon, Al Kessel, Tom Mintz, Jim Thompson, Ben Lawson Chuck Pierman, and Bill Ponnett.   


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