The Sons of the San Joaquin: (From left) Lon, Jack and Joe Hannah
For all the great Western acts lined up for the 2012 Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival in April, the name that jumps out at die-hard festival goers is the one that isn’t there: The Sons of the San Joaquin.
For only the second time since the annual festival’s inception in 1994, the three-part harmonic headliners will be absent.
No, they haven’t slowed down, said bandleader Jack Hannah.
“It’s about the economy,” said Hannah, 78. “(Festival Director) Mike Fleming said because of the economy, they have to alternate the headliners they pay the most. You can fly out one guy a lot cheaper than you can fly out four or five guys.”
Hannah, a retired schoolteacher from Visalia – and Santa Clarita City Manager Ken Pulskamp’s high school baseball coach – formed the group with his older brother Joe, 79, and Joe’s son Lon back when Jack was about how old Lon is now. He’s 57. Richard Chon on violin makes four and they usually travel with an accordionist.
Fleming said it wasn’t primarily about the money.
“There is a point at which it becomes important to rotate the acts,” Fleming said. “For the good of the festival, you’ve got to keep it fresh.”
Fleming, who traveled the cowboy festival circuit – yes, there is one – with the group New West, said he purposefully took a break once in a while from some annual festivals because the audience appreciated the group’s “return” the following year.
Fleming said the Sons’ agent told him the group had another gig that coincided with this year’s Santa Clarita festival, so he thought it would be a “win-win.” But Hannah said the city’s decision “disappointed us.”
Jack Hannah at the Hart Mansion in 2008
“Santa Clarita is one of the most vibrant and energetic venues that we do,” Hannah said. “It didn’t break my heart, but it really made me sad.”
“We’ll be on tap for next year,” he said, adding that he’ll miss the CD sales, too.
“We sell CDs (in Santa Clarita) like hotcakes,” he said.
The city has always rotated acts throughout the 19-year history of the festival at the historic Melody Ranch Motion Picture Studio – just never the Sons of the San Joaquin or balladeer Don Edwards.
Western aficionados who don’t like things to “change” will be relieved to know Edwards is in the 2012 lineup. He’s believed to be the only artist who has never missed a Santa Clarita festival.
But the last thing the city would want is for the festival to get stale.
“We wanted to be able to bring in new groups and fresh energy,” said Phil Lantis, the city’s arts and events administrator.
New to the main stage in 2012: Carin Marie
City spokeswoman Heather Leuning noted that two brand-new acts will be featured on the main stage for the first time: Carin Mari and the Pony Express, and Adrian-Buckaroogirl. Others who skipped a year or two, such as R.W. Hampton and Brenn Hill, will return in 2012, she said.
Fleming said the $220,000 festival roughly breaks even on ticket sales and sponsorships, and the local economy benefits when the hotels and restaurants fill up.
Watch a 2008 interview with Jack Hannah inside the William S. Hart Mansion in Newhall here: http://www.scvtv.com/html/notw250btv.html.