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Eberts to Mark 50 Years of Shows

By Staff | Oct 18, 2017

Leo McMillen

The Ebert Brothers Family and Friends group will be starting its 50th year of shows on Saturday, Oct. 21 at the Lincoln Theater, in downtown New Martinsville.

“It’s been quite an accomplishment,” the Eberts say of the milestone.

The Eberts grew up in West, near New Martinsville in Wetzel County.

In June, when the Ebert Brothers were inducted into the Wetzel County Museum’s Hall of Fame, The Parkersburg News and Sentinel ran a story on the musically talented family. Then, sister Pat Heslep shed some light on the group’s past, and achievements.

Heslep had said music has always been an integral part of the family’s history. Brother Norbert learned to play fiddle at a very young age, by listening to songs played on a battery radio, and playing by picking the melodies. Brother Ray played by ear learning to play guitar at the age of five.

“In his early teens he was gifted with a mandolin, and he mastered it,” Pat said.

In their early gigs, the Eberts were known as the Ohio Valley Boys, and so began their lifelong journey. The band was made up of Keith Anderson, vocalist; Jerry Drain playing standup bass, Norbert Ebert on fiddle and Ray Ebert on mandolin.

They played throughout the Ohio Valley. The brothers later formed a square dance band and played near and far. Later, Gary Ebert joined his brothers Norbert and Ray in the New Martinsville-based band.

“Norbert realized he (Gary) had talent and bought him his first set of drums. He later joined the group, and also provided percussion for theatrical programs,” Pat said.

Pat Ebert Heslep joined her three brothers in the band as a singer at about the age of 13. Ray and Norbert also sang as a duet.

“Their harmony, like most family members, was perfect,” Pat said.

During the 1970s the group did a West Virginia state park tour, being the first country music group to do so, Pat noted.

Norbert Ebert has since passed away, but he is remembered as the originator, the visionary, and driving force of the group.

In 1968, Norbert Ebert put together a variety show to raise funds to help with restoration of the Lincoln Theater, New Martinsville’s community theater. It has become the longest running show of its kind in West Virginia, Pat said.

Over the years, the shows have been a vehicle to raise money for many people in need, as well as local charities.

When Norbert passed, it was his wish to have this venue to continue and it has through the leadership of his brother Ray.

Many people from Nashville performed during the years and many shows were sold out and people had to be turned away, Pat said.

Pat has said that the siblings are “indebted to our parents who encouraged us and told us we had ‘God given talents’ and we had to use it.”

“(We were) never looking for or seeking fame and certainly not ‘fortune’; it has always been about family and giving thanks for the ties that music has provided.”

Current members of the Ebert Brothers are Ray (mandolin) and Gary Ebert (drums), Allen Neff (bass), Ron Hoskinson (guitar), John Elson (keyboard), Wyatt Kidd (fiddle), Pat Heslep (vocals and guitar), Todd Heslep (guitar, vocals) and Dana Murphy (steel guitar).

To kick-off the band’s 50th year, headliner will be Leo McMillen. McMillen is from Morgantown, W.Va. and is described by the Eberts as “a great singer and one of the nicest persons you will ever meet.”

McMillen is a regular at the Sagebrush Roundup held in Fairmont. Furthermore, McMillen used to perform with Johnny Russell in Nashville, for many years.

McMillen is a great friend of the Eberts.

Norma Long, who appeared on the Eberts’ first show, will also make an appearance Saturday night. The Eberts describe her as “still a great singer and a great person.”

Kevin Johnson, a young entertainer from St. Clairsville, will also join the star-studded cast. Johnson is a multi-talented musician, and a great singer, according to the Eberts.

The Oct. 21 show will also include all of the regulars, including Theresa Shreve – “a great singer, a great person, and just like family.” Joining Theresa and the regulars will be Wyatt Kidd. The Eberts describe the teenage fiddling sensation as “quite a young man.” Kidd also has mastered the banjo, mandolin, guitar, bass, and drums.

The Eberts describe their staff band as “the greatest group of musicians anywhere.”

“They are just like family.”

Controlling sound at the Oct. 21 event is Pat Henderson. Also present will be Donna Earley, lighting; Danny Billiter, stage manager; and Carman Harmon, emcee.

Showtime on Saturday will be at 7 p.m. Advance tickets are available at Witschey’s for $8. Tickets at the door, on Oct. 21, will be $9.