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Everything you need to know about the 2014 Rock County 4-H Fair.

Several headliners at Janesville fair started on TV

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Catherine W. Idzerda
July 17, 2014

JANESVILLE—Stardom first, touring later.

This year's Rock County 4-H Fair music lineup stands out for its preponderance of television celebrities. 

Three of the eight grandstand acts at the fair achieved stardom through television talent shows, a decade-old phenomenon that has changed the way stars are created.

The lineup also features two performers who are characters on a TV show about the music business, as well as a young Milton rockabilly singer—Zac Matthews—who was named best male singer-songwriter in the televised Texaco Country Showdown.

Country music long has been a staple at the fair, and that won't change this year. The genre will be front and center most days of the fair's run Tuesday through Sunday, July 22-27. The mix includes Lonestar, a band that achieved stardom long before TV's “American Idol” or “The Voice.”

The exception to the country rule is blues rocker George Thorogood, who performs opening night.

TV music stars start their careers singing cover songs. In an ideal world, those singers go on to find their own voices with new songs. Audiences, however, might like to hear the covers that made them famous.

Here's this year's lineup:

GEORGE THOROGOOD

Music: Blues and rock

Time: 8 p.m. Tuesday, July 22.

Cost: Gate fee and an additional $15.

How he came up through the ranks: The old-fashioned way by playing at bars, nightclubs and anywhere there was an audience.

Hits: After more than three decades of performing, Thorogood has had 17 hits in the top 50 on Mainstream Rock charts. His 2009 album, “The Dirty Dozen,” reached No. 1 on the Blues Albums charts and “Ride 'Til I Die” in 2003 reached No. 2.

Who will be there: People of any age who love blues and rock. Blues elitists might object to Thorogood's middle-of-the-road style, but he's been popular—to varying degrees—for more than three decades. As for those blues elitists, Thorogood's covers of blues greats have introduced people to Chester Burnett and Willie Dixon.

Song lyric that sums it all up: “I'm movin' and groovin' and I'm havin' fun night and day” from “Rocking My Life Away.”

SWON BROTHERS AND DANIELLE BRADBERY

Music: Country

Time: 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 23.

Cost: Gate fee and an additional $15 for both shows.

How the Swon Brothers became stars: Third place on the fourth season of NBC's “The Voice.”

Hits: The brothers' renditions of classic hits ended up on country, digital, Billboard Hot 100 and Canadian charts, often all at the same time. They include Bob Seger's “Here I Am,” Crosby, Stills Nash & Young's “Seven Bridges Road” and Loggins and Messina's “Danny's Song.”

Who will be there: Difficult to call. The brothers are genuinely good singers. Their beautifully harmonized covers will appeal to the over-40 set. But their contemporary country twang and fresh sound will make them popular with the younger country-pop set.

Lyric that sums it all up: Again, hard to call, especially when covers make you famous—not that there's anything wrong with that. “How Country Feels” would be the best fit.

How Danielle Bradbery became a star: She won season four of NBC's “The Voice.”

Hits: Bradbery's song “The Heart of Dixie” and the album “Danielle Bradbery” did well on country charts and on Billboard's Hot 100. The video for her song “Young in America” and the song itself trounced competitors in May.

Who will be there: Danielle Bradbery fans.

Lyric that sums it all up: “Whoa-oh, we're young in America.”

SCOTTY MCCREERY

Music: Country

Time: 8 p.m. Thursday, July 24.

Cost: Gate fee and an additional $10.

How McCreery became a star: Won the 10th season of TV's “American Idol.”

Hits: His albums “See You Tonight” and “Clear As Day” hit No. 1 on the country charts. His 2014 album “Christmas with Scotty McCreery” reached No. 2 on the country charts.

Who will be there: McCreery is known for his young face and grown-up voice, so look for packs of screaming teens along with thoughtful grownups who appreciate his voice. It's an odd mix but a good one for a singer who wants to be in the business long term.

Lyric that sums it all up: “I can listen to your sweet voice all night long.”

LONESTAR

Music: Country

Time: 8 p.m. Friday, July 25.

Cost: Gate fee only; concert is free.

How the band got famous: The old-fashioned way. In 1993, a booking agent discovered Lonestar playing in a bar. A grueling round of touring followed, and then came stardom.

Hits: Lonestar has more than two decades' worth of hits, including “Amazed,” “Walking in Memphis,” “My Front Porch Looking In” and “I'm Already There.” The band has had two albums hit No. 1 on the country charts and several others in the Top 20.

Here's how imbedded the band is: The songs that made Lonestar famous are sung by wannabe stars on “The Voice” and “American Idol.”

Who will be there: All ages—anyone who appreciates contemporary country that's true to its roots.

Song that sums it all up: “Down at the County Fair.”

STARS FROM ABC SHOW 'NASHVILLE'

Who: Chip Esten, who plays Deacon Claybourne, and Clare Bowen, who plays Scarlett O'Connor.

Music: Alt-country

Time: 8 p.m. Saturday, July 26.

Cost: Gate fee and an additional $10 for both shows.

Hits: For Bowen, “Black Roses,” “Casino,” “Change Your Mind” and “This Town.”

Who will be there: Alt-contemporary country music fans. Music on “Nashville” doesn't fit neatly into any particular country music mold.

Song that sums it all up: Theme song to “Nashville.”

ZAC MATTHEWS

Music: Rockabilly

Time: 7 p.m. Sunday, July 27.

Cost: Free with gate fee.

Hits: None yet, but people expect plenty from the young man from Milton who this year was named Texaco Country Showdown's best new male act in country music. He also tied for second overall in the competition.

Who will be there: Local supporters, anybody who appreciates original songwriting, and country and rockabilly fans.

Lyric that sums it all up: Matthews is too young and fresh to be defined.



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