Wendell Nelson recently received a 50 year award for his dedication and contribution to the Country Store Opry. He is the only living charter member of the CSO which was formed in February 1967.
Sharon Swick and Johnnie Sue Kimble of Petersburg, who are dedicated fans of the CSO felt that Wendell should be recognized for all of the time and effort that he has dedicated to the CSO over the last 50 years. At the 50th Anniversary celebration Sharon presented Wendell with a beautiful 50 year service plaque along with photo plaques of him in 1967 and 2017.
In 1966 Wendell was visited by Ernie Mullenax and Shirley Yokum who wanted to form a country music band and were looking for a good male vocalist. Wendell told them that he only sang bluegrass but Ernie convinced him that with a little work he could convert to country music.
Consequently, Wendell started singing with the CSO when the group opened in an old post office/country store building in Pansy, in February 1967.
[private] A couple years later he went to Nashville and recorded two records at Bradley’s Barn, a well known recording studio owned by Owen Bradley.
After moving to Maryland in 1970 Wendell worked with an agent, Marvin Myrtle, of Takoma Park, Md. and played different night clubs in the Maryland and Northern Virginia areas.
In March 1972, he had to make a decision between trying to make a career in country music or going to work for General Motors and decided to go with GM.
After settling in Baltimore, Md., Wendell continued to sing at the CSO as often as he could when returning home on weekends. He would often receive phone calls from Ernie Mullenax telling him that he just had to have him for the upcoming Saturday night show. Wendell loved to play his guitar and sing at the CSO and continued to do so as often as possible.
After retiring in 2001 and moving back to the Franklin area, he once again became a regular with the CSO.
Sadly his mentor, Ernie Mullenax, passed away suddenly in 2004. At this point Wendell knew that Ernie would want him to keep the CSO going and with the help of the late Rev. Edgar Null , who also played with the CSO, the Country Store Opry hit the 50 year mark this year.
The CSO will open its fall season on Saturday, Sept. 9, 7 p.m. at the Landes Arts Center in Petersburg.