Worth the trip to the Opera house

Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers at the Clifton Opera House

By Katie Christoff

Photo: Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers will perform at the Clifton Opera House on Nov. 28

The Clifton Opera House has served as a symbolic venue in the Historic Village of Clifton since it was built in 1893.

“It’s a charming building that was built originally as an opera house,” said Sue Chasnov, treasurer of the village of Clifton and an Opera House volunteer. “It’s been very important to residents here as far as historical value.”

Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers, a bluegrass band that frequents Southwestern Ohio, will make its annual year-end appearance at the Clifton Opera House on Friday, Nov. 28.

Joe Mullins, vocalist and banjo player for Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers, said the band usually closes the Opera House’s season, before the venue shuts down programming during the winter months.

“We kind of close their season and usher in the holiday season for the Historic Village of Clifton,” Mullins said.

The Clifton Opera House’s season runs from March 1 to the end of November. The majority of the season is scheduled programming, but Chasnov said they also rent out the Opera House for events such as wedding receptions, conferences, meetings or plays.

Originally built as a performance venue, the Opera House has also been home to village offices, church services and school functions throughout the years. In the 1980s, it was restored to its original purpose and programming was scheduled regularly.

Chasnov said they schedule mostly local artists, especially bluegrass musicians. The Opera House is nonprofit, so all they ask for admission to each show is a voluntary $7 donation.

“It serves as a revenue source for the village,” Chasnov said. “Money that comes in from shows helps us cover utilities for [the] village.”

The Opera House is a venue open to all ages, and it features a concession stand at which concertgoers can purchase snacks like chips, cookies, popcorn, ice cream and beverages.

“One of the ladies in town makes some really great caramel popcorn,” Chasnov added.

All of this contributes to the Opera House’s intimate and homey setting, according to Mullins.

“It’s like a big living room,” Mullins said. “It’s a small, old-time venue, and standing on stage it feels like you can touch [the] back row of the balcony. There’s not a bad seat in the house.”

Because of this small, intimate setting, Mullins encourages concertgoers to come early.

“We’ve sold out the past three years in a row,” he said.

In addition to this comfortable setting, Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers enjoy performing at the Clifton Opera House because of the huge bluegrass fan base in the area.

Mullins grew up in the music industry and now owns a network of radio stations: WBZI in Xenia, WKFI in Wilmington and WEDI in Eaton, collectively known as Classic Country Radio.

The Radio Ramblers is his third band, and features Mike Terry, Jason Barie, Duane Sparks and Randy Barnes. The band got together in 2006 and began playing local events sponsored by his radio stations.

“We quickly created demand not only regionally, but nationally and started touring nationwide in 2011,” Mullins said. This year, Mullins said, they’ve played shows in 25 states and three shows in Canada. The band has also performed at historic venues, including the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.

The band’s 2012 album, They’re Playing My Song, reached both Bluegrass Unlimited’s and Billboard’s Bluegrass Top Ten. Their song “Bottom of a Mountain” reached No. 1 nationwide in 2012, and the band was named the Number One Most Played Bluegrass Album on Satellite Radio in Dec 2012 and March 2013.

Mullins attributes much of this success to the Dayton region’s prominent bluegrass fan base and his radio stations’ following.

“With my years on the radio, I’ve kept the spotlight on bluegrass because it’s extremely popular with fans in Ohio,” Mullins said. “We also play quite a bit in Southwestern Ohio because we’re fortunate to have such a following due to my years in broadcasting.”

His radio network is based in Xenia, and he said the stations feature classic country and bluegrass, in addition to local news and event coverage.

The Radio Ramblers’ fifth album, Another Day From Life, was released on Sept. 30, so Mullins said they’ll mostly play songs from that new album, with the addition of songs that have been most requested over the years.

Since Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers have achieved national recognition, the Clifton Opera House is asking for a slightly higher donation of $12, although this is still completely optional. In addition, the band encourages guests to bring a nonperishable food item to supply the local food pantry, in the spirit of the holidays.

Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers will perform at the Clifton Opera House, 5 S. Clay St. in the Historic Village of Clifton on Friday, Nov. 28. The show will begin at 7:30 p.m., and there is a suggested donation of $12. For more information, please visit villageofclifton.com or radioramblers.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Katie Christoff at KatieChristoff@DaytonCityPaper.com.Page

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