There’s no better venue for live country music on a summer night in the Midwest than a county fair. Woodstock will deliver at 8 p.m. Friday, Aug. 4, when country music band and veteran recording stars Sawyer Brown perform at the McHenry County Fair, 11900 Country Club Road.
Formed in Nashville in 1981, Sawyer Brown drew national attention in 1984 by winning “Star Search,” the `80s precursor to shows like “American Idol.” The members of the band never expected to win the competition, but when the show came to Nashville, they decided to audition for the opportunity to make an audition video.
“We thought they were in no-way looking for someone like us,” said keyboard player Greg “Hobie” Hubbard.
But they were selected for the show, and after five months of winning the popular vote, they won the show, which came with a cash prize but no guarantee of stardom.
The five-man band got to work writing songs and touring, playing at county fairs – among other venues – across the country.
Throughout that journey, the group has had singles on the Billboard Hot Country music charts for three decades with 19 making it into the top 10, including chart-toppers “Step That Step” (1985), “Some Girls Do” (1992) and “Thank God for You” (1993).
“To know us, you need to see us live,” said Hubbard. “That’s what I love most. It exists for just that moment.”
Sawyer Brown has enjoyed a long, storied career – something Hubbard attributes to bandmates and their work ethic.
“It’s a great blessing. We’ve taken the work aspect seriously, but not ourselves,” he said, explaining that if someone begins to think too much of himself individually, there are four other people there to put things back in perspective.
Hubbard also credits fans with their longevity, saying, “It’s those incredible people who continue to listen to music and come to the shows.”
Four of the original five members are still with the band including: lead singer Mark Miller, Hubbard, percussionist Joe Smyth and bass player Jim Scholten. Lead-guitar player Shayne Hill joined the band in 2004.
The performance Aug. 4 will include many of the band’s hit songs and cuts off its latest album, “Travelin’ Band.”
“You want to hear what you know,” said Hubbard. “It’s all about having a good time.”
Advance tickets are available online at mchenycountyfair.com, $15 grandstand seating, $20 infield seating. Daily fair gate admission cost is $8 for adults 13 and older and $5 for senior citizens 60 and older, veterans with identification and children 6 to 12 years old. The Georgia Rae Family Band will open for Sawyer Brown at 6:45 p.m.