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Holtsclaw returns to Florence Sunday

Staff writer

In a way, Sunday’s performance at Florence’s Labor Day celebration will be a homecoming for Bennie Holtsclaw of Cedar Point. The 74-year-old singer and guitarist will perform at 4:30 p.m.

Holtsclaw made his first public appearance as a musician in 1972 at the Florence Centennial Celebration. His was the featured act for at least five years after that.

Building on that experience, the performer earned a reputation for quality renditions of country and gospel music.

For 35 to 40 years, he provided the special music for Sunday morning services at the Strong City Rodeo. He performed for most of those years while sitting horseback.

The farmer gave up farming in 1982 to focus on his music. He traveled for several years, performing all over the country.

He has several recordings to his credit. He produced three singles (45-rpm records) in 1977 and 1978, one in Dallas and two in Nashville. They included, “The Battle of New Orleans” and “Green Grass of Home.”

Holtsclaw also recorded four long-playing records including three with John Levitt of Wichita as producer. Levitt provided the backup musicians.

Holtsclaw has written 30 to 40 songs including the popular, “Daddy, I Want to Be a Cowboy” and “There’s a New Star Up in Heaven.”

In recent years, Holtsclaw selected a few of what he considered his best recorded songs and transferred them to two compact discs. He does not sell the CDs but instead asks for donations to a scholarship fund set up in remembrance of his daughter, Heidi, who was killed in a car accident in 1978.

Holtsclaw’s daughter Carol Demmitt is the lead singer for Reintarnation, a band that will perform for the Saturday night street dance at the Labor Day celebration. She, too, lost a child, Gabriel, in 2008. Memorials to Gabriel Demmitt go into the scholarship fund.

How does the family deal with these dual tragedies?

“We depend a lot on our faith to see us through,” Holtsclaw said.

He and his wife, Marie, also are avid visual artists. They attend class regularly at Butler of Marion.

Their work along with that of other members of the Chase County Art Guild will be on display at the Florence ambulance office from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Labor Day.

Holtsclaw continues to perform at local and area community functions including weddings and funerals. He performs almost every Friday at the Emma Chase Café in Cottonwood Falls.

“It makes a guy feel good when people come up and say, ‘Bennie, you’ve still got it,’” he said. “I won’t stop unless the Lord takes my voice away or he takes me home.”

Last modified Sept. 1, 2010

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