Country music star Jean Shepard could have chosen Branson, Missouri, or maybe Gatlinburg, Tennessee, for her theater.

Instead, she chose Diamond City, Arkansas.

“This is beautiful country,” Shepard said. “I wanted to get in on the ground floor of something and watch it grow.”

The first female country singer to sell over a million records, Shepard was in Diamond City on May 22, 1990, to break ground for her 1,000-seat theater. It was to be constructed across the street from the Diamond City Country Club.

According to a story in the Boone County Headlight of May 24, 1990, Shepard received a warm welcome in Diamond City. Many people, hoping to get an autograph, carried copies of the singer’s albums. A photo showed Diamond City mayor Charles Alderton presenting Shepard with a key to the city.

Shepard, a Grand Ole Opry star and member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, explained her decision to build in Diamond City.

She didn’t choose Branson, she said, or any of the other places because they were getting too crowded. Money was not her top priority. Being happy was her top priority, and Shepard felt she would be happiest in Diamond City.

“So what are you saying?” Shepard replied to a question about the location. “This place is out in the middle of nowhere. I’m comfortable with it. I’m a small-town country girl and that’s where I want to be. I like Nashville for what it’s meant to me, but living there I don’t like. I’m a country person.”

Shepard was born in Oklahoma. For several years, she appeared on the Ozark Jubilee in Springfield, Missouri.

“The Ozarks is no stranger to me,” she said. “My ancestors came from here. We’re strictly country people.”

Shepard said her theater would feature traditional country music with traditional Grand Ole Opry stars like Johnny Russell, Skeeter Davis, Lori Morgan, Jack Greene and Billy Walker. She added that she would perform at the theater at least once a month.

Shepard was married to country music singer Hawkshaw Hawkins, who was killed in a plane crash, along with Patsy Cline and Cowboy Copas. A month after Hawkins’ death, Shepard gave birth to the couple’s second son.

Diamond City officials and business people were excited about Shepard’s decision to locate in their town. One expected the area to grow tremendously and for other country musicians to follow Shepard’s lead.

“With all the people we could have got to come here,” he said, “Jean Shepard fits our area better than any of them. I think she will bring some happy moments to our community through her country music.”

Shepard indicated that she would be looking for a house in Diamond City.

While Shepard’s theater was partially erected, it never opened.

Shepard died in 2016.

This is article is part of a series about Boone County history and provided by the Boone County Heritage Museum. The museum is located at 124 South Cherry in Harrison. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday; and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday. Closed on Sunday and Wednesday. For more information on the museum, call 741-3312 or email bchm@windstream.net.

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