Nevada Daily Mail
He's played music for audiences all over Vernon County, and in all sorts of other places, for that matter, for 61 years.
There's still a song in his heart and rhythm in his bones, but Marion Shrimplin says it's time to bring his never-ending concert tour to an end. Sort of.
Shrimplin is retiring from his regular gig at the Vernon County Senior Center, where he's been a musical fixture for decades, He's canceled most of his calendar, but he'll still sing at the center's birthday bashes, and he and wife Wanda know he'll keep singing and playing whenever he can.
Dozens of friends and family members came to a reception at the center on Friday, to swap memories and to wish the Shrimplins well.
"We've seen a lot of old friends tonight," Wanda said. "A lot of them are our dancers who always come to the dances."
The Shrimplins didn't know just how long he's been playing music at the dances, but it was well before the Neal Center, 301 N. Main, Nevada, opened in 2004.
"We used to have the dances later at night," Wanda said, but as the dancers grew older, "we had some who couldn't drive at night," so dances were scheduled earlier. Dances now begin at 5 p.m., the fourth Friday of each month.
Marion has played music at those dances regularly, and he's brought music to events at the Buck Run Community Center in Fort Scott, in nursing homes and at venues throughout the area that are far too numerous to count.
The 81-year-old Nevadan's first paying gig was many years ago, at the Chat and Chew in Nevada, making 25 or 50 cents that night.
He's played big band music, bluegrass, country... he's sung in a barbershop quartet. He's directed the church choir. And he's had a lot of fun along the way.
Wanda Shrimplin said that when they first married, Marion played at the local 54 Supper Club, where he became the house drummer.
Later, Marion had regular appearances at a venue in Iola, Kan.
"It was a big band sound, "where he played with Gordon Elliot and several other well-known local musicians. One member of that group. Wanda recalled, was "Barney the blind piano player. It was my job to get him in there to where he needed to be. So I'd take him by the arm and we'd go on in."
Marion also was one of the first members of the Nevada Community Choir when it formed in 1972-'73, singing with that group for many years. His last performance with that group came in the 1980s, when a medical issue arose.
Time waits for no one, and Shrimplin says his age is catching up with him. He's no longer able to schlep around musical equipment, and Wanda, who's been his roadie for years, is slowing down, too; so it's time to close the curtain on the main act; but still he knows the song in his heart can't be silenced.
"We'll still be around," Wanda said. Friends can expect to see Wanda at the senior center on Wednesdays, and in addition to occasional performances, Marion will continue his involvement with the Kansas Old Time Pickers and Singers. Marion's the secretary/treasurer; Wanda's the president.
"We'll see you around," Marion said.