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John Jarrard benefit concert was music to their ears
Nice weather, new venue, hit tunes generate good reviews
Gary Nicholson sings Thursday night during the John Jarrard Foundation Benefit Concert. - photo by Tom Reed

Misty Armour drove all day to make the stage for the eighth annual John Jarrard Foundation Benefit Concert.

The Nashville singer-songwriter wrapped up a three-night gig in Mississippi on Wednesday night, then hit the highway early to make Thursday’s concert on the campus of Brenau University.

"This was really important to me," said Armour, who covered one of Jarrard’s songs, "Fearless" on her most recent recording. Being asked to perform on the same stage as songwriters such as Gary Nicholson, Roger Cook and Steve Cropper "was a huge honor," Armour said.

Thursday’s concert drew an estimated 1,200 people to a new venue on the lawn of Brenau’s Pearce Auditorium. Under clear skies, friends gathered to socialize, eat barbecue and take in the sounds of Nashville hitmakers.

"It’s great to hear the songwriters," said Mark Green of Gainesville. "You know the music but you don’t know them."

The new location got positive reviews.

"It’s a great setting," said Nancy Turner.

Organizers understandably fretted over weather in the weeks leading up to the event, but Mother Nature cooperated with a dry, mild evening.

"What a difference a couple of days make," Allen Nivens said. "It worked out — it always comes together."

John Jarrard Foundation Director Jody Jackson said organizers hoped to raise about $100,000, which will go to benefit a number of local charities, including Good News at Noon, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hall County and the Georgia Mountain Food Bank.

Jackson called the support for the event, year after year, "unbelievable."

"I’ve done a lot of charity events, but I’ve never seen such a tight-knit community that gets behind a cause like this," Jackson said. "I know it’s for their love of music, love of the community and love of John Jarrard and what he stood for."

Jarrard, a native of Gainesville, died in 2001 at age 47 in Nashville after a long battle with diabetes. Jarrard went blind from the disease in the late 1970s but went on to pen 11 No. 1 country hits.

"He did a little bit of everything, and I love everything he did," Armour said.

Thursday was Armour’s first spot on the bill, but she’s been coming to the benefit concert for years as a spectator.

"It’s just fun," Armour said. "It’s just a good time, telling stories."