History, News

Life of country music comedian Pete Stamper celebrated

Pete Stamper was a legendary country music comedian and entertainer, as well as radio DJ on WRVK. Photo from WRVK.

When you think about Renfro Valley Entertainment Center and its legacy, you cannot help but think of Pete Stamper.  At the age of 89, Wallace Logan “Pete” Stamper passed away on June 8, 2020.  On what would have been his 90th birthday on July 25th, friends and family members gathered to honor the legendary country music comedian.  The ceremony was held at the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Renfro Valley.

For those that don’t know, Pete Stamper was born in Russellville, Kentucky to the late Alta Alma Baxter and Edgar Wallace Stamper.  He would grow up in Dawson Springs.  He was a Korean War Veteran, as well as radio show host on WRVK since 1957.  He worked at Renfro Valley since January 1952 until his retirement last year.  He was married to Minnie Lee Stamper and together they had several children: Jeffrey Logan Stamper, Rebecca Stamper Ruark, Hugh Britton Stamper, and Tracy Lee Stamper Laswell.  He had 5 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.

Pete Stamper in Army in Washington State. He would serve in the Korean War.

Pete Stamper worked on The Red Foley Show, Ozark Jubilee, The Porter Wagoner Show, and the Dolly Parton Show.  He was one of Dolly Parton’s managers in the past.  He performed on the Grand Ole Opry as well.  There is so much more in telling the story of Pete Stamper, that he wrote a book on his life as an entertainer called “It All Happened in Renfro Valley.”  Dolly Parton provided this introduction in the book:

“Pete Stamper is to me and many others one of the funniest and most original comedians ever in our business.  I love his delivery; he kinda sneaks up on you.  His humor is smart and funny, and that’s a great combination.  Pete is not only unique as a comedian but as a human being as well.  I traveled with Pete long enough to pick him apart if there had been anything there to pick at.  I think he is a perfect gentleman – respectful, reserved, quiet – and you would think he is anything but a comedian except for his funny twist on everything.  He reminds me a great deal of Will Rogers.  I love him.” – Dolly Parton

Pete Stamper with Dolly Parton, who he managed for several years early in her career. Photo from Pete Stamper.

In 2015, Pete Stamper became a member of the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame as an entertainer and comedian. He was also the 2008 recipient of the Stephen Foster Award from the Kentucky Broadcaster’s Association and the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame.  He also served on the board of the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and would volunteer often, providing advice for many over the years.

Pete Stamper worked as a radio DJ at WRVK for many years.

Yesterday’s ceremony included many stories shared with tears shed, but lots of laughter.  You see, Pete Stamper loved making people laugh and smile.  He was also not afraid to share his Christian faith and would ask others if they were saved.  Stories were told by Kathee Staton, Susan Tomes, Ann Lair Henderson, and Betty Lou York of the Pete Stamper on stage and off stage as they performed at the Renfro Valley Old Barn Dance.  Charlie Napier, Sam Ford, and Jan Walton spoke about working with Pete at the WRVK radio station.  Each of them remembered a dear friend that made each of them dive headfirst into working in radio broadcasting.  Pete Stamper always provided key words of advice, but also a joke or two.

Clarence Williams and Pete Stamper in their performance costumes while at Renfro Valley.

Charlie Napier recalled the last interview he had with Pete Stamper in February.  Below is that interview.

County Judge Executive Hal Holbrook, along with Mt. Vernon Mayor Michael Bryant, spoke about the kindness that Pete Stamper showed to many throughout the community.  Jointly, they proclaimed July 25, 2020 as Pete Stamper Day in Rockcastle County.  Charles Saylor with WRVK donated a black engraved plaque with a photo of Pete Stamper to the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame.

Charles Saylor (WRVK), Avery Bradshaw (KY Music Hall of Fame), Rockcastle County Judge Executive Hal Holbrook, and Mt. Vernon Mayor Michael Bryant declare July 25, 2020 as Pete Stamper Day. Photo by Jessica Blankenship.

At the conclusion of the program, the family of Pete Stamper was presented with a folded flag in honor of the Veteran, along with bullet shells from the 21 gun salute in his honor.  Then the sounds of Pete Stamper’s “Renfro Valley Heaven” played through the haunted halls of the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame as everyone realized that Pete is now among those that are living in Renfro Valley Heaven.  As one speaker recalled, Pete Stamper is in each of our hearts and we will be sure to honor his memory forever.

Pete Stamper memorabilia on display at the Kentucky Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Renfro Valley, Kentucky. Photo by Jessica Blankenship.