Local legend Delmer Stovall passed away on Jan.25 at the age of 85. Stovall and his twin brother, Delbert Stovall, founded the Missouri Valley Boys band, which in the 1950’s gained fame touring Nashville and the Midwest. The band’s last original member, Stovall continued to play his guitar into his 80’s. For more than 50 years, Stovall owned Stovall’s Grove Music Hall in Wildwood, the country music haven that he co-founded, Stovall and his wife, Norma Jean, recently celebrated their 61st anniversary.
With Stovall’s passing, West County lost a piece of it’s musical history. Stovall’s Grove, known as “Home of Country Western Music since 1935, “is housed in a familiar white building at 18720 Stovall Lane and dates back to the 1840’s. In September 2009, it was registered as a Wildwood Historic Property. Stovall’s parents purchased the property in 1930, and to this day, family members live in the adjacent houses. For years Stovall’s Grove was famous as a stop for traveling country entertainers, such as singer Brenda Lee and John Hartford, composer of the Grammy winning hit “Gentle on my Mind”.
The interior of Stovall’s Grove seems unchanged; visiting is much like stepping into a 1950’s time warp. Current owners Liz and Dennis Elze preserve the music hall’s welcoming charm. “Dennis and Delmer were cut from the same cloth,” Liz Elze said. “Delmer wouldn’t have entrusted his legacy to anyone else other than my husband. In 1978, as a county police officer on is beat, Dennis Elze met Stovall and the two became fast friends.
“Delmer would let me play my banjo onstage once in a while,” Dennis Elze said. “He was a great guy-a simple man with lots of whimsical ways. Never wealthy, he just kept the hall going.”
“Stovall had a unique way of repairing his beloved Volkswagens, often explaining to onlookers that “poor people have poor ways”.“Delmer always said he didn’t need successful Nashville musicians in his band, because he couldn’t afford them,” Dennis said, “He wanted the guys who had struck out.”
“My dad loved being around people and telling jokes, said Kim Stovall Greco, one of Stovall’s daughters. “All his friends were like family to him. His legacy touched the hearts of all of us and he’ll be missed.” Stovall’s classic Martin guitar was silent for the last six month of his life. “He just didn’t have the strength to play,” Greco said.” Finally his lungs just gave out.” Stovall’s flower laden cowboy boots now are on display next to the Stovall’s Grove stage. The Missouri Valley Boys band continues to play traditional country music every weekend, while couples clad in Stetsons two-step effortlessly across the smooth dance floor.“I get a kick from customers who say, “We may not get here as often as we’d like but we’d sure miss it if it were gone,” Dennis said.
Now that Stovall is gone, he certainly is missed, but thanks to his legacy, the Stovall’s Grove tradition plays on.