MCCLURG, Mo. – A decades-long tradition in a small Missouri town may have just been saved by a man who lives more than an hour away.

OzarksFirst spoke with the new owner of an old general store, where the McClurg Jam has been happening since the ‘90s. Before COVID began, people gathered there weekly for more than 30 years to play old-time Ozarks music.

90-year-old Gordon McCann was what you would call a ‘regular.’

“We play tunes 200-300 years old,” McCann said. “This is happy music and it really is.”

Before the pandemic, McCann drove from Springfield to McClurg every Monday night. All to play and socialize at the McClurg Jam.

“Well good people,” McCann said. “I’ve known these people for years now, the ones that are still living. A lot of them are gone now. A lot of the originals are gone.”

Those who are still around don’t just play music. They play card games and enjoy a potluck dinner with options like fried chicken and pie.

“I’ve seen some wonderful food,” McCann said.

Writer Kaitlyn McConnell has been checking it out since 2016.

“It almost feels like you’re just transported to another world,” McConnell said. “It’s silly to say that lack of cell service contributes to that but I think it’s true. Once you get this far into the country and you lose cell coverage, you have to be here in the moment. It really makes McClurg very special.”

When the pandemic began, the jam sessions danced to a bit of a different tune. The jam session only happened outside during the summer, which led to some weather cancellations. The potluck also stopped being offered.

These changes eventually led to the former owner selling the store and home right next to it. Tom Peters bought the property last week.

“People are very happy that I’m doing this,” Peters said. “I eventually want to retire there and I plan to spend weekends down there. It’s not just, ‘Oh, okay I’ll save the jam session, you know?’ I’m happy to own the property and I plan to use it in many ways including living there.”

McCann says he appreciates what Peters did, as he joked about his doubts.

“We’ll see what he does with it here,” McCann said. “You never know with these guys. We’ll see. I think we trust him. He knows better than to go against us. There’s too many of us who can put our foot down for him.”

Peters speaks very highly of the McClurg jam. For the last nine years, he has made the trip from Springfield to listen in.

“It’s one of those places that’s just special,” Peters said. “Why? I don’t know. Therein lies a dissertation maybe, but it’s just a special place. Very charming, grounded kind of place. Why is it special? I don’t know if I can put my finger on it, but you can know things and not know exactly why.”

As the new owner, Peters says he already has a plan for the next couple of months.

“We’ll get back inside the store which is part of the total charm of the place,” Peters said. “We got to get through this COVID surge and as far as I can tell we are at the peak of it right now in Southwest Missouri. As it starts to abate then we’ll resume the weekly, Monday evening jam sessions inside the McClurg store. I’m guessing sometime in March.”

Peters says after all of his years visiting and enjoying the McClurg Jam, he’s excited to finally own his first commercial building.

“It’s heartwarming to know that the traditions hopefully will carry on,” Peters said.