From the Lawrence Welk show to the Grand Ole Opry, country singer Ava Barber has graced some big stages.
"I've had a lot of exciting things to happen, you know."
Ava found her voice at an early age.
"Well, my mother said I started singing in my playpen," said Ava. "I've always loved singing."
From Brenda Lee to the Beatles, Ava's early influences weren't country.
"I started out singing rock-n-roll."
However, thanks to her father and WNOX, Ava discovered country music . As a teen, she performed on the Bonnie Lou and Buster Show.
"I did that every week and it gave me experience being in front of the cameras."
It helped her land a gig on another local TV show, the Tennessee Valley Barn Dance.
"That's where I met Roger." He became her manager and husband of 40 years.
"He was the drummer. I sat in the audience and he played, 'Wipeout.' And, he wiped me out."
Looking for the next step, Ava's mom encouraged her to write to Lawrence Welk, an accomplished musician and creator of a television variety show.
"And I said, 'No mom, I'm not going to hear from him."
But she sent a letter and included some demos. Surprisingly, Lawrence Welk wrote back.
"I couldn't believe it. He said, 'Well, you'd be just perfect on the show.'"
Ava was bound for California.
"I'd never been on a plane before."
As luck would have it though, the union went on strike and they couldn't tape the show.
"And I said, 'There's my chance.'"
However, Ava did get a second chance. Lawrence Welk put her and Roger on the show.
"We did 'Country Road.' The audience applauded like they really liked us. And Lawrence Welk goes, 'Really, you really like these people? Well, I think I'll hire you."
The show turned out to be an eight year run. During that time, she recorded her first album, 'Country as Grits' followed by 'Bucket to the South.'
"'Bucket to the South' got to number 13 on the Billboard Charts and 12 in Canada. That was a real exciting time for me. "I think the highlight was doing the Grand Ole Opry which I would love to do again."
Back then, Ava had big dreams.
"I wanted to be Reba. I wanted to be Reba McIntyre, but I never got there."
However, she did have her own theater in Pigeon Forge.
"I just loved that theater."
And, she won praise from Barbara Mandrell to Andy Griffith.
"He said, 'You have one of the most beautiful voices I've ever heard."
More recently, Ava's performed in Branson. Regardless where music takes her, she'll never be too far from home.
Ava Barber, born in Knoxville, HomeGrown in Tennessee.
By the way, when Ava's not singing at gigs, you can find her at the Steamboat in Powell. She's part owner of the sandwich restaurant.