Coiffed with a braided red wig and headband, Randy Sloter bears an uncanny resemblance to his mentor, country music icon Willie Nelson.
"I once took sixth place in a Willie Nelson look-alike contest," he said. "I've seen him four times at the jamboree in Wheeling, and he impressed me quite a bit."
So it's no surprise that a Willie Nelson tribute is part of the performance when Sloter takes the stage with local country music group, Randy and the Renegades.
His fellow band members include Wayne Venham on lead guitar, drummer John Wendell, Dale Richards on electric bass, and pedal steel guitarist Chuck Blake.
Randy and the Renegades are among several musical acts slated to perform during this year's free Music in the Park and Music on the Levee summer concerts series June through August in Marietta.
"Randy does make a pretty convincing Willie Nelson," Blake admitted during a recent rehearsal in the living room of Sloter's home on Robinson Hill Road.
SAM SHAWVER The Marietta Times
Randy and the Renegades, are from left, Dale Richards, John Wendell, Chuck Blake, Wayne Venham and Randy Sloter.
A resident of Mason County, W.Va., where he's the 911 director, Blake, 64, drives more than 50 miles to rehearse or play a gig with the group.
He's been playing steel guitar for the band for two years now.
"I used to play the banjo with a bluegrass band," Blake said, then held up his left hand, which was missing three fingers.
"In 1998 I was helping the local volunteer fire department with our Fourth of July fireworks and had an accident. One of the shells went off and I lost these three fingers," he said. "I quit playing music from 1998 to 2001."
With some encouragement from his wife, Linda, Blake took up the pedal steel guitar which is played by moving a metal cylinder, known as a "slide," along the instrument's horizontally-mounted strings.
"I loved it so much that I bought my first steel guitar, and then bought another," he said. "My wife started playing bass, and we formed our own group, 'Strings and Steel,' back in Mason County."
Sloter, 63, said he wasn't always interested in playing music, although both of his brothers began playing guitar while they were still young.
"I started here at the house, beating around on the guitar in 1997," he said, noting that his oldest brother, Buzz Sloter, encouraged him to learn how to play.
By 2001 he had teamed up with Venham and Richards, both 68, who lived within five miles of Sloter, and formed Randy and the Renegades.
"We've been playing together since then. Chuck joined two years ago, along with John Wendell as drummer," Sloter said. "And we all just really love country music."
At 58, Wendell, of Parkersburg, is the youngest in the group, but has been a musician most of his life.
He noted there are a lot of talented musicians who hail from the Mid-Ohio Valley, and many play during events like Music in the Park and Music on the Levee.
"For the size of this area we have a large pool of excellent talent," Wendell said, noting that many could be considered professional musicians.
Bands come and go, but Randy and the Renegades have now been playing for 13 years and are still going strong.
"I guess the biggest thing is that we're all good friends," Venham said. "We really get along well."
"Wayne and I go way back to the seventh grade," he said. "So we've been friends for nearly 60 years now. And we all have a good time together."
Sloter said their common bond is the country music they enjoy playing and sharing with others whether it's during Music in the Park or at local fairs and festivals.
"And we've always said, from the time we first started, that if problems came between us this band would just be over," he said.
Tawni Love, who chairs the Music in the Park committee, said there's a lot of talent in this year's lineup.
"And these are free concerts, open to the public," she said. "We want everyone to come, bring a lawn chair, and enjoy these Thursday night performances throughout the summer."
Sponsored by the Marietta Welfare League, the Music in the Park series has been a part of Marietta's summer entertainment for nearly 30 years.