JOHN ANDERSON ENTERTAINS!
C A T T L E B A R O N ’ S B A L L F U N D R A I S E R
WRITTEN BY CLAUDIA VIRGA | PHOTOS BY BONNIE WHICHER
The Cattle Barons’ Ball is one of the American Cancer Society’s annual fundraising events. Nan Cobb the Event Chair knew that entertainment would take this event to the next level. She knew exactly who she wanted. Given the western theme, being a local boy and his wife a two time cancer survivor; John Anderson was the perfect stud for the occasion. After a few calls, Cobb quickly realized they needed a professional who spoke the industry language to lasso this star. Susan Snell of Hound Dogg Entertainment gladly accepted the showdown and took on the position of Entertainment & Production Co-Chair. With Snell’s expertise she was able to secure Mr. Anderson and his band.
Sponsorship and tickets sales soared as Cobb predicted. In fact, the event which was held at Lake Receptions was sold out! Over 400 people of all ages corralled into the main ball room in anticipation of Anderson’s performance. As John Anderson took center stage, he dazzled the crowd with an array of songs from the 1983 award winning song of the year “Swingin” to new hits like “Freedom”.
Anderson, a native to Florida moved to Nashville at the early age of 17 with $40 in his pocket and a dream. His friends, thinking he was crazy, asked him if thought he was “Johnny Cash.” Despite the discouragement and disapproval of his friends his determination and focus not only lead him to his first National TV appearance in 1972 with Johnny Cash himself, but a successful 30 year country music career. Had Anderson listened to the naysayers he would have had a successful career as a plumber and the country music industry may have never been. We would have never experienced his talents and what a shame that would have been. His message is clear, no matter whether you are chasing your dream or fighting cancer like his wife, never let other people’s opinions derail you from your true calling. We were blessed to have him at this event!!
SUSAN SNELL/Person Of Interest
Age: 51 Hometown: Eustis Star Studded Lineup: Through her company, Hound Dogg Entertainment, Susan has attracted renouned musicians to Lake County such as John Anderson, Chris Cagle, Jason Michael Carroll and rising musician Michael Ray.
Interesting Fact: Organzied the Picks & Stix Music Jamboree, the first true concert in Lake county since 1984. The event was held at the Lake County Fairgrounds.
Local Ties: A lifelong Lake county resident, Susan was born in Leesburg and graduated from Eustis High School in 1980.
Susan Snell - Rock Star......
Brush With Fame: My brother used to drive an entertainment coach, so I spent my 18th birthday with Ricky Van Shelton. II've also met Jon Bon Jovi, Garth Brooks, Clint Black, Travis Tritt and Alan Jackson to name a few.
Proud Accomplishment: Three years ago I started Hound Dogg Entertainment with my partner Steve Ellis, who is a Lake County Firefighter. We named the company after our two hound dogs Snickers & Reese'. Our company does everything - planning events, providing stage and lighting for concerts and bringing in local and national musicians. Locally, our services have been utilized for street festival, arts & craft shows, and holiday events. It's a fun business that keeps my adrenaline flowing.
In Five Years: If I have anything to do with it, Lake County will become Little Nashville.
Desired Tombstone Inscription: "The party has moved to another location".
Small Town Or Big City: Small towns because you can walk to any street corner and see someone who knows your name.
Weakest Link: I'm not a behind the scenes person. I hate paperwork because it is very boring. That is something I have to make myself do. I am much better at communicating and being around people.
Guilty Pleasure: Chocolate, hence the names of my dogs. It's my comfort food. I can make all types of excuses as to why you should eat chocolate. It does have cocoa and dairy!
Best Advice: Never give up. When you live by this advice , it gives you the opportunity to move forward and create your way in life.
Last Book Read: I don't read books. Even if I tried, as soon as I closed the cover I would instantly forget what I just read.
Biggest Inspiration: My late father, James. He always told me I could acheive whatever I put my mind to. He instilled that value in me at a young age.
Meet the "Girls" of Hound Dogg Entertainment.
Susan Snell, Snickers & Reese', when it comes to your event.....
We're ALL Ears!
Every since Susan Snell was a young girl she had a love of music and live concerts. For the most part, the type of music didn't matter she just enjoyed the connection and the places you could go and never leave your seat. In high school Susan often thought of a careet as a radio DJ (morning show, of course). Well, as life has a tendancy to do.... it got in the way. Spending the majority of her work life in marketing, advertising & sales she was able to let her creativeside out and found pleasure in being around people. Still with a love for music it was a natural fit when she met Steve Ellis at a local battle of the bands fundraising event that she was organizing in 2009. In 2010 Susan and Steve combinded their experience and created SMS Productions, LLC. They now take local artists that have talent and desire to suceed and help promote them into the concert limelight. "We work with acoustic acts as well as full bands like Clemons Road, Rainer Berry, Ashley Baker, Neon Truckers, Jeff hurst and many more", Susan said.
2011 provided some firsts for SMS Productions and opened doors for new and exciting ventures. "SOLD OUT" & "RECORD ATTENDANCE" shows at multiple places during the past year provided SMS Productions with the opportunity to add NATIONAL ARTISTS to the lineup. Tht's right NATIONAL ARTISTS! "If your event is looking for something more we have it! This year we have contracted shows with Chris Cagle, Michael Ray, Jason Michael Carroll & John Anderson to name a few.
2012 brought yet another new addition to the SMS Family... The "Mobile Entertainment Unit". This mobile unit gives the opportunity to provide additional features of the entertainment biz while on the go. In other words, YOU Rock, WE Roll! The MEU rolls up to the event, drops it's 16' stage complete with sound & lighting. The unit is perfect for outdoor concerts, pageants, dancers, comedians, fashion shows, political forums, and more..... How about MOVIES under the stars.... the unit converts to a 16' screen for MOVIES in the park, or super bowl parties. "if it can be shown on a screen we can do it!!! WAIT, there's more... did I mention VIDEO GAMES. What a great way to spice up an event as a fundraier and/or private parties!"
2012 also gave us a makeover with a NEW NAME & NEW LOOK, HOUND DOGG ENTERTAINMENT! The new name & look comes as our direction & growth over the past 3 years has transformed us into "your" Full Service Entertainment Provider. Hound Dogg Entertainment is a family owned and operated business that includes "our hounds" Snickers & Reese'.
Make sure to check out their event page at amd feel free to attend our shows so that you can experience first hand what Hound Dogg Entertainment is all about. And remember... Hound Dogg Entertainment for a Howling Good Time!
Lake & Style Magazine
March 2013 Expo
Where we came from, where we are & where we are going
Growing up in Central Florida, Steve Ellis says it was always easy to find all types of music being played. Sometimes coming straight from his mom's car radio, he learned to love everything from country and rock to gospel, oldies and jazz. Now as an adult, Steve believes the love and respect he developed for music helped allow him the opportunity to follow his dream by founding Hound Dogg Entertainment.
His career and vision began in 2002 when he started running sound for local bars and artists and created SMS Productions. In 2004, Steve expanded his experience by coordinating shows for clubs and managing artists. This transition provided the opportunity to meet people in the music industry, and soon found himself doing more bookings and management. In 2010, Steve partnered with Susan Snell, a Lake County native who works closely with local and national artists. Susan books shows of all varieties and handles marketing while Steve focuses on the production and logistics side of the business.
More growth within the business provided some first and opened doors for new and exciting ventures in 2011. Sold out shows and record attendance at multiple locations provided both Steve and Susan the opportunity to add national artists to their lineup.
In 2012, they experienced a new addition to their family - The Mobile Entertainment Unit. The mobile unit gives the opportunity to provide additional features of entertainment while on the go. In other words: You rock, we roll!! The unit can pull up to any event and unload its sixteen-by-fifteen complete with sound and lighting. It is perfect for outdoor concerts, pageants, fashion shows, political forums and more. The unit can also convert to a giant movie screen for movies in the park and Super Bowl parties and can be used for big screen video gaming to add spice to fundraisers and private parties.
In 2012, the company also got a makeover with a new look and name, Hound Dogg Entertainment. The new name and look comes as the company's direction and growth over the past three years has made it a full service entertainment provider.
For more information about Hound Dogg Entertainment, make sure to check out their website, and feel free to attend any of their shows so you can experience firsthand what Hound Dogg Entertainment is all about.
Lake & Sumter Style
Flip-Flops & A Dream
Lake County firefighter Jeff Hurst hopes to write his way to country songwriting success.
Pursuing his dream of becoming a country music songwriter, Jeff Hurst knocked on Nashville’s famed Music Row doors not in Wrangler jeans, a cowboy hat, and boots, but wearing flip-flops. Even in the wintertime with snow on the ground. Say this with a little twang: Guess you can take the boy out of Florida, but you can’t take Florida out of the boy.
Considering the results, Jeff just might want to get those flip-flops bronzed…
Making Music History
posted by eric on July 23rd, 2010
Sold Out “Orlando Rocks” Concert Brings Local Talent to Main Stage
View complete photo gallery at Lake Magazine Gallery
Written by Blair Townley; Photos by Anthony Rao
One night your band could be performing during an open mic night at a local restaurant; the next thing you know you are performing before a sold-out crowd on the stage at Orlando’s House of Blues.
Local acts from around Central Florida were given that rare opportunity recently when they performed for the “Orlando Rocks” concert on July 17.
The concert marked the first time a show of local country acts was featured at the venue as well as one of the first main-stage concerts orchestrated by the efforts of SMS Productions and Jeff Hurst.
“‘Orlando Rocks’ is a show that singer/songwriter Jeff Hurst and House of Blues put together for [Eustis musician] Michael Ray to have his CD release party.Jeff also put together the other local acts to come in and open for Michael,” says Steve Ellis, the show’s stage manager and president of SMS Productions.
“We are hoping the show brings more notoriety on a local level that there are local acts that are just as talented as those on the national level,” Jeff Hurst says.
“A lot of people don’t have that opportunity and I think putting together a show like this opens that door for them.”
Firefighters Turned Musical Innovators
One could say the “Orlando Rocks” concert, and the musical dreams of local artists, became a reality when Steve and Jeff joined forces in 2002.
Steve began his journey into the music industry after fellow Altoona firefighter and friend Jeff asked him to help behind the scenes for some of the local shows he played.
“I came out to see him [Jeff] perform at local establishments some nights and then he asked me to help with mixing background music during shows because he was doing everything by himself,” Steve recalls.
“I told him I didn’t know what I was doing but he said he didn’t either. Jeff progressed from there in shows, with me doing the sound after taking some classes [including one sitting in on a digital boards class with Yahama]. I decided I wanted to get more involved with other local artists and places around town as well, which is where SMS Productions started.”
Among the services SMS Productions have provided are those of production management and sound engineer, services used by recognized artists like the Oak Ridge Boys and “American Idol’s” Danny Gokey.
Jeff himself became more involved in music eight years ago and is currently a staff writer for Dan Hodges Music in Nashville. He has written country hits like “23rd Psalm” and “Any Given Afternoon.”
“I’ve been writing country songs for about six years and have five songs I wrote on Michael Ray’s new album. I’ve also been playing for almost eight years and am self-taught on the acoustic and electric guitars,” Jeff states
“I didn’t have help in the beginning and I had to learn everything the hard way. That’s why I’ve always been open to helping everybody because besides helping them, the hope is that they will pay it forward.
Part of that pay it forward mentality included putting together the “Orlando Rocks” show that allowed area musicians Whiskey Basin from DeLand, Patrick Gibson from Clermont, April Philips from Apopka and Michael Ray from Eustis the chance to musically shine.
Getting Music Out There
The success of the “Orlando Rocks” show has encouraged Jeff and Steve to seek out more opportunities for the up-and-coming talent in the area.
“‘Music is the Laughter of the Soul’ is one of the sayings we have [at SMS Productions] so we can get your music out there. It’s true that the soul comes out with music, and musicians and songwriters bring out the soul in their performances and music.” Steve says.
Jeff hopes to also start his own music publishing company to where he can work personally with enterprising singers and songwriters.
One way local talent and get their names out in the community is through participating in open mic nights, specifically those on Wednesday nights at Gator’s Dockside in Eustis and Sunday nights at Ruby Street Grille in Tavares. Both are regularly attended by Jeff and Steve.
“Don’t be afraid to play a place for free,” Jeff states. “You have to pay your dues but you have to go out there and try it.”
To learn of upcoming shows with Jeff Hurst and SMS Productions, visit SMS’s Web site, or visit Jeff’s MySpace page at
Photos taken in House of Blues Orlando
Written by: LISA RAST
DINING & ENTERTAINMENT >FOCUS MAGAZINE
Lake County’s SMS Productions has a unique philosophy when it comes to promoting local musicians. “We find out what the artist wants and we promote them,” said Susan Snell of SMS. “We want to help local artist move up a notch.”Founder Steve Ellis began his career in the music industry as a sound engineer for local artist and venues. He soon moved into management and promotion when he discovered there was a need; many of the talented musicians in Lake County didn’t know where to turn to further their careers.
SMS handles everything from management, artist image, marketing, advertising, and booking local venues as well as state fairs, festivals, and full-blown concerts, such as the recent House of Blues Orlando Rocks Country concert.
Over 2400 fans showed up for a sold-out concert that featured local artist Michael Ray of Eustis, Patrick Gibson of Clermont, Whiskey Basin of Deland, and April Phillips of Apopka. The event was hosted by radio personality Bubba”Whoopass” Wilson, who said “It’ was a spectacular night. I had so much planned and ended up winging it because the crowd was feeling the good vibe.”
Ellis said House of Blues is ready to do it again; another Orlando Rocks Country concerts is in the works. SMS Productions is truly a one-stop shop for artist and venues. Beyond artist management SMS can also provide marketing/advertising, sound, stage management, and event planning. Artists and venues can contact SMS Productions through their website, or call 352-267-2505.v
Music to Their Ears…
Representing National Artists is Newest Change for SMS Productions.
Written by Blair Townley; Photo Provided
First they were local; now they have become national as SMS Productions has recently welcomed their first national artist, Landon Michael, to the SMS family.
The company has become a household name in the Lake and Sumter County communities for their “one-stop shop” business of sound, lighting and stage production for concerts and events.
The addition of marketing local artists, such as Michael Ray and Jeff Hurst, branched out the capabilities of SMS Productions and quickly brought them notice on the national music circuit.
“Having national and local acts brings SMS Productions back to being the one-stop shop business, which is what we have always wanted to be and this is just another avenue for that,” says Steve Ellis, Owner and Manager of SMS Productions.
“If there is a need for stage, sound and lighting for our national and local artists, we can provide that too. We can be a start to finish process for the show or provide as much or as little as the venue needs.”
Landon Michael, an enterprising country musician, learned of SMS Productions through a friend on facebook. He is excited to see what the future brings with the Lake County-based company.
His single, “This Ain’t California,” has already entered the Billboard music charts and he has a new music video playing on Country Music Television (CMT).
“I was very impressed with the philosophy of SMS Productions. They are planning to do what they can to help my career,” says Landon, via phone from a promotion stop in Missouri.
“It’s a great company and I can see why they are growing. I believe in timing and working hard and SMS definitely follows the same belief.”
The partnership with Landon has been part of the encouraging changes happening to SMS Productions since the first sold-out show in July at Orlando’s House of Blues.
Attendance for the “Orlando Rocks Country” show numbered 2400, with building capacity at 2200, and a second show in January set a new record for the venue at 2700 people.
“The other House of Blues called the Orlando location and asked how they received those recorded numbers and how they can do the same for the other locations,” says Susan Snell, SMS’s Entertainment Specialist. It was neat to be a part of that and House of Blues is already asking for more shows.” Although SMS was a part of the House of Blues shows, the credit should be given to Jeff Hurst who is the mastermind behind putting the shows together and of course there is no show without the performing artists… A great group effort by ALL!
SMS Productions has also been named a Florida contact with national management teams for artists ranging from George Strait to Mariah Carey. It has actually given us access to every major artist that is out there on every music variety, whether it is gospel, jazz, country rock, etc.,” Susan states.
As SMS artist Jeff Hurst gets the word out to national artists in Nashville, where he works as a staff writer for Dan Hodges Music, Steve and Susan have made the rounds at area jam nights to continue finding the newest in rhythmic talent.
The company recently signed local cover band Trainin’ Lucy and recently met Country rapper Colt Ford, who will be performing in Tavares in April.
SMS Productions’ services are also available to chambers and cities in the Lake and Sumter Counties for their large events, festivals and fairs.
Even as they become more known on the national music sphere, SMS Productions have always kept their company mission the same – to benefit the community and its people.
“We are highly involved in what is going on here because it is where we come from and that’s who we want to give back to,” Susan concludes.
In The NEWS
Hound Dogg Entertainment
Where it is always a good time!
Focus Magazine - Lake County Edition 2014