Up until 2022, there was a big red barn set way back from General Hutchinson Parkway. The sign identified it as a wicker furniture store, which had been closed for years. It led me to wonder why an old furniture store would have such a massive parking lot. So my research began!
The barn first opened in 1960 as a country & western club known as the Rainbow Ranch. When it opened the barn advertised almost 10,000 square feet under roof with a parking lot to handle 500 cars. Among its founders was local country music star Lee Purvis, whose group became the house band and were known as the “Five Owls.”
The Five Owls started performing locally in 1947 as the Whoot Owls. They had a two-hour daily live show on the popular radio station WHOO. Their fame grew and they released an album as Shorty Shedd and his Whoot Owls. The members of the band were: Shorty Sheed (base violin and lead singer), Jake Sheed (rhythm guitar), Lee Purvis (accordion and piano), Ray Kelly (violin), and Bill Faulk (steel guitar). Jim Wilson is sometimes consider the sixth member. He was the DJ on WHOO that played host to their daily show, and he would sometimes join in on vocals.
After the Rainbow Ranch opened, WHOO had a weekly live radio show hosted at the venue. Close your eyes and listen to the Whoot Owls “Barnyard Shuffle,” it will transport you back in time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvGgMtwZIr8
Over the next two decades, people from all over Central Florida flocked to the big red barn on weekends. There was a full kitchen that served barbeque food, nickel beer nights, a stage, a 150-person dance floor, and good music. In addition, the venue hosted parties, weddings, boxing, beauty pageants, and other shows.
In 1979 the Rainbow Ranch was sold and rebranded as The Joint in the Woods. The music changed from country-western and square dancing to rock & roll. Locals recall watching celebrities such as Chuck Berry (performed May 10, 1980), Bo Didley, and Pat Benetar perform there. “The Joint” venture only lasted a little over two years, shutting down in 1981. It opened as Rattan & Wicker World in 1983, operating there until 2018.
In March 2021 it was sold for $970,000 and in October 2021 new construction began on the front of the property and the barn began renovations. The “Rattan Wicker” sign was removed, revealing the throwback “Rainbow Ranch”.
The building still exists, but it was renovated and repainted in 2022. It is a bit hard to recognize at first, but it’s still there. A new building was constructed on the lot in front of it, obscuring it a bit more from the roadway.
It now is the home of Nidy, a sports complex construction firm.