IOWA HISTORY JOURNAL TOUTS OLD TIME MUSIC

In the November-December, 2014, issue of the Iowa History Journal, you will find a most amazing story about the work, dedication, and passion for Iowa’s (and America’s) old-time rural music ever written about the genre in the upper Midwest. It’s called “Preserving A Musical Heritage, Roots Music Thrives at Pioneer Music Museum and Oak Tree Opry.”
According to Bob Everhart, president of the National Traditional Music Association, “I was very surprised that the publisher of the Iowa History Journal, Michael Swanger, came personally to our Pioneer Music Museum in Anita, Iowa, to see what we were all about. The museum of course is completely filled with instruments, photos, Hall of Fame inductees, just about anything and everything that has anything at all to do with rural roots music. Quoting from the story, “Upon entering the Pioneer Music Museum, it feels as though you are being transported back in time at first glance of the massive displays of old instruments and music memorabilia housed within America’s Old Time Music Hall of Fame and America’s Old Time Fiddler’s Hall of Fame (which includes more than 150 fiddles). Every inch of the walls of the adjoining museums are covered with rare, donated instruments, posters, photos, records, autographs, celebrity-worn clothing and plaques, all of which are cherished reminders of the rich history of bluegrass, country, gospel, blues, ragtime, hillbilly, folk, Cajun, cowboy and western swing music that has cumulatively shaped Iowa’s sound. The focal point of Everhart’s museum collection is an early Martin guitar that served as the pattern used for a famous Martin guitar named after Jimmie Rodgers, who is known as “The Father of Country Music.” Everhart bought it at an auction in 1975 featuring items from the former Ogden Hotel in Council Bluffs, Iowa. “That guitar,” Everhart said, “was the seed for the museum.” Other items of note housed there include a Bob Wills fiddle, the suit that Bill Monroe wore on his last performance at the Grand Ole Opry, Jimmy Martin’s boyhood guitar, Roy Acuff’s stage jacket, Charlie Louvin’s Harmony guitar, Johnny Western’s guitar and suit from “Have Gun Will Travel” and Rhonda Vincent’s early mandolin. Everhart also displays one of Woody Guthrie’s guitars that was given to him by Guthrie’s widow in 1981.”
Swanger also focused on the Oak Tree Opry, a small performance center just across the street from the Pioneer Music Museum in Anita. Everhart, and his wife Sheila, purchased the old movie house some 18 years ago, and after much hard work, toil and tears, managed to get it into a kind of usable place to host some old-time music concerts. “It was hard work,” Everhart said, “and it took us a long time to get it into usable shape. It took years for us to get enough people coming to start paying our special guests a decent amount of money to perform. We still don’t do shows on a regular basis, mostly it’s every other Friday, but we manage to make enough in ticket sales to pay our regulars a small fee, and a higher fee to special guests. Sheila has a small concession stand that sells hot dogs and polish sausages among other things that also brings in a few dollars to help us pay for promotional costs, advertising, and mailings that we do. At any rate it certainly has attracted some very interesting people. Marvin Rainwater (Gonna Find Me A Bluebird) came down from his home in Minnesota on a regular basis, Claude Gray (Family Bible), Terry Smith (Far Side Banks of Jordan), the Roys (incredible nationally known bluegrass band), Kevin Black (Clint Black’s brother), have found the Oak Tree a good stopping place if they are driving down Interstate-80, even if it’s a week-day night, they can still pick up enough money to fill the diesel tank of their bus.”
Reverting back to another quote from the story, it is very revealing about who Bob Everhart is. ‘I wrote a song called “Dear Grand Ole Opry” that talks about how country music has changed predominately to a pop commercial sound that lacks sincerity and soul. The people who make it are determined to destroy the music of the past,” Everhart said. Offstage, Everhart also increased his efforts to promote traditional country music. He created, hosted and produced the successful PBS television show “Old Time Country Music,” which aired in 22 markets (including Iowa) and the syndicated radio program, “Old Time Music Hour” both of which aired for seven years.”
Everhart’s most ambitious project is his annual “National Old Time Bluegrass, Country, & Folk Music Festival, and Pioneer Exposition of Rural Lifestyle” Now in it’s 40th year, it has been a gravitating geographical point for those who like old-time acoustic music. According to Everhart, “We’ve had some amazing experiences inducting deserving individuals into America’s Old Time Music Hall of Fame. Patti Page came out of retirement to do exactly that. She was a very very famous pop singer but she definitely had that charisma necessary to sing a good country song. Her last words to us as she left the festival, was “Keep it country Bob & Sheila, there isn’t much of it left anymore.” She passed away two months after that happened. We wept. Others have made the trek to Iowa’s cornfield to be part of the preservation efforts. Bill Anderson came all by himself, without a band, sat on a stool all by himself, and captivated a huge crowd of well over 2,000 people. He was magnificent, and we consider him not only our friend, but a friend of traditional and classic country music. The festival is now in it’s 40th year, a record for being a successful event running for such a long time under the auspices of just one person. Dates for 2015, are August 31 through September 6. According to Everhart, “It runs from 9am to midnight every day on ten stages and hosts well over 600 musicians through the week. We even have three jamming stages that run much later than midnight, however we do not allow illicit drugs or liquor to spoil the fun. We’re ‘real’ and intend to stay ‘real’ and that’s the secret behind why America’s traditional and classic country music will never die.” More information about Everhart and the NTCMA at http://www.ntcma.net

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SAVING AMERICA’S RURAL MUSIC

When American Profile Magazine did a story on Iowan’s Bob & Sheila Everhart, they started with an interesting analogy. “When Bob Everhart plays ‘Down In The Valley’ he hears the voices of pioneers. And those voices have inspired a museum, two halls of fame, and a festival to honor America’s traditional and rural music.” Everhart is quick to add to that. “The festival we do is now in its 39th year. That’s a record for Iowa, and for the kind of music we present, it’s a record for America. When I say the names of some of our presentations, like a guitar pull, or a harmonica howl, a banjo jamboree, a dulcimer-do, an autoharp gathering, a poet’s corner, a fiddler’s jubilee, even a mandolin pick-in, it fosters images, and in many cases definite memories, of what America’s music used to be like. Doing this for 39 years has created a situation where we now need seven days and ten stages to accommodate the over 600 performers. What’s even more amazing is where they come from.”
Everhart, and his wife Sheila, work on the event the entire year. According to Sheila, “This is a monumental task for us, just scheduling that many performers can be a nightmare, but Bob has been doing it for a very long time now, and he enjoys each and every performance, especially those that engender the continuation of what America’s early rural music was really like.”
“America’s rural music is the most discriminated musical genre in America,” Bob is quick to point out. “It has been under the gun so many times it’s a wonder it even still exists. When recordings and radio first came into being, the only publishing licensing agency was ASCAP, who refused to license the rural old-time mountain music for radio airplay, because they felt it was unfit for human consumption. Perhaps they weren’t listening to ‘America’ back then, and in many cases they do not listen to ‘America’ today. That’s why we work so hard keeping this particular event alive and well. We formed a 501(c)3 non-profit agricultural exposition organization way back in 1976, to help us keep the music alive. We’re kind of like a church with our own flag. Our many different Christian churches is of many stripes, but the stars of our flag are the ones that still keep the light of America’s musical heritage unextinguished.”
The Everharts are recording artists for the prestigious Smithsonian Institution. Created by Moses Asch in New York City, it is now the most respectable record label in the world that maintains America’s musical heritage. The Everharts feel the same way. “We’ve recorded six albums for the Smithsonian, and that has led us to creating a program we call the “Traveling Museum of Music.” Working on it, and researching it for two years now, this is a program of the music that was popular, especially in rural America, during all of the wars America has been in. It’s an incredible historically accurate, sometimes funny, sometimes sad, most times very meaningful entertainment suitable for all ages, especially appreciated by an older audience. That’s exactly how we continue our work saving America’s rural musical heritage.”
The festival the Everharts conduct, as volunteers, takes place August 25-31, 2014, at the Plymouth County Fairgrounds, in LeMars, Iowa. “LeMars is known as the ice cream capital of the world,” Everhart said, “so we are very pleased to be in a location that has air-conditioned buildings that can accommodate the ten stages we have, everything from a Log Cabin front porch, to a quiet little nook in front of an old wind mill in what we call a Pioneer ghost town. That’s where the Carl Sandburg Readings, poetry, autoharpists, storytelling, dulcimers, and zither playing and quiet music takes place. What a very interesting way to hear the music calling from the prairies of our ancestor’s past. It includes Native Americans too, tipi’s and all. Our main stage which accommodates right at 2,000 fans is our major air-conditioned stage.”
Add the many professional performers that come from around the world and it becomes very international in scope. In 2014 the number one country singer from Japan, Hank Sasaki, and the Queen of Country Music from Denmark, Tamra Rosanes, meet up with Lucky Susan Crowe from New Zealand, and Gretta Elkin, the Yodeling Queen of Ireland. Everhart adds with a chuckle, “We have an incredibly large international presence at this event. We have five performers coming from Canada. But ‘that’s not all,’ as the old-time rural music makers would proclaim, we have special guests like John Carter Cash, the only child of Johnny & June Carter Cash. Larry Cordle the guy who wrote ‘Murder on Music Row’ a song very dear to the hearts of our rural audience. Stephen Pride,. the younger brother of Charley Pride, and LuLu Roman, one of the stars of Hee Haw, all making the trek to the corn fields of Iowa, to re-discover what rural country music is all about. Even bluegrass music is well represented by the likes of Alabama’s David Davis and the Warrior River Boys, and Goldwing Express from Branson, and Larry Gillis and Swmapgrass from Georgia. Nashville songwriter, Terry Smith says it best of all, in the words of his song, “The Far Side Banks of Jordan,” which was a huge hit for Johnny & June Carter Cash.”
According to Smith, “That one song I wrote touches the hearts of long-time married rural people, because it says with a very powerful love, the very same thoughts they have for each other.” Smith has been coming to the festival for the last 17 years. “This is the only legitimate musical event I am aware of that keeps the music in the original rural, very heart-felt, sincere style that made it so popular from the very beginning of America, and it’s still alive today, here in Iowa.”
The Everharts feel much the same way. “When America was just a young’un in the late 1700’s, and growing fast, there wasn’t so much an opportunity to be ‘from’ somewhere so much as there was to be ‘going’ somewhere. Agriculture was, and still is, one of the most important industries in America. That’s why we even have the University of Iowa’s “Mobile Museum” containing displays relative to Iowa’s ancient agriculturists, from the far distant past right up to the present with us. We invite every school in Plymouth County, and all counties surrounding Plymouth, to send their kids to us for a field day of incredible history as revealed in the old songs. Bluegrass music legend Bill Monroe (who by the way found his wife in Iowa) labeled this musical history the ‘ancient tones.’ We even make stage time available for the very beginning performer,” Sheila noted, “all they have to do is call us at 712-762-4363 and we’ll find some spots for them.”
There’s also a huge arts and crafts vendor area at this non-profit event, the only fund-raiser the group has for the upkeep of their Pioneer Music Museum, Halls of Fame, and Oak Tree Performance Center. “We even have a huge flea market,” Bob Everhart adds. “We somehow find room for everyone. Even though we are an acoustic musical event, we utilize electricity to hook up the many RVs that come and camp during the entire seven days. We also have some of the best ‘rural’ food you’re likely to find anywhere, everything from bar-b-que ribs to delightful Native American foods.”
The Everharts have a website at http://www.ntcma.net

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BANJO JAMBOREE SET FOR THE ‘STATE WITHOUT BANJOS’

     LeMars, Iowa…..Perhaps the only well known banjo player in the entire state of Iowa, is Bob Black, a former member of Bill Monroe’s Kentucky Bluegrass Band.  According to Bob Everhart, President of the National Traditional Music Association, headquartered in Iowa, “We seem to have a real ‘lacking’ of banjo players in our state.  We do a lot of old-time acoustic music, and we now have a brand new group in Eastern Iowa starting a bluegrass club, however we are still far behind other states in building a bluegrass presence in this genre of music.  Bluegrass music is actually the very best of traditional country music combined with the very best of the instruments that play it.  Mandolin, fiddle, guitar, bass, and the obvious ‘major’ instrument of bluegrass music, the banjo.  It can be played many different ways, however the finger picking method created by Earl Scruggs for Mr. Monroe, is the ‘standard’ by which all bluegrass banjoists strive to attain.  Another instrument that draws heavily from it’s old-time country ancestors is the Dobro, a kind of Czech created slide guitar that originally developed popularity from Hawaiian style playing.  Put it all together and you have an incredible complimentary style of playing, and a musical genre that is strictly, all American.” 

     Everhart has been a traditional music mover and shaker in the state of Iowa ever since he started his acoustic music festival in 1976.  He records for the Smithsonian Institution, with six successful releases (one a Grammy nomination), as well as another six albums on Prairie Music Records.  “I love bluegrass music,” Everhart said at a recent gathering in California.  “It’s a very American musical art form, however our homestate of Iowa is a little slow in adopting it as a genuine popular musical genre.  Our population is also leaning toward the older side of fifty, and that means they probably like Lawrence Welk more than they do Bill Monroe.  However, Monroe has an interesting ‘connect’ to Iowa.  This is where he met his wife, while performing his early mountain music on KFNF radio in Shenandoah.  Actually that was his first ‘paid’ performance, so we’re a little bit proud that happened for him and his brother Charley, but we’re a little disappointed that we haven’t been able to advance the ’cause’ of bluegrass  music more than we have.  There are several bluegrass festivals in Iowa, but they usually rely on out-of-state bands to make it work.  We’re doing the same thing at our acoustic music festival this year in LeMars, Iowa.  Now in it’s 39th year, we’re on overload so far as regular old-time country, folk, mountain, and cowboy music is concerned.  One of the ways we’d like to encourage bluegrass music in our state, is to have an additional program called the “Banjo Jamboree” at our event.  Dates for the festival is Aug 25-31, with a free gospel warm-up show and pot-luck on August 24th.  That’s eight days of acoustic music, and it’s still a mind-blower after all this time.  We start at 9am in the morning and quit at midnight every day, and have ten stages for performers.  We still can’t get everyone on that wants to be on.  Tons of celebrities come to support what we are doing, keeping old-time  acoustic music in general alive.  This year, however, we have an open invitation to banjo players to come share with us.  We want to have performances, workshops, contests, jam sessions, anything we can do to create interest in this instrument.  We’ve had a little help from an unlikely source, the Great British Banjo Company.”

     The Great British Banjo Company are the leaders of the pack in the United Kingdom.  According to them, “There was a time when the banjo was pretty much relegated to country, mountain, and bluegrass artists, but the popularity of the instrument is growing internationally, with more and more artists picking up the banjo for its beautiful sound, easy to find, and it’s versatility and different styles of playing.  Even though we continue to live in the trough of recession and music stores and companies have been struggling, the global guitar, and fretted instruments, which includes the banjo, has a market somewhere near $1.3 billion dollars.  The biggest banjo maker-dealer-seller in the USA is Deering Banjo, who just made its 100,000h model.  There is a great resurgence of interest in the banjo in Britain these days.  Banjos are cool again, and we have been overwhelmed by interest in our product.  The banjo is being played by bands in folk, bluegrass, country, old-time, pop, even in some rock bands.”

     According to Everhart, “We’d really like to see the many different styles of banjo playing at our festival this year.  Bluegrass 5-string of course, but frailing banjo, drop-thumb banjo, tenor rag-time banjo, 4-string banjo, there’s many options and we’re prepared to welcome each and every one of them that cares to be with us.  As a matter of fact we are going to start the festival with banjos, with one of the fastest players alive, Larry Gillis, who heads up Swampgrass, from Georgia.  David Davis and the Warrior River Boys will also be with us on Monday, Aug. 25th, and his banjo player, Robert Montgomery is an incredible banjoist from Alabama.  Perhaps the most interesting of the participants is Ronny Cox, not a banjo player, but a guitarist who as an actor portrayed the guitar part of the song “Dueling Banjos” in the movie ‘Deliverance.’  We’re going to have workshops through the entire week of the festival, at two locations, and of course the banjo will be part of that on a daily basis, featuring some of the best banjo players from around the world, including Jenny Blackadder from New Zealand a noted 4-string tenor banjo player.”

     More information about the ‘Banjo Jamboree’ and it’s participants is available at http://www.ntcma.net/  The festival is a fund raiser for the Pioneer Music Museum, located in Anita, Iowa, which is a 501(c)3 non-profit endeavor at saving the upper Midwest’s old-time acoustic music, all of it, one song at a time. 

    

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Blake Shelton Hears From Old Farts & Jackasses

When Blake Shelton made the incredibly ignorant and stupid statement that old people who didn’t buy his cd’s and concert tickets were ‘old farts and jackasses,’ he made it perfectly clear how very little he understands the music world, the evolution of music, the history of music, the business of music, and the longivity of music, especially ‘country’ music.
Fact number one deals with Mr. Shelton. His initials are B.S. a perfect fit for him because that’s exactly what I think he is full of. As President of the National Traditional Country Music Association, since 1976, I not only take offense to his insults, the ‘record’ needs to be set straight on his lack of intelligence. The music business is ‘down’ all over right now. Nothing is doing as good as it has been in the past, especially in country music where today’s ‘sound’ is pretty much very similar in style and content, with little if any ‘connects’ to where it came from. Abandoning the roots of anything certainly means the death of that enterprise, no matter what it is. “Country’ music came from rural America. The music, the songs, the stories, the plaintive pleas were, and still are, the main reason for it’s existence. Rural America IS ‘country’ music, not the urban comfort of ‘judging’ another’s talent from the comfort of a million dollar studio set. Anyone with enough money can buy a ‘male vocalist of the year’ award, anywhere, anytime, anyday. To be the kind of non-vocalist that Mr. Shelton is, as Willie Nelson so plainly pointed out….”he lip syncs his songs” means only one ‘true’ thing about Shelton. He can’t really sing. If anyone knows the reality of this, Shelton does. How true it is.. “If you got the money honey Nashville’s got the time… couldn’t be truer, as Shelton has discovered. Everything is for sale in Nashville, including Shelton.
Mr. Shelton believes the ‘only’ record buyers today are the young. He couldn’t be further from the truth. The biggest ‘bloc’ of potential record buyers in America today is without a doubt the ‘baby boomers.’ Why? Because they are now retiring. Most have retirement plans meaning they have money to spend, unlike a younger America that is having trouble even finding a job. Are they buying into the ‘phony’ world of a pseudo-country music world? No, they are not. Are they buying into anything? Sure, those things they want to do, want to see, want to hear.
So, who do they want to hear? Ask Ray Price. He took a very strong stand against Shelton’s ignorance and insults. His fans are just as strong, just as large, just as loyal as they have ever been. Mr. Price has ‘paid his dues’ building his fan base, year after year with good recordings, good concerts, and good manners, and a totally good ‘honest country’ approach to the music he loves. Has Shelton done this? Absolutely not. If Mr. Shelton believes ‘paying his dues’ is how much he spends buying a record contract or buying a title, or buying a spot on a pretty much unwatched television show, he’s mistaken. He has no fan base, and the ‘numbers’ he proposes, or his recording company proposes, or even radio charts, are simply a way you can ‘buy’ into music in America today. That means it’s not honest, it’s not true, it’s phony.
America lost a big chunk of ‘honesty’ in the radio business when government allowed huge corporations to buy all the radio stations they wanted in any location. What that means is we only hear what that corporation wants us to hear. It also means that any kind of charting activity is bought and paid for before the records are even in the stores. Ray Price never had to do that, ever, but it is obviously the ‘method’ that Shelton claims is taking the place of ‘real’ country music. His opinion that music must ‘evolve’ to stay alive is certainly interesting, but not true. America has never lost it’s interest in anything that is truly ‘entertaining.’ The groups, associations, clubs, gatherings, jam sessions, festivals, organizations, meetings, of just one genre of music, ‘Bluegrass,’ makes it very clear that Shelton has no idea what he is talking about.
Shelton is a reflection, a very clear one, of what it was like when radio came into existence all those years ago. A licensing agency was immediately set up to ‘collect the money’ for playing recordings on radio. Known as ASCAP, like Mr. Shelton, this group took it upon themselves to be the ‘judge and jury’ of what music the American public could hear on radio. Guess what? They banned anything they considered hillbilly, or mountain, or folk, or downhome rural music. Why? In their own words they didn’t feel the American public should be exposed to such vulgar music. Wow, Mr. Shelton, this is the very roots of the music you say you record. Tons of 78rpm records were put out, very plainly marked “not licensed for radio airplay.” It was some of the very best of America’s rural music. Because of that incredible bias and discrimination BMI was formed to take care of more genres of music.
America is still the land of the free and the home of the brave, and both of those words, free and brave, are still a very intimate part of America’s rural music today. No, Mr. Shelton, America’s rural music will not shrivel up and die like you want it to. We still grow your food, we still provide you with sustenance, we still make it possible for you to even exist.
You owe America a huge apology for your ignorance. You owe every baby boomer in America an apology for your ignorance. You owe every ‘true’ country music artist, composer, performer, promoter, and preservationist an apology for your ignorance. I record for the Smithsonian Institution. We do not cater to ‘charts’ like you do. We continue to do our work quietly, with steadfast purpose, with truth and honesty in our hearts. You can’t say that can you Mr. Shelton? Your world is the world of make-believe, the phony world of making something other than what it really is, creating a television image that’s nothing more than a fleeting glimpse of what money can buy today. My recordings with the Smithsonian will stay there into perpetuity. Can you say the same for your recording company? No you cannot. Why? Because you are already a victim of your own stupidity. Yes, Mr. Shelton, you are already dying just as you predicted you would be. I’m so glad your initials are B.S. In the rural country, where I’m from, that’s perfectly fitting.
Please visit our website at http://www.ntcma.net to find our more about what we are doing to ‘save’ America’s great rural music, not destroy it as you wish.
And especially for you Mr. Shelton, here’s a little video of a song I wrote in 1980, because I already knew the phonies like you, who ‘buy’ your way in, were on the way.

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MASTER INSTRUMENT PICKERS ‘PICK’ IOWA

     “Every year, at our festival of old-time counry music, brings new surprises.”  Bob Everhart is the Director of the 36th annual “National Old-Time Country, Bluegrass, and Folk Music Festival, held in America’s most ‘rural’ state, Iowa.  “We’re in our 36th year, and this year appears to be as interesting as any we have ever done.  Going over the participants, and the days they are going to be with us between August 29 and Sepember 4th, proves very interesting indeed.  We have an incredible number of super-pickers coming this year.  By that I mean we have instrumentalists coming that have not only excelled on their chosen instrument, but have attained an envious reputation of high quality musicianship.  Some are coming for Hall of Fame inductions, some are coming for Rural Roots Music Commission Awards, and some are coming just to ‘pick.’  We’ve always had great celebrities with us, but this year seems to be one of those stand outs.  Jim Ed Brown, Helen Cornelius, and Jeannie Seely are coming from the Grand Ole Opry for Hall of Fame inductions.  It’s the ‘super-pickers’ however, that strike me as being the very best in their fields.”

     The festival, which takes place at the Plymouth Conty Fairgrounds in LeMars, Iowa (very near Sioux City), boasts seven days of old-time acoustic music on ten separate sound stages.  Over 600 participating musicians take part every year, playing in jam sessions as well as backing other artists, or just plain pickin.’  According to Everhart, “We’ve always had super pickers at this event, many of our local and regional players are very high in the esteem held for great pickers.  This year however is a challenge, and it runs the gamut for the entire seven days.”

     “Starting on Monday, August 29, with a super ‘setting the stage’ for the entire festival, are three incredible pickers, “Everhart elaborated.  “Kicking off the Monday show, is one of America’s premier banjo players, without a doubt in the top five internationally.  Little Roy Lewis, from Lincolnton, Georgia, of the very famous Lewis Family, begins our week-long trek in master pickers.  Little Roy is well known for his comedic pranks at bluegrass festivals, but it’s his incredible banjo playing that has placed him at the top of banjo players everywhere.  Watching him perfrom is in itself difficult, simply because he is so fast, so entertaining, and so much fun.  Joining him on the Monday “Super-Pickers” show is another instrumentalist legend, Tut Taylor from Wilkesboro, North Carolina.  Tut developed an entirely different way to play the Dobro.  Normally it is played much like the banjo, with finger picks.  Not so with tut Taylor.  This incredibly talented man developed his own style of Dobro picking, using a flat pick.  Tut says, “I didn’t know the difference, since I had only ‘heard’ my favorite pickers, and then duplicated what I heard with a flat pick.”  He is also going into America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame while he is in Iowa.  Also on the Monday billing, is Eddie Pennington, from Princeton, Kentucky.  Mr. Pennington will also go into the Hall of Fame.  An old friend of Ike Everly (father of the Everly Brothers) he’s a ‘Merle Travis’ style picker, and when we asked Smokey Smith, a close personal friend of Travis, if Pennington was as good, Smokey said…”he’s better,” so we’re really happy to be able to start our festival week with ‘super pickers’ which makes for a very entertaining and enviable program.”

     “The ‘Super Picker’ program doesn’t end on Monday, it’s just getting started.  According to Everhart, “on Tuesday, we have a really distinctive and different approach to super pickers.  The Link Family from Lebanon, Missouri, is a family where everybody picks.  Bluegrass being their forte, they really shine on instrumental leads in that genre of music.  Also on that same bill is Roger Kenaston, another Dobro player of the first order, who plays much the same way as Tut Taylor does.  Roger is one of our locals from Lyons, Nebraska, and we get excited when he starts playing his instrument.  On Wednesday, we’re going to leave the ‘pickin’ to a very old instrument, the lap dulcimer.  Fred Techau from Silver City, Iowa, will be the presenter, and on Thursday, another special guest from Nashville, Tennessee, will perform on the acoustic guitar.  He’s well known for his ‘jazz’ licks, but Tom Smith is a master of his instrument, and we’ll no doubt hear all kinds of outrageous acoustic guitar picking from him.  On Friday, another regional performer, John Duttweiler from Burlington, Iowa, will strut his stuff, and then on Saturday we’ll have an incredible treat from one of the most innovative guitarists in existence.  Bonnie Guitar, from Soap Lake, Washington, the very one and same, that recorded “Dark Moon” is also one of the most distinguished guitarists in America.  It was Bonnie Guitar that tutored two groups to huge stardom, the ‘Fleetwoods’ and the ‘Ventures,’ both groups well known for their ability to ‘pick.’  Difficult as it might seem to ‘top’ all these pro-pickers who come from all parts of the United States, we have the ONLY three-time world champion picker from the Winfield, Kansas, competitions.  Jason Shaw will be with us on Sunday.  Winfield entrants can only defend their championships once every five years at this prestigious competiton, which means Jason Shaw, from Lincoln, Nebraska, had to win the championship every five years.  He’s the only one able to do that in the history of the Winfield competitions.”

     There’s also music competitions at Everhart’s festival.  Prizes are not high, according to Everhart.  “We don’t really do contests just to give away a lot of money.  We do contests so aspiring performers, pickers in paticular, can get some idea how they are doing as a performer, as a picker.  We’ve got some incredibly good judges at the festival this year too,  Terry Smith, composer of ‘Far Side Banks of Jordan’ for Johnny and June Carter Cash; Kathy Cash, Johnny Cash’s daughter, and two multi-millionaire Californians coming to the festival to find new songs, singers, and pickers.  Bob & Charyl Duff from Newport Beach, are both ‘traditionalists’ so this is the logical place for them to find new talent.  Mr. Duff is also an auctioneer, as a hobby, so don’t be surprised if we have an auction to raise money for the Pioneer Music Museum, or the children’s music camp we’ve never been able to realize.  More information at http://www.orgsites.com/ia/oldtimemusic

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Prettiest Smokey Mountain Boy Comes To Iowa

     June Webb was born into a musical family in L’Anse, Michigan.  At an early age, the family moved to Miami, Florida, at which time the parents got June and her siblings (Shirley and Ford) involved in singing, dancing, and playing various musical instruments.

     June teamed up with her sister Shirley, when June was only six, and were known as the “Harmony Sweethearts.”  They were very successful, and found themselves performing in some of the swankiest hotels and other venues in and around Miami.  Being a quiet, private girl, even at a young age, ‘fame’ was never a pursuit of June.  Good country music, and good country singing, however was her goal.  By the time she was fifteen, her family decided to make the difficult decision to go full time in the entertainment world, but kepp the famil together and perform as a family.  They toured the country, and started being opening acts for a number of Grand Ole Opry stars.

     As June emerged as a ‘solo’ act, she had many memorable experiences in show business, not the least of them being signed with Roy Acuff as the group’s lead feamle singer.  She recorded for RCA in the mid-50’s, and found herself singing on the Grand Ole Opry.  She was booked into the top venues of country music, and performed with the top country music stars of the day.  Roy Acuff took a special liking to her talent, and signed her to Hickory Records, his own company.  This led to her traveling around the world with Acuff’s show, even to Europe, Australia, the Caribbean, and Hawaii.  It was at this time that June received Billboard Magazine’s prestigious “Most Promising Female Country Singer of the Year” award.

     Chet Atkins was June’s record producer, and part of the ‘package’ was going on tour with other stars to perform and promote her new records.  Some of her fondest memories was opening for Jim Reeves.  One of the other opening acts was Don & Phil Everly.  She made close friends with the Everlys, and in her own words, “Here’s something you probably don’t know about the Everly Brothers and ‘Bye Bye Love.’  The song was rejected by over 30 other recording artists, including Elvis Presley, but the Everly’s turned it into a 2-million sold hit for Cadence Records.”  June was the lucky female to sing that song with the Everlys before it was released.  After touring with Jim Reeves, and becoming good friends, June was asked to join Reeves on the “Country Style USA Radio-TV Show,” which was a country music variety program produced by the U. S. Army.

     Hank Williams, Sr., also played a role in June Webb’s career.  He did not make his New Year’s Evening show in Charleston, SC, in 1953 because of a terrible ice storm, the show was canceled.  From there he was to to go to Canton, Ohio, the next day, and that’s where his story, and his life, ended.  Both shows were booked together, utilizing the same performers.  On the bill with Hank was Homer & Jethro, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Autry Inman, Red Taylor, Jack & Daniel, and at the top of the list, the Webb Sisters.  Buddy Killen was Hank’s bass player, and the legendary steel player on these shows was Don Helms.  Helms recalls, he drove to Charleston on the day of the show, but there was also an ice storm in Nashville, and it took him all day to complete the drive.  He pulled up to the auditorium in time to see the other musicians packing up their equi9pment.  “You missed a good one,” he recalls one of the musicians saying, indicating to him that a performance had already taken place.  Don then got back in his car and continued driving to Canton, where he learned that his friend Hank Williams, had died in the night.  “It capsized me when I heard that Hank had died,” Helms said.

     Buddy Killen was scheduled to play bass on the two shows.  An Alabama native living in Nashville, Buddy was on his way to a very successful career in country music, first as a musician and later as a music publisher.  In 1952, Buddy was 19 years old; he had already played bass for Hank Williams many times, as well as with other artists.  In September of that year, he married 17-year old country singer June Webb.  June and her 15-year old sister Shirley performed as the Webb Sisters then, and A. V. Bumford had booked the sisters as part of the Hank Williams Charleston-Canton package.  The promoter asked Buddy to drive June and Shirley to the shows, as well as play bass.  to sweeten the deal, Buddy says, the promoter even bought a new set of tires for Killen’s 1951 Pontiac.  En route, Buddy and the Webb Sisters encountered icy conditions and freezing rain.  “We slid off the road several times,” Buddy recalls of that drive.  Arriving at the auditorium at around show time, Buddy recalls seeing the musicians milling around on the sidewalk.  He and the girls were told that the show had been cancelled due to bad weather, so they drove on to Canton, Ohio.  “The weather was so bad, only a few people showed up in Charleston,” Buddy said.  “The situation was even worse in Canton.  Hank Williams was dead.”

     June Webb’s life in country music is one of those we seldom get to hear about.  She’s a very ‘private’ person, and though she enjoyed her moment in the spotlight, it wasn’t until now that her music is available again.  Not only will she be inducted into “America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame,” in LeMars, Iowa, this year, CD Universe Records has announced a reintroduction of her work via a new CD release that contains many of her hits.  “A Mansion On The Hill,” “To Be Lonely,” “Conscience Set Me Free,” “Love Has Come My Way,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Sweeter Than Flowers,” and many many more.  June was also a very accomplished songwriter, and co-wrote many hit songs with Justin Tubb, son of Ernest Tubb.

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2ND JOHNNY CASH DAUGHTER ENTERS AMERICA’S OLD TIME COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAME

     LeMars, Iowa….. In 2010, the National Traditional Country Music Association, inducted Johnny Cash’s daughter, Cindy, into America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame.  This year, they are inducting another Johnny Cash daughter, Kathleen Cash, into this same very rural old-time music hall of fame.  According to Bob Everhart, the President of the NTCMA, “Johnny Cash had four daughters before he married June Carter.  In all the frenzy that inevitably swirls around celebrity, those four daughters have been somewhat overlooked by the country music communityk, even though they were working as hard as anyone else in keeping their dads memory alive, his music alive, and his persona alive.  In 2007, for instance, it was Kathy Cash who accepted a pardon on her father’s behalf during a pardoning ceremony in Starkville, Mississippi.  Kathy was obviously moved by the sentiments of the folks in Starkville, “I’m touched by all the work you’ve done and appreciate the city of Starkville for taking the opportunity to honor dad and make this into a positive festival called the Johnny Cash Flower Pickin’ Festival.”

     When we asked Kathy what she thought of the movie “Walk the Line” about her dad, she was so upset about how her mother was portrayed, she walked out of the ‘family-only’ screening…..five times.  She said she thought the film unfairly shows her mother, Vivian Liberto Distin, Johnny Cash’s first wife, as a shrew.  “My mom was basically a nonentity in the entire film except for the mad little psycho who hated his career.  That’s not true.  She loved his career and was proud of him until he started taking drugs and stopped coming home.”

     The National Traditional Countruy Music Association has been inducting deserving individuals and groups into America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame since 1976.  “We are kind of low-key,” said Everhart, “we’re not out to build any empires and we’re not out to preach against where country music is today.  What we are about is saving some of the past so that future generations might know what ‘real’ country music was all about, and it certainly isn’t all this current hoop-la. hype, money, or special interests that has invaded this very rural American musical art form.”

     Kathy Cash grew up the second of four daughters in the first Johnny Cash household, and has many memories of time spent with her famous father.  “I remember dad always putting a little reel-to-reel tape player in front of us asking us to tell him a story or sing him a song.  He always called me Kathleen (I never knew “Kathy” was a nickname until I started school.)  My mom (Vivian Liberto Cash) was very protective, strict, and the only disiplinarian in our house.  She wouldn’t tolerate lying.  We went to church every Sunday.  Dad on the other hand loved to play with us, tossing us into bed, us jumping on his back, or singing “Hush Little Baby,” or “Pick A Bale of Cotton,” with him.

     In an interview with Larry King, Kathy made it very plain about how Johnny Cash lived in his final days.  “I spent a lot of time with dad.  I’m one of the two of us kids that live in Hendersonville, Tenn.  We took drives to dad’s commune and we’d say to him, ‘let’s go to Sam’s’ or ‘let’s go to the Wal-Mart’ or whatever.”  King asked Kathy, “Your dad went to the Wal-Mart?”  And Kathy said,”All the time.  He was dangerous in the Wal-Mart.”  And Kathy made it very plain, when her dad was preparing his final days on earth.  “He said a couple weeks before his death, right after June died, he’d say…’we’d be talking, and he’d say, “You know, my faith is unshakable.”

     Kathy Cash will be inducted into America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame on Saturday, September 3rd, on the main stage of the 36th annual “National Old Time Country, Bluegrass, & Folk Music Festival, and Pioneer Exposition of Arts, Crafts, and American Rural Lifestyle,” in LeMars, Iowa.  Aside from her very gifted country music talent, Kathy is also a gifted painter.  One of her outstanding pieces is called “Night in White Satin.”

     During the induction of Ms. Cash, there will be a tribute show to her dad, headed up by 18-year old Sean Benz from Minnesota.  Also on the bill is Dan Danileson who will also sing some Johnny Cash songs.  The tribute show is also dedicated to one of Johnny Cash’s most dedicated fans, Dennis Devine from Council Bluffs, Iowa, who recently passed away.  It was Mr. Devine who made the arrangements to induct Johnny Cash into the Hall of Fame in 2003.  The only way into the Hall of Fame is to be nominated by someone already in the Hall of Fame.. KIathy was nominated by her sister Cindy.  It was Cindy who said, “I hope all us Johnny Cash daughters get inducted into the same Hall of Fame as our dad was.”

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