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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About bobeverhart

A life-time devotee of America's old-time rural country music, performing, recording, preserving, promoting, and writing about it.
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