“America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame was established in 1976,” says Bob Everhart, the Director of the National Traditional Country Music Association, who was there when it started. “We’ve been doing this for 36 years now. Doing it from the middle of a cornfield in the middle of Iowa, perhaps the most rural of all the states. Country music came from the country. Today, that has little meaning in the music world. Country music today is whatever you want to make of it, EXCEPT in Iowa, where we still practice the elements that prove that country muisic came from ‘rural’ America. The festival we produce is an all-acoustic event produced and promoted by the Pioneer Ag Expo.” To be part of the celebration, the participants must be ‘country’ or as Everhart says, ‘rural.’ “We don’t care who or why people are involoved in country music, but our celebration is the ‘roots’ of country music.”
Everhart isn’t far off when he says the group is a direct connect to ‘rural’ music. This year’s first announcement regarding inductees into America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame, is Tut Taylor, from Wilkesboro, North Carolina. 87 year old Taylor will make the trek to Iowa to kick off the 36th National Old Time Country-Bluegrass and Folk Festival and Pioneer Exposition of Arts, Crafts, and Rural American Lifestyle. According to Taylor, “It’s a mouthful, but it sure says what this event is all about.”
Tut Taylor is one of the pioneers of flat-picking the resonator guitar. According to Taylor, “It didn’t take me long to realize, playing with a flatpick, that I couldn’t play what the big boys played with fingerpicks. So, I had to come up with tunes that I could play with a flatpick. I have to pick three times as fast because they have three picks and I only have one.” In order to keep up, he remarked, “I developed what I call double-clutching. It’s a faster way of picking.”
Over the years, Tut Taylor has racked up some pretty incredible accomplishments. He recorded with Glen Campbell, Clarence and Roland White, the Dixie Gentlemen, Doc Watosn, Jerry Douglas, Brother Oswald, and more, but his favorites were John Hartford, Norman Blake, and Vassar Clements. It was this group that catapulted him into the national limelight. They took this refreshing tough ‘new’ sound combined with traditional music on the road. Many observed that this group revolutionized bluegrass music.
According to Everhart, “I was very awarwe of Tut Taylor’s deviant way of playing the resonator guitar, however we have a chap from the great prairie lands of Nebraska, who plays the same way. Roger Kenaston has been playing similar to Tut Taylor for a very long time. We’re going to bring these two players together on opening day of our 36th festival this year, on August 29th.”
The festival goes for seven days, ending late on Septembver 4th. The promoters utilize ten sound stages to accomodate over 650 participating pickers, singers, players, and performers. Everhart says, “Last year we still didn’t have enough stage time for the many performers of what we now call ‘rural’ music. We go from 9am to midnight every day for seven days, and it’s still not enough. It also creates havoc with our budget, because we simply can’t pay everyone that comes to play. What has happened here in Iowa, is a sort of oasis, a once a year gathering, where pickers and players get together for a full week to swap licks, memories and affection, and it’s not just super good local and regional players. Last year the Grand Ole Opry super-star Whisperin’ Bill Anderson was inducted into the Hall of Fame, and he sat on a stool with just him and a guitar, and enthralled his first audience of 1,000, before he moved to another building and enthralled another 1,000. Perhaps the highlight of this entire proceeding was the presence of one of Amrica’s most prestigious and successful artists of all times. Patti Page who recorded the ‘Tennessee Waltz’ and ‘How Much Is That Doggie in The Window’ absolutely thrilled our down home audience. She said, “I had a wonderful time, maybe Bob Everhart is on the right track with ‘rural’ music. Another guest at the 2010 festival was Johnny Cash’s daughter, Cindy Cash. One of her comments was, “This event does not allow illicit drugs or liquor. No wonder so many families come here. I’m glad Bob Everhart is recognizing that Johnny Cash had four daughters before he married June Carter. We appreciate being part of the overall picture of country music.”
“We’re just beginning to announce the Hall of Famne inductees for this year,” said Everhart, “we’ll probably have 30 from all levels. Local, statewide, regional, national, and international, are the areas we pick from. We have a large contingency of ‘rural’ players coming from Australia this year. The only way into the Hall of Fame is to be nominated by someone already in the Hall of Fame. Pretty difficult to ‘buy’ your way in, you have to actually be involved with ‘rural’ music. Can you imagine it, Patti Page nominated Loretta Lynn. The wonder of this particular event, and the people who populuate it never cease to amaze me.”
“Tut Taylor is going to be real busy too,” added Everhart. “He’ll do a show on our main stage at which time we will induct him into America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame. But he won’t be done there, we have the Gisbosn Dobro people at this event, headed up by the widow of the “King of the Dobro” Tom Swatzell. Bertha Swatzell has her own stage where all kinds of resonator guitar enthusiasts gather. “We’ll have a wonderful time showing off Tut Taylor,” said Bertha, “and then he can do some workshops and show these young folks how to really play. Yes, I’m talking about how to really play real ‘rural’ music.”