Marietta Bluegrass Festival 

Fall 2000

Fall 2000 for the Marietta Bluegrass festival provided me with many enjoyable moments. No surprise there - it always does. But this year was special in several ways. In addition to getting to hear great music and visit with many long-time friends, I was blessed with the opportunity to be involved in providing long overdue recognition for accomplishments and service to the bluegrass community by a respected friend and colleague. More on this later.
My drive down to Marietta went very smoothly with the help of a couple of cds of North Georgia bluegrass groups - The Suggins Brothers "Encore" and Larry Bishop's project "In Memory of Our Friend Butch." Both are fine productions from Gene Daniell.
I arrived late on Friday evening and the music was already going strong. A great crowd was enjoying the stage shows and I quickly ran into several friends...Mindy Rakestraw, Murray Freeman, John Farley, Mr. Mack and Ms. Evelyn Farley - and of course, Billy and Faye Johnson - promoters of the festival. I heard a lot of bluegrass adventures ranging from newly acquired instruments to new cds to some stories of questionable reliability!
After an evening of stage shows from groups such as the Suggins Brothers, Pine Log Mountain, Common Ground and many more, I retired to one of the heated buildings on the Cobb Fairgrounds to listen to a great jam session. Several good friends pooled their considerable talents to produce one of those unforgettable moments that is best captured as a memory rather than through digital recording! In particular, I enjoyed Murray Freeman and Charlie Abernathy doing several old Ridge Runner hits from the 60s and 70s...seemed like I should have been hearing the great mandolin playing of Ralph Abernathy as well on those.
On Saturday right before noon, I ran into Tom and Aina Barnwell and was able to spend a great couple of hours talking vintage open back banjos. I even aquired an old Supertone from around the turn of the century. Tom was kind enough to depart with the instrument that he had bought from the estate of the late Gerald Hooke - a noted banjo collector and a person I got to know - at least briefly - and respect a great deal. The banjo is good enough to be played on a regular basis, but also makes a great conversation piece for my office.
Saturday afternoon brought on some great weather...warm, sunny...perfect for jammin' outside. Many spontaneous sessions broke out and this continued until the late afternoon began to bring about the usual chill of mid-November North Georgia. The crowd moved inside to warm up to the sound of groups such as Fontanna Sunset with special guest, Louisa Branscomb - a noted North Georgia songwriter and musician. Heartstrings is a bluegrass gospel group that really pulled out the enthusiasm of the crowd with smooth harmonies and strong instrumentation. Broad River was strong as ever. Jim Major is a fine young mandolin player and singer who joins Gerry, David, and Roger for some great music. Jim was a student at my first teaching position in Manchester, TN. (in the school, unfortunately not in my classes, however.)
Then came my favorite part of the festival. Last year, I had been surprised with a recognition for service to the bluegrass community of North Georgia. Mr. and Ms. Johnson decided to continue that tradition this year and asked me to make the presentation. I was very happy to do so - especially when I saw the name of the recipient. A lady who has been very active in bluegrass groups around the area since the mid-to-late sixties and who has quietly worked behind the scenes for many service projects and benefits for performers of the genre was tapped. Connie Freeman Morris.
The crowd expressed approval for the selection with a sustained round of applause. Connie is a person whose friendly, open countenance makes everyone around her immediately comfortable and she always has time for all of her many fans. Couple this with a genuine talent for both vocals and instrumentals (banjo, guitar, bass) and it is certainly understandable that the selection was a popular one. The one thing to mar the event was that I forgot to read the inscription on the plaque! However, I did correct that omission with this web site!
I had enough time to view a few more stage shows and another great jam session in a 'heated' room of the fairground buildings...Mike Fleming and Eddie Turner of Brush Fire...Mike Patton, Tracy Burdette, Murray Freeman, and John Farley of Georgia Bound and the special guest herself, Connie Morris on banjo and vocals. This was made more special by having the opportunity at the same time to talk banjos with Ron Norman, noted North Georgia banjoist and member of the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Honor.
Which leads me to congratulate Jerry Burke - fiddler extraordinare who is going to be inducted into the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Honor later in November...a nice honor for a modest, very talented country and bluegrass fiddler...wonder if Mel McDaniel will be around for those ceremonies...Jerry traveled with him among others over an outstanding career. Today, Pine Log Mountain is home for Jerry and his talents.
Unfortunately, I had to get away from Marietta early on Sunday to get back to Columbia, KY to pick back up on duties of my day job. Music from the jam sessions drifted through the air as I motored through the hills and valleys of North Georgia, Tennessee and South Central Kentucky. This was certainly a very special trip and as always, I am looking forward to my next trip South - especially in the spring to Marietta, Armuchee, Raccoon Creek , Rocky Top....
I hope you will enjoy viewing some of the photos from the great weekend of bluegrass! If so, please check out the guestbook and leave a nice note of thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Johnson.
Click HERE for an 'Index' of photos from the Marietta Fall 2000 Bluegrass Festival. [photos 1-9 courtesy of Debbie Farley - all others by editor]
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A proud member of the SouthEastern Bluegrass Association.
Copyright © 2004 Bill Brown. All rights reserved