Raccoon Creek - Summer 2001! It is always a pleasure to visit with Mr. and Ms. Rakestraw for this festival. There are two things one can always count on with Raccoon Creek in July - great hospitality and Georgia weather (usually hot and humid - though not too uncomfortable in the green, pleasant surroundings of the RC Music Park). The weather on Friday was very comfortable and brought on a large audience for the Friday evening stage sessions. Saturday warmed up a bit, but still the magic was there for the stage show audience and the parking lot pickers. Music went well into the a.m. on both Friday and Saturday nights. I even heard Charlie Abernathy say that his prime picking time is between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m.! And knowing Charlie and his buddies - he was not exaggerating...

One of the first people that I ran into on Friday evening was good buddy and North Georgia banjo authority Ron Norman. We had several good discussions as well as hearing some great banjo picking from one Greg Brown and one Jeremy Moses. By the way, Jeremy is quickly turning into one of my favorite pickers...developing his own style in a manner so that he is now being asked to fill in for several groups when a banjo player may not be available.

Always a pleasure to see and hear J.N. and Onie Baxter and it is a double treat when daughter Jane joins in as she did on Friday evening. The members of Fontanna Sunset brought me up to date on their projects...glad to see Frances is getting back to singing and playing that great bass - both of which she does so well!

Members of Ramblin' Grass were present in full force and did great stage shows as well as jammin' continually. Larry Bishop plays the dobro almost as well as he mugs for the camera...a true professional North Georgia Bluegrass musician!

The Friday Stage shows were capped by the Hoyles, including Ricky Rakestraw on guitar and vocals. This is a group that has been performing for many years - starting at a very young age and is certainly one of the strongest bluegrass groups in the Georgia area in my opinion. Ricky always does 'double duty' at the festival - performing and heading the concessions effort - usually also providing some great barbeque!

During the jamming on Friday evening, I ran into Mike Gibbs - lead vocalist and guitarist for the "Suggins Brothers." He had mentioned to me earlier that in addition to a great gospel release of a couple of months ago (White House News), there was 'hard-core' bluegrass cd in the works. I found this cd (Bluegrass on My Mind)was available and I soon had one in my possession. Great traditional North Georgia bluegrass - especially some of the early 'classic country before it was called bluegrass' cuts.

Saturday brought in more musicians and the music continued non-stop. Mr. and Ms. Rakestraw seemed to be everywhere and made sure that all visitors had any questions immediately answered and any needs immediately met. The food was plentiful as always and the concessions were busy at all times.

It was also my pleasure to get to visit with some of the other area promoters. Billy and Faye Johnson of the Marietta festival were there tending to their 'Bluegrass Music Store' and Beth and Alvin Shular of the Rocky Top Music Park were there - Alvin performing with his band 'Rocky Top.' One of my long-time favorite banjo pickers is Harold Cowart - promoter of the Southern Breeze festival. In addition to performing on stage, Mr. Cowart did a lot of parking lot picking...I don't know anyone who is more tasteful in backing up all kinds of bluegrass music.

Late Saturday evening I was off to South Atlanta - Sharpsburg, GA to visit with friends Mike and Sally Fleming. Just before leaving I ran into three members of the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Honor - Roy Westray and J.N. and Onie Baxter. Obviously, I had to have a photo.

Sunday afternoon was the inaugural meeting of the SouthEastern Bluegrass Association South Chapter. Somewhere around one hundred bluegrassers showed up and a wonderful time was had by all. I know this chapter will only grow and become another important component of the SEBA organization. My thanks and appreciation go to all and especially those SEBA members who worked so hard to bring this new chapter about.

Again, a great visit I am looking forward to Armuchee - Labor Day weekend 2001!

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