Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cosby Tennessee July 2nd,3rd,4th.

After we got back from Columbus on Monday morning, the 28th:

I honestly don’t know where I thought I was going to stay after I went with the band. Thinking back, I don’t think it ever crossed my mind. I was just caught up in the moment and not thinking, and definitely not planning ahead.

After we pulled in the parking lot beside a little restaurant and across from the Astor Court Motel at 1298 Dickerson Road there in Goodlettsville, Bill paid everyone, and Joe and Kenny were getting their clothes and instruments off the bus.
The motel was run by the Moores. Kenny Baker said that when he came to Nashville the first time in the 50s, he lived at the motel, so they weren't strangers to entertainers renting rooms. I would occasionally check in down there for a night, just to get a good hot shower.

Joe was the first to ask me where I was going to stay. Honestly, that had not crossed my mind. He invited me to go out and stay with him. I just said “I’m going to stay on the bus." I needed some time to digest what was happening. Baker, too, asked me to go out to his place with him. Again I said, “I’ll just stay on the bus.” Baker asked if I had any clothes that needed to go the laundry. I rounded up my white shirts and black pants that I’d worn over the weekend and he took them with him to his to the laundry. Then he asked me if I would like to go up to Jenkins, Kentucky, with him on Wednesday.

About noon on Wednesday, Kenny came out to the bus. He had picked up our clothes at the laundry. (In the tag of all my clothes, it had "Baker" written with a laundry marker. I kept those clothes for years after. I couldn't wear them anymore, just for the memories.) We headed up to Jenkins. He put me to driving and that was the first time I ever had been through Knoxville. I was amazed; I had never seen the highway up over a city. We hit town about rush hour in the afternoon with a little shower of rain falling. It was an interesting trip.

We went over to Kingsport, up through Gate City, Big Stone Gap, and Norton, then into Jenkins. Once we got past Kingsport, I was familiar with the road there, having driven it on the way from home to Berea the previous school year. We visited his mother and some friends around town before we headed out for Cosby on Thursday morning.

This was James’ first festival at Kineauvista Park, July 2nd, 3rd and 4th, 1971. Joe Stuart and Danny Jones had come down with Bill and brought the bus. (Jack Hicks wasn’t with them because he had gone back to Ashland with his folks the week before, after Columbus.)

James had a good lineup of talent: Lester Flatt, the Goins Brothers, Jim & Jesse, Don Reno, Red Smiley & Bill Harrell, Carl Story, and Clyde Moody.

The Bluegrass Alliance had been very popular at Bean Blossom two weeks before, so James had hired them for the festival. I really liked Courtney Johnson's banjo playing and we became good friends.

Courtney and I became friends and he gave me his address on the back of a card of the BlueGrass Alliance.

I had the opportunity to see some people for the first time there. For Friday night, James hired Bonnie Lou and Buster Moore. They had a Knoxville TV program and that was good local advertising. I had seen their "Jim Walter Jubilee" for several years, as it was syndicated in our area. I always enjoyed L.E. White and, especially, Bill Chambers' banjo playing. This was the first time I saw David Deese in person, too. I had watched him with Red Smiley on TV at Roanoke before he was drafted. I think he came up with the Jones Brothers, who were working with Carl Story at the time.

It was hot, hot, hot there that weekend. There was no shade where the stage was, so they put up a huge tent for the audience.

On the Sunday gospel show, I almost played banjo. Jack was late for the show, and Bill told me to get my banjo. The bus was parked way up on the hill, and it was only about ten minutes before we were to go on. About that time, Courtney Johnson had heard Bill tell me to get a banjo. So he came to the stage with his banjo, and I was getting it tuned up when Jack showed up at the last moment.

On our Sunday afternoon show, Lester Flatt was to follow us, and Uncle Josh joined us on the dobro that afternoon. He and Bill had picked some at a party at the house on the hill a couple of nights before. Bill had gone through the introductions, and we were getting ready to do “Sitting on Top of the World” when Bill invited Josh to join us, saying that he "was going to put in some blues." After that number Josh started to leave and Bill said 'just stay with us, we need all the help we can get'.
The band consisted of Kenny Baker and Joe Stuart on twin Fiddles, Jack Hicks on banjo, Danny Jones on Guitar and myself on the bass.
Josh played the remainder of the show with us, with he and Bill improvising a neat version of “Evening Prayer Blues.” I remember Bill told the audience to imagine a “colored meeting house and they would be praying every now and then, saying 'Praise the Lord,' and right on down.” Bill said that it was a Deford Bailey tune from years ago. None of us knew the tune, and Bill had to set the timing with the mandolin and we all followed. Josh and Bill had a great time.
Over the years many have thought that Bill didn't like the dobro, I don't think he had any bad feelings about the instrument. But the fact was, it just didn't fit into his music.

On Sunday afternoon, Bill recreated his version of “The History of Blue Grass,” similar to Carlton’s “Story.” Clyde Moody was there and did “Columbus Stockade Blues” and “In the Pines.” Carl Story was on the show. The Goins Brothers played, then Roland White did a tune with Bill. Jim and Jesse did a couple of songs with Bill, then James, who had just left the Blue Grass Boys about a month before to start his own group, sang with Bill. I remember they did “Tall Pines" (one of the first times I‘d ever heard it). Then Lester and Bill did their reunion tunes. They stole the show.

We stayed around until Monday morning before heading back to Nashville.

That morning, James was taking care of things and getting ready to leave when he realized that there was a huge banner over the highway that needed to be taken down.

The Blue Grass Alliance were still there, too, so Courtney Johnson pulled their bus over to one side of the highway and Tony Rice and I got up on their bus and untied one side of the banner, as Courtney moved the bus to the other side of the highway so we could untie the other side. We had to walk backward and forward on top of the bus, to keep from being pulled off by the banner -- just one more of those special, weird memories.

Jack went back to Ashland with his parents. Joe Stuart went over and visited some family from near Greenback, Tennessee. Kenny Baker had his car there, so that left Dan Jones and me to take Bill and the bus back to Nashville. Some friends of Bill wanted to catch rides back toward “Town" (Nashville). So there was Dan and I to do the driving from Cosby to Nashville. Surprisingly, we had no problems and Bill bragged on us. That always made us feel good, to get good words from him.

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