Writing about what I have been reading and encountering in the media.
|I didn’t read yesterday. I attended the Ozark Old Time Music and Heritage Festival in West Plains, MO. Friday, it rained, but yesterday was beautiful, and though it was very hot, it was still bearable, pretty much like every year. I love hearing the old music played by the best musicians and there was plenty of it. There were vendors of a wide variety of crafts, even some crafts from Africa. There were food vendors of all sorts, much like you encounter at a county fair. Among the friendly crowd, I saw old friends I hadn’t seen in years, and friends I only see at traditional music events. All in all, the event was worth braving the heat. I would have left much earlier than I did, but I wanted to hear the headliner, 88 year old Ralph Stanley and his band.
The band, led by his grandson, Nathan Stanley, includes a banjo, guitar, standup base, fiddle, and mandolin played by young men. They came on stage and did their sound check before being introduced. When they started to play, the sound engineer inexplicably changed the settings so we could hear only the bass. As they performed, the leader would ask for changes and get them, but it was still not right. While they played for nearly an hour without Doc Stanley, I walked away in search of someone who could do something about the sound guy. I complained to a couple of people who didn’t have any power to change anything, then returned to my seat. On that little jaunt, I heard people complaining that Ralph Stanley was not on stage. I wanted to say to them “he’s 88 years old. Give him a break,” but didn’t. (Was the heat making me cranky?) Shortly after I seated myself once more, I saw CD Scott coaching the sound guy and the sound improved just as Ralph Stanley himself arrived.
I had heard his name many times over the years, but since I am generally not a big fan of bluegrass music, had not heard him. The large crowd gave him a standing ovation as he was introduced and seated before the microphone. His grandson explained that Doc had fallen a couple of days ago, and even though nothing was broken, he was pretty battered up. Nevertheless, he had insisted that he would not let his fans down and came along to the gig. The grandson further explained that this is Mr. Stanley’s 70th year as a performer. The band played and Doc sang some of his most famous songs. It turns out that they were familiar to me and I had, of course, heard him many times over the years, but not like he sang yesterday. He has lost control of his voice. It is as if it is about to fledge and is teetering on the edge of the nest of his body stretching its wings awkwardly, getting ready to take off without him. It was a sad and wonderful experience to witness this great musician living his life as he always has so close to the end. I am so glad I went. This morning, he and his band are off somewhere on their way to their next gig in his big turquoise bus, and his voice is resting in preparation.