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Bob & Sheila
"Salt" of the music world!
Written by: Bob Everhart
Sheila and I do a lot of songs that were 'turning points' in
the lives of those in country music, who not only paved the way for others, also
maintained their style and character firmly rooted in the music of the poor. The
Appalachian Mountains was the most fertile area of old-time country or hillbilly
music, but the great plains and prairie lands also supported 'down home' country
music, made from the heart, to be enjoyed by those, near and far, who could
identify with where the music came from. Mostly rural people, mostly poor,
mostly farmers or hard working laborers. All had one very strong point in
common. They all enjoyed the original old-time country music, sometimes called
bluegrass, sometimes folk, sometimes hillbilly, but it was all accepted and
acceptable to these people
Who are these people Bob & Sheila Everhart relate so closely too? They are the people considered by most biblical scholars as the 'salt' of the earth. As performers and promoters of this old time American heritage music, we (Bob & Sheila Everhart) consider ourselves part of the 'salt.' And if you think of it for a moment, that couldn't be more true. Food without 'salt' would be pretty tasteless, wouldn't it?
Sheila and I have been working at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, together for the past 12 years, and myself for the past 30 years. This incredibly successful theme park is very concerned about America's music heritage, and has over the years made considerable inroads in keeping their own Ozark Mountain music alive. Through their efforts hosting CIOFF (an international group devoted to preservation and presentation of 'world' traditional music and dance), they have brought an international understanding and appreciation to hundreds of thousands of people, in a festival called "World MusicFest." Sheila and I share the same motivations presenting our own festival of old-time country and bluegrass music (and the many other forms and styles of music that emanate from this musical genre).
Sheila and I developed a musical heritage presentation for Silver Dollar City, and in it we do the songs that were 'turning points' for those that paved the way. We do not imitate those performers, we just do their songs. And it is their songs that are nearly as important as they themselves. Roy Acuff, for instance, known as the 'king' of country music, skyrocketed to fame and fortune on the backs of two great songs. "The Great Speckled Bird," was one of his greatest gospel songs, but perhaps the song most associated with him is "The Wabash Cannonball," a tune that originated in the Ozark Mountains carelessly tossed around by musical hobo's, until it finally reached the Great Smokies, where Acuff turned it into a hit. It was also the beginning of a love affair between the 'salt' of the earth and train songs. Maybe we all just want to go somewhere.
Acuff may have been the 'king' of country music, but the first 'superstar' on the Grand Ole Opry was Uncle Dave Macon. He called himself the "Dixie Dewdrop," and re-established his old-time country music career when he was older (he abandoned it at around age 16 and the discovery of girls). At the age of 55 he auditioned for the Grand Ole Opry, and got the job handily. His performances were so exuberant he often-times fell off his stool, not necessarily from kicking his feet too high. The Grand Ole Opry chided him often about his back yard 'still,' and stories abound about his attempts at kicking his drinking habit. It's these stories that Sheila and I share, and combine with the music of old-timers that make our performances so different from others.
Acuff was not the only great train song singer either. Johnny Cash recorded a song presented to him by a little old white-haired man from Florida (Irvin Rouse), who was standing meekly in the corner of Cash's dressing room after a major concert. One of his biggest hits, "The Orange Blossom Special," is still today, one of the most highly respected train songs in existence.
Meeting and working with Johnny Cash was an incredible experience. I had written a televsion script about the life of Jimmie Rodgers, called "Blue River Blues." Johnny Cash and the House of Cash was interested in doing a TV-program on Rodgers. Cash and I met in Council Bluffs, Iowa, during one of Cash's many book signing treks. What an amazing man. Even when he was not feeling good, when he was in pain, when he 'hurt' he was outgoing and pleasant. He died before my script reached the production stage, but it's still down there somewhere in Nashville, tucked away in one of the boxes stored in the House of Cash, marked 'ongoing project.'
Jimmie Rodgers was probably the greatest train song singer ever. Sheila and I have been repeatedly invited to Meridian, MIssissippi, by Rick McWilliams (grandson of Elsie McWilliams who wrote most of Rodger's biggest hits), to perform on the annual Jimmie Rodgers Festival. Sheila and I have a great fondness for Rodger's songs, and do some of his great old-time country tunes wherever we perform. It's the same with the Carter Family. After we befriended Janette and Joe Carter at the Tennessee Homecoming, we have been invited to perform at the Carter Fold, and continue to keep their treasured songs in our repertoire. We had similar experiences working with Albert Brumley, Jr. His dad's songs are lasting American memorials to great traditional gospel music, and Albert Jr., is still performing with us, most recently at our NTCMA (National Traditional Country Music Assn.) hosted and sponsored Association Show at Silver Dollar City in Branson.
The songs of Hank Williams, Sr., and our friendship with Jett Williams (Hank's daughter) who we inducted into America's Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame in 2003, has led us to explore the many facets of this tortured man who would chide his Drifting Cowboys, "if the audience doesn't have tears in their eyes, when I sing to them, then we ain't doing our job." After the demise of Hank Williams, Sr., Elvis Presley launched his career, and old-time country music took an incredible nose dive out of our American consciousness. The 'root' music nearly disappeared.
When I started recording for Moses Asch of Folkways Records (now part of the Smithsonian), I didn't realize how important some of our recording-mates were to traditional hillbilly and country music. I sure do now! Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, the New Lost City Ramblers, Doc Watson, Bill Monroe, Charley Monroe, Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, Ralph & Carter Stanley, Elizabeth Cotton, Don Reno, all recorded for Moses Asch and Folkways Records. They all left indelible marks on the music world, especially the world of American heritage music. All of their music, like Sheila's and mine, is available from the Smithsonian Institute.
We were so fortunate to be able to do six LP's for Moses Asch before he passed away. He insisted on accuracy and high quality in everything we submitted. He wanted the very 'best' old time music from the prairies we could give him. We researched music from the heartlands, recorded with the best acoustic old time musicians we could find in Nashville and other places, and he accepted everything we sent him. Six projects total, with a gospel album in the works when he passed away. He also insisted that we submit original compositions. I started writing music for Moses by the third LP, and wrote about any and everything I was experiencing. One of those originals was a Grammy nomination. I can still remember all the papers I had to fill out for Moses as he submitted "Time After Time," a tune I had written about the difficult time young people were having in their young marriages, for a Grammy. After Moses died, Sheila and I spent even more time exploring the contributions of our fellow recording artists on Folkways, and the stories about them and their music are as entertaining today as they were when they were in their prime.
Bill Monroe for instance did several LP's for Moses. He came to Iowa in 1934 with his brother Charley. They were known as the "Monroe Brothers" and landed their first professional music job at KFNF Radio in Shenandoah, Iowa. Bill fell in love in Iowa, met and married his first wife here. He didn't get along well with brother Charley though. They split, with Bill eventually winding up in Atlanta, Georgia, where he received his invitation to record for Bluebird Records (RCA-Victor). Teaming back up with brother Charley, that first session turned out to be a turning point in Monroe's musical life, and the groundwork for a musical genre we call 'bluegrass' music. Bill Monroe was already 'creating' bluegrass music while he was in Iowa. It only took a high powered 5-string banjo wizard named Earl Scruggs, and the hard driving rhythm guitar and high tenor voice of Jimmy Martin, to clarify and define the music. Once done, it became, and still is one of the most beloved music's of the poor to ever birth on the safe shores of the United States of America.
Sheila and I do many songs from this time frame of Bill Monroe. We were with him in Nashville. We played with Earl Scruggs in Oklahoma City. We played with Ralph Stanley in Hugo, Oklahoma, and on our own PBS television show. We do Woody Guthrie songs, (we became close personal friends with Woody's widow, Marjorie), we do Leadbelly songs, we do Doc Watson songs, and we even still do some of our own songs, like the Grammy nomination, "Time After Time."
Sometimes we'll receive a naive and negative comment like, "you don't change your songs, you don't learn anything new." We don't mind. The great songs of the past do not change, and part of our success and devotion is to those songs that charted the course of country and bluegrass music. We rarely go past Hank Williams, Sr., and the 50's, when Elvis Presley changed music and how we listen to it. It's amazing to know that Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, and Jimmy Martin were regulars on the Louisiana Hayride in Shreveport, Louisiana. So was Bob Everhart, the only 'regular' from the State of Iowa.
Who else is doing these old songs with the passion and love that Sheila and I have for them? Not many! We've met some incredibly good musicians on our tours of Europe (probably well over 25 concert tours by now), who are devoted, but they are few and far between. The attitude of many musicians and performers in the USA today is, they 'must' write hit songs and then they will become famous, and possibly...rich. It has been our experience that you can also become famous (but not necessarily rich) doing the songs that made an impact on the music, the 'turning points' that made country music what it once was. Not for 'fames' sake, but for the sake of the songs. And that's what it is all about isn't it? The music! A few of us can see the importance of keeping alive the music of the poor. The music that came from their hearts. The music of migrating people. The music of our own ancestors. Not just hillbillies, ALL our ancestors. This is America's musical heritage. It's not Bob and Sheila Everharts, it's America's. And we are Americans, and we are very very proud of that. After traveling on tour, performing all over the world, focusing on Europe (from the Shetland Islands to Morocco, from the warm sandy shores of Portugal to the cold communist east), we know just from playing the great traditional songs we do, how important this is, not just to us, but to other peoples from all over the world. It explains the success of the festival we produce, and it also explains the strong desire by so many foreign performers that want to participate and be part of our festival and our music.
The festival Sheila and I host, produce and promote, is now in it's 29th year (2004). It is always held the full week before Labor Day, and has grown to proportions that are hard to imagine. Seven days long, ten stages, over 600 performers, 30 musical competitions, more than 250 scheduled themed shows, and thousands upon thousands of ordinary, everyday people, who love the 'real' thing. The festival is called the "National Old Time Country & Bluegrass Festival & Contest and Pioneer Exposition of Arts and Crafts." You can't miss it on any calendar, it's the longest name in the book. It's held at the Harrison County Fairgrounds, in Missouri Valley, Iowa. Word of this event has spread around the world, and creates even more opportunity for Sheila and myself to expand our performances of America's musical heritage.
In November of 2003, Sheila, myself, and our 6-year old daughter Bobbie Lhea, were invited to perform on a huge fashion show in Guangchow, China. Mind you, this is a communist country, somewhat backward, and certainly not as devoted to Amercain traditional country music as other parts of the world. We not only did well in front of an audience that bordered near 10,000, we were absolutely stunned at the acceptance we received in a local church where we did old-time gospel music. Another amazing experience we had during our 30 days in China, was when we visited the Great Wall near Beijing. Going up the hill to the entrance there are many small trinket shops. Music is piped throughout the walk by government speakers. Much to our surprise we heard "Red River Valley," "The Green Green Grass of Home," and "Jambalaya" coming over those speakers. How much more 'traditional' American can you get?
When we were asked by PBS to host-produce a television show devoted to traditional country music, we accepted, with some reservations. We wanted a strong hand in who would be on the show, and we wanted the show to be totally dedicated to traditional acoustic music. We used a formula that specified that one-third of the performers be local and/or state-wide, one-third would be regional, and one-third would be national. It worked perfectly. We did that show for seven years, and had some of the very best performers of traditional acoustic music on it, at all three levels. The program was aired in 22 State-markets. Called simply "Old Time Country Music," it led Sheila and I to many opportunities, the best of them being accepted on bluegrass festivals where the music is very strictly restricted to the instrumentation and songs devoted to the musical legacy of Bill Monroe. By being able to do the early Monroe Brothers material, we have enjoyed immensely the opportunities to perform on bluegrass festivals from Georgia to California, Texas to Minnesota. We have been especially well accepted on SPBGMA (Society for Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America) festivals. Much to our surprise, we were even invited by James Monroe (son of Bill Monroe) to do 'what we do' at the Bill Monroe Memorial Day Weekend Bluegrass Boys Reunion in Rosine, Kentucky.
It also gave us an opportunity to use our creative powers in television. We have prepared two programs for production, one called "Bus Stop" a program devoted to American heritage music, and travelers on the Greyhound bus. The other is called simply "Tradition" and includes musical genres from all areas of traditional music.
What a great and wonderful feeling it is for Sheila and I to do this incredible heritage music as a duet. We've been written about in many magazines and articles internationally. Mostly it's usually about the same...... "Bob Everhart is a polished and powerful 12-string rhythm guitar player, a dynamic harmonicat, with a 'down from the mountain' voice; and his wife Sheila combines straight-line upright acoustic bass playing with old-style Missouri clog dancing and fiddle playing."
Sometimes other performers with 'true' interest in what we do and how we do it, and a 'real' interest in the music, will ask us exactly that. "How do you manage to do all that you do?" It's simple. We love what we do. We wouldn't trade it for the world. We wouldn't trade it for fame. We wouldn't trade it for money. We wouldn't trade it for anything, and we'll keep on 'keepin' on as long as the Good Lord allows us to.
It's the same with the incredible festival we produce. We know it can make some people jealous, and we know we cannot put ourselves on a pedestal at our own event. Twice now, outsiders have attempted to forcefully 'take over' our festival. Why? We feel they want the respect and honor that goes with presenting this music in it's truest form. They want to be known as promoters, maybe they want to be important people, attain dignity and position in the community of old time music, and probably to make a lot of money. But none of that can happen in this 'kind' of music, especially if you try to steal it. Old time country, folk, bluegrass music, is the music of people, perhaps downtrodden people sometimes, but still 'people.' "Real" people, not the representation that hype and false promotion attempt to portray. "Real" people, not the television fakes we are brain-washed into watching every day. "Real" people! That's the key, and of course 'real' music. Not some over produced outlandish production coming out of some space-age studio that has no idea what 'real' people really like and want.
One of the ways Sheila and I have developed to 'honor' these 'real' people that have excelled in their musical pursuits, and for those that have made significant contributions to the furtherance and preservation of America's great country music heritage, is the creation of the Pioneer Music Museum, located in the small rural town of Anita, Iowa. Over the years we have collected an amazing number of old musical instruments and items relative to the development of 'rural' music in our own State of Iowa, over 2,500 artifacts. Add to this "America's Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame," and you begin to realize how large, how gigantic, how stupendous is this musical genre, and how incredibly good are the creators and players of it.
Many performing artists like to include in their bios the professional people they have performed with. Sheila and I like to do that too. These are people, over the years, that Sheila and I have worked with: Terry Smith, Johnny Cash, Claude Gray, Marvin Rainwater, Charlie Louvin, Joe Babcock, Leroy Van Dyke, the Sullivan Family, the Lewis Family, Kenny Baker, Josh Graves, Tom Swatzell, Jim & Jesse McReynolds, Mac Wiseman, Rex Allen Jr., Patsy Montana, Johnny Western, Max D Barnes, Porter Wagoner, the Whites, Stonewall Jackson, Moe Bandy, Johnny Lee, Jimmy Martin, Bill Grant & Delia Bell, Jimmie Driftwood, Juanita McMichen, Chet Atkins, Ricky Skaggs, Sonny Rodgers, Norman & Nancy Blake, Grandpa and Ramona Jones, Jay Ungar, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, John Hartford, Ray Charles, Sons of the San Joquain, Don Edwards, Allison Krause, Chester Smith, Marty Robbins, Ernest Tubb, Big Bill Lister, Bob Black, Charlie Daniels, Roger Welsch, Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Bela Fleck, Michael Martin Murphy, Bob Dylan, Rhonda Vincent, Jimmy C Newman, Les Gilliam, Eddie & Martha Adcock, Peter Rowan, Boxcar Willie, the Flying Burrito Brothers, George Strait, the Kendalls, Margo Smith, Ed Bruce, David Frizzell, Riders in the Sky, Doug Dillard, Wilma Lee Cooper, Roni Stoneman, Charlie Walker, Leon Everette, Jim Ed Brown, Janie Fricke, the Drifting Cowboys, Sammi Smith, Jerry Wallace, Jeanne C Riley, Dave Dudley, Billy Walker, Jeannie Pruett, Susan Raye, Louise Mandrell, the Country Gentlemen, Johnny Western, Marjorie Guthrie, Johnny Gimble, T G Shepherd, Red Sovine, Barbara Fairchild, Faron Young, Don King, and many many more.
And that's why Sheila and I will continue on the road we have been led to follow. We may not be the best in traditional music (though some say we are); we shall continue to support and promote those who we consider the 'best.' We may not be the best festival promoters in our area (though none have exceeded our productions). We will continue to promote old time traditional music because we consider it to be the 'best.' We may not be the best recording artists in the world (even though we have a Grammy nomination). We will continue to record the songs of those we consider the 'best.' We may not be the best radio/television producers in America (even though we host-produced an incredibly popular PBS show for seven years). We will continue to produce and promote others at this level that we consider the 'best.' And, we may not be the best non-profit Association officers in old-time music, but we're the only ones we have, so we'll continue to do the 'best' we can.
In so far as personal honors and awards go, Sheila and I have far more than we deserve. We're honorary "Kentucky Colonels," by the Governor of Kentucky, and we're "Tennessee Ambassador's of Goodwill," by the Governor of Tennessee. We're listed in "Who's Who In The Midwest," "Who's Who In America," "Who's Who in International Music," and our own Iowa State Legislature passed "Resolution 35" an amazing instrument of honor and recognition from our entire State. They have all had nice things to say about us, but it might be best summed up with the short inscription written on a plaque inducting us into the South Texas Country Music Hall of Fame by Paul & Geneva Martinez, that we like best of all. "inducted into the South Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, 2003, in recognition of a lifetime of dedication to the preservation of traditional music and for their constant promotion and cultivation of performers of all ages from around the world. They continue to set their own dreams and talents aside to help others."
Article submitted by: National Traditional Country Music Assn., Inc.
P O Box 492, Anita, Iowa, 50020
BRING CHRISTMAS TO OUR TROOPS!
Nashville-As we all settle down for the holidays
this year with family and friends riddled with laughter and gift giving in the
safety of our homes, some our men and women in uniform will spend their
Christmas thousands of miles away, far from loved ones and even further from
refuge. Universal South recording group Cross Canadian Ragweed announces
the " Troop Donation Drive" that will be available at every live show
throughout the month of December.
The band is asking their fans to donate prepaid calling cards, disposable cameras and any other items that would help to aid the troops in communicating with their families during the holidays. The donation bins will be located at Ragweed's merchandise booth. As a way of repaying the kindness, the band will be enter the names of those who donate into a drawing to win a very cool and very secret gift from the band. Winner names and gift information will be released at the band's New Year's Eve show at Saengerhalle in New Braunfels, Texas.
If you have ever visited the web site at www.crosscanadianragweed.com then you must have noticed all the pictures and letters posted from some of our troops overseas. For those of you who haven't, check it out and even drop them a line to let them know we are thinking about them. Come on! Didn't you ever want to be a pen pal?
On the road update: On Friday, November 28th, for the second time, Ragweed played to a sold out crowd at Billy Bob's Texas in Ft. Worth. 6,000 fans overtook the venue leaving a line wrapped around outside. The band was in rare form, spewing out into the mass of unbridled Ragweed addicts with raw electric energy. The show was well equipped with traditional Ragweed favorites as well as a hand full of songs from their new album "Soul Gravy" slated to be released on Universal South Records on March 2, 2004. Guest appearances included Wade Bowen, Randy Rogers, and JC Ragsdale (drummer Randy Ragsdale's 4 year old "little helper"). By the end of the night, Ragweed had broken the Billy Bob's beer sales record---exceeding it by $3,000.
Tickets are selling fast for Ragweed's New Year's Eve show at Saengerhalle with Wade Bowen and Stoney LaRue so, you all better get online and get yours now. Ticket prices are $30 for a single ticket, $50 for two tickets (includes party favors, a champagne toast at midnight, and party snacks at closing time), and a special package for $95 (includes two tickets to the show, one night's stay at the Holiday Inn, and shuttle service to the venue). If you have been savin' it up, now's the time to give it up!
For more information contact RPR Media.
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