Bill Clifton praat in deze aflevering verder over het allereerste Bluegrass Festival op 4 juli 1961 in Luray, Virginia. In het voorgaande deel van deze serie heb je kunnen lezen dat Neil V. Rosenberg ook op deze dag aanwezig was in Luray, Virginia. Een prachtig ‘ooggetuigenverslag’ van het festival is terug te lezen (vanaf bladzijde 177) in één van de boeken van Neil V. Rosenberg: ‘Bluegrass, a history’ (University of Illinois Press, 1985). Tijdens de Carter Family Conference in Londen (in oktober 2002) heb ik mijn exemplaar van het boek door hem laten signeren. Na wat heen en weer getwijfel heb ik bedacht het ‘verslag’ van Neil V. Rosenberg toch maar integraal in deze post te verwerken omdat het veel dingen bevestigd die Bill Clifton ons vertelde, en tegelijk iets meer detaillering geeft dan we tot dusverre hadden. Ik wens je weer veel luister/leesplezier toe. Mocht je aanvullingen, verbeteringen en/of commentaar hebben; laat het we weten alsjeblieft…

First Bluegrass Festival (continued)


For a one-day festival… Yeah, for a one-day event and in a mountain community somewhere they had no idea how to get to, those kind of things. So…

Israel ‘Izzy’ Goodman Young (March 26, 1928 – February 4, 2019)

That was before Global Positioning Systems and things like that… That’s right. But there were people, like there was a fellow in New York City who ran a little shop there and, names are not coming back to me Kees, but I know this man’s name but I’ll maybe think of it in a minute. But he used to run a local shop in New York City, in Greenwich Village that all the people who were interested in bluegrass and old-time music bought from. And he hung up that little flyer up on his wall. I think he asked me to send some, which I probably did because he was selling my songbook and stuff like that at the time. So the New York crowd got the message from that and I think, probably, ‘Sing Out!’ magazine might have had a mention of it also. But that’s the way we got our people; by word of mouth primarily. But we had people from Japan, we had people from all over the place, you know.

Bill Clifton was de naam vergeten van Israel Goodman Young. Israel Goodman Young (March 26, 1928 – February 4, 2019), known as ‘Izzy’ Young, was a noted figure in the world of folk music, both in America and Sweden. He was once the owner of the Folklore Center in Greenwich Village, New York, and from 1973 until his death, owned and operated the Folklore Centrum store in Stockholm.

That’s incredible, isn’t it? Yeah, really is. I mean, when you think back on it, you know. And local radio helped. I mean, in the valley, the Shenandoah Valley, I had 50% backing from the lady who owned seven radio stations in the valley there. And one of them is at Mount Jackson, and Mont Jackson is right next to Luray, just where the festival was held. And they played nothing but country music so they mentioned it all the time. And then I think Marian had, Marian Lewis was the owner of the stations and I think she had them mention it on the Winchester Stations and the other stations as well hut, Fisher, West Virginia is another one which was quite close by. So, you know, all that helped.

Carter Stanley tijdens het optreden van 4 juli 1961.

Where did you get the idea to invite all these bands to play there on the same day on the same event? Where did you get the idea? Well, I had wanted to do that for a long time and I talked to Bill Monroe about it and Bill was not really up to it. You know, when I first talked to him about it. And then I talked to Carter Stanley about it and Carter said: ‘You know, I think we can get Bill to do that’. Because Carter was the only former Bluegrass Boy that Bill really liked.

Neil V. Rosenberg: Big day at Luray
At the beginning of 1961 Clifton was hired as the producer for Oak Leaf park at Luray, in northern Virginia, not far from Washington, in partnership with a man who owned a string of radio stations in the Shenandoah Valley. That season, from May to September, they booked virtually every professionally active bluegrass band of the era, from the biggest names to those known mainly in the Washington area: The Stanley Brothers, Red Allen, Carl Story, Bill Harrell and Buzz Busby, and Flatt and Scruggs (with Mother Maybelle Carter) – each appeared on different Sundays. On July 4 what Israel G. Young described as an ‘All day Bluegrass Festival’ was held there. The groups appearing were the Country Gentlemen, Jim & Jesse, Mac Wiseman, The Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe and Bill Clifton. The fourth of July show was unusual because the conventional held that one did not book two bands playing similar music at a music park, just as one did not have two comedians or two female vocalists The logic behind this was that a second bluegrass band would draw no more people than the first, whereas another kind of country music would its own (and different) audiences. There had been a few exceptions to this as when, in 1956, Reno and Smiley shared the billing at New River Ranch with Flatt and Scruggs. But these were rare. Clifton’s perception of the unity of bluegrass music and his awareness of the strong audience for it in the northern Virginia – Washington – Baltimore area led him to gamble on this unprecedented day of music. Ralph Rinzler recalls: Frequently you’d have Bill Monroe at one park and Carter and Ralph at another and they would come over to hear each other and talk but they’d never perform together. And I knew enough from having spent a lot of time dubbing tapes from Mike [Seeger] of records from the forties and fifties to know that all these people had learned from Bill, but no one ever thought they’d ever hear them perform together. And what I remember was that all of a sudden all of those people except Flatt and Scruggs were there and it seemed to me an astonishing feat for the son of a banker and insurance executive from a Baltimore social family to bring that together in that setting’. The show was as interesting for what it did not achieve as for what did happen. The two most successful bluegrass bands of the period, Flatt and Scruggs and Reno and Smiley, were both absent because their managers could not come to terms with Clifton about details of the booking. But the reasons for each were quite different. Clifton had been able to talk all of the other groups into lowering their price for this event; even Jim and Jesse, who were coming all the way from southern Alabama, were willing to make this concession, But Reno and Smiley’s manager, Carlton Haney, was unwilling to lower their usual fee of $500, even though they were living in nearby Roanoke and were not engaged for that date. Haney didn’t agree with Clifton’s concept; he felt there was no reason to have more than one bluegrass band. With Flatt and Scruggs, Clifton did not get as far as talking prices; Louise Scruggs told him at the outset that Lester and Earl would not appear on the same stage with Monroe. Clifton urged her to reconsider, but in a second conversati0n she indicated that there might be problems about appearing on the same stage with the Stanley Brothers. At this point Clifton decided bringing Flatt and Scruggs to the show was going to be too troublesome to arrange an made arrangements to book them separately later that summer. One feature of the show, commented upon by all who reported on it, took place when Bill Monroe called former Blue Grass Boys working with other up to play with him. Monroe sometimes did this when there was a sideman present at one of his shows. But here a number of them appeared at the same time, and the event was a kind of re-creation of some of Monroe’s earlier bands. While this portion of the show celebrated the unity of the music by showing the common bonds which many of the musicians shared as Monroe’s apprentices, it also revealed the conflicts which tempered these bonds. These were articulated onstage at Luray during Monroe’s portion of the show. Announcing that some former Blue Grass Boys would be playing with him, Monroe explained that whenever he was on the same show with Reno and Smiley or Mac Wiseman they would always come out to play a number with him. This brief comment was in fact a mild dig at Don Reno, who was present in the audience with [his] manager Carlton Haney. While not performing, he and Haney had come along to observe. Reno was not invited onstage to play with Bill this day. Monroe continued: ‘It’s a shame a lot of bluegrass people you know that thinks they are… they don’t want to be on a show with you or something, if the folks will think you started them. Well it’s the truth, so they shouldn’t a-mind that and they should be glad that they got a start, they’d probably had to plowed a lot id furrows if they hadn’t-a been in bluegrass music’. Following this abstract reference to Flatt and Scruggs he did a song and then Stanley came out to join him. After introducing the next song and exchanging pleasantries Carter said: ‘I guess I’ll just break into this kindly blunt like. I understand that they was a group that some of the folks asked to come in here today. They said no, they didn’t want to play here because Bill Monroe and the Stanley Brothers was gonna be here. And that was Flatt and Scruggs. You know, we missed ‘em a heck of a lot, ain’t we? Huh? [Laughter, applause.] All right, it’s your show, go on’. Monroe answered: ‘Well, you’re talking about Lester and Earl. Now I started the two boys on the Grand Ole Opry, and they shouldn’t be ashamed to come on the show and work with us. [Laughter, applause.] And I am sure I wouldn’t hurt either one of ‘em’. That Stanley, who’d had a few drinks from Clifton’s backstage spiked Punch bowl and was ‘feeling no pain’, was dwelling on past conflicts was shown clearly a few minutes later when Bill introduced ‘What Would You Give in Exchange for Your Soul’. Monroe began,We are gonna do a hymn here that I recorded back in nineteen and thirty-five. It’s entitled…’ Here Carter broke in, saying, ‘Who’d you record it with?’ Monroe answered rapidly, ‘I recorded it with a brother of mine Charlie Monroe’ at which point he was drowned out by laughter from the audience. These exchanges, which took only a few minutes in a day-long were received with laughter, were nevertheless quite significant. They constituted the breaking of a taboo against speaking in public with about two of the most traumatic incidents in his musical career, his split with Charlie and the feud with Flatt and Scruggs. As Stanley’s comments came a point in the concert at which former Blue Grass Boys were honoring their mentor, it was taboo-breaking within a ritual. Hence the laughter from grass fans in the audience, responding to the tension of the situation. That this was a significant exchange is shown by the way in which it spread rapidly and became a legend, part of oral tradition in the bluegrass world. There was another detail which gave the story added significance. Lou Scruggs was said to have obtained a tape recording of the exchange. For yean afterward there was recrimination and debate about who sent the copy of the infamous tape to Louise Scruggs. At this show, as at most of the others in the area, there were a number of fans down in front of the stage with tape recorders. This was standard practice; only a few performers would not allow it. So there were many suspects involved, among them Mike Seeger and Ralph Rinzler. Later, Rinzler recalled: ‘Somehow that got on tape back to Flatt and Scruggs. And Bill, because he had known Mike and myself for five or six years then, seeing us recording at the stageside, although we’d never talked to him, assumed that we’d done it’. Monroe knew about the tape being sent to Flatt and Scruggs because, according to the legend, it was used by Louise as a pretext for threats of lawsuit and attempts to have Monroe removed from the Opry. When queried recently about the Monroe-Stanley exchange at Luray, Mrs. Scruggs told me she had never heard of it. She pointed out that everybody knows Monroe was not speaking to Flatt and Scruggs and that they did not have a working relationship with the Stanley Brothers. But, she said, after a number of years such conflicts are forgotten and, she feels, should not receive too much attention. And in fact the attention which the exchange and its aftermath created the bluegrass world obscured another, more important, aspect of Clifton; Bluegrass Day. Among the 2200 people at Luray that day, no one was more observant than Carlton Haney. He recognized the extent to which bluegrass fans would travel to see such an event. In 1965, he would initiate weekend bluegrass festivals that incorporated features from Luray. Clifton, who might have eventually solved some of the problems which the Monroe – Stanley – Flatt and Scruggs conflict presented had he established the Bluegrass Day as an annual event, did not continue with his arrangements at Oak Leaf Park. Early in 1962 he was asked to become a member of the new Folk Foundation, which was reorganizing the Newport Folk Festival (not held in 1961 and 1962) for 1963. He spent the rest of 1962-63 involved with Newport. In September 1963 he moved to England. Following his 1961 show there would be no festival-like activity within bluegrass music for another four years. But the show had been an eye-opener for those folk revivalists who attended. Columnist Israel Young reported in ‘Sing Out’: ‘Lots of NYC kids went… By the end of the day I wasn’t yet sure of a definition of Bluegrass Music but I realized, to my great satisfaction, that it is a modern offshoot of traditional music and should not cause so many City arguments…’.

He was still on speaking terms with him? Yeah, he was on speaking terms with Carter and he would have had Carter back to sing with him any time Carter wanted to come. But Carter and Ralph were back together so there was no way that Carter was going to go back with Bill but he kept that communication open with Bill. He always talked to him and respected him and Bill respected Carter for that. I guess, in retrospect a lot of the reason Bill did it was because of Carter. And once that was established that Bill was gonna do it, it made it more difficult to have Lester & Earl but I didn’t really mind that some of them wouldn’t be there. I was willing to go as far as I had to go and even lose money on it if I had to. And I didn’t have any money to lose. But I would only lose 50% and Marian Lewis she would have lost the other 50%. So I didn’t figure, you know, it would be too bad and that we’d probably have enough people to make the loss very small. So I had invited Lester & Earl and also Reno & Smiley but Louise Scruggs was booking Lester [Flatt] & Earl [Sruggs] and when she asked me who was gonna be there I told her all the people who were gonna be there and she said: ‘Well, I don’t know, I’ll talk to the boys but you know they don’t play anywhere Bill Monroe plays’. I said: ‘Well, I know that and that’s why we’re all gonna have this festival. That’s why we’re getting together. It’s time we all got together and reconciliate’. And so she said: ‘well, I’ll talk to them and I’ll call you back’. And I felt a reticence on her part; she didn’t really want to do it. So the next day, when she called back she said: ‘did you say The Stanley Brothers are gonna be on?’ And I said: ‘Listen, the answer is yes and I can see there’s gonna be a problem. So I will book Lester & Earl’, I was booking Sundays at the park also, I said: ‘I will book Lester & Earl on a Sunday and not this event. And I’ll get back to you on that as quick as I can’. Which I did. They came up and did a park date after that. And Reno & Smiley were being managed by Carlton Haney and Carlton felt like, ‘well’. He said, ‘you’ve got all the bands you need’, he said, ‘you don’t need us’. And I said: ‘well, I do, I mean, I need all the former Bluegrass Boys back together and Don is one of them and I want Don on it’. ’Well’, he said, ‘we’ll come for five hundred dollars’. And I said: ‘well, I’m not paying anybody five hundred dollars. I’ve got people coming from much further away for much less money. And you all are up in the Shenandoah Valley all the time, playing up there, so you’re not going to draw any people. It’s just that I think you need to be on it, that’s all’. ‘Well no, if you’re not gonna pay that much money then we’re not coming’. And I said: ‘well, all right’.

In 1961, Bill Emerson recorded ‘Dark Hollow’ with country singer Luke Gordon (real name Ruffice Gordon Brown). This recording was made at a live performance in Oak Leaf Park in Luray, Virginia on July 4th, 1961. The musicians were Bill Emerson (banjo), Frank Wakefield (mandolin) and Luke Gordon (guitar).

Vorige post Volgende post

Onderaan de post is een blokje waar u een reactie achter kunt laten. Ik stel dat zeer op prijs! U wordt gevraagd om een mailadres. Dit mailadres wordt niet gepubliceerd, maar stelt mij – als beheerder van deze site – in staat om te reageren op uw reactie.