Gettin’ There

 In May, 1971, we heard through the music grapevine about a Bean Blossom Bluegrass Jamboree on Bill Monroe’s property in Nashville, Indiana. We were so on this. Our baby named Dylan was all of 20 days old. We had a wonky pup tent and we wanted to be on the same ground with the finest musicians we’d all fallen love with; in the air was a resurgence of music roots just a year prior to the release of the timeless icon of an LP ‘Will The Circle Be Unbroken’. Bob Dylan had set a new pace with ‘Nashville Skyline‘ in 1969.
Jim, his sister and her husband and I packed up; we took the J-45, for what it was worth, and the blue VW squareback….rolled some t-shirts and headed to Brown County, Indiana. We hardly knew the history that was being set before us; it’s what halcyon days are made of.

Feelin’ It

It was one big super wow when we got there; in between the gingham plaid shirts, tall-ass swoopie western hats, bolo ties and crisp white orlon pants…..we spotted so many other folk-hippie people we didn’t feel as ‘outsider’ as we expected. It made us feel inside, seeing all the pickers and players just sitting in circles all over the Monroe grounds, acres of riffs and pickin’ like we’d never seen in our lives. {walking around we’d see Vassar Clements or Ralph Stanley, just sitting on folding chairs outside a VW van, showing chords and licks to minor league pickers and strummers}
We tried to act as cool as they did, it was serious hard.

Doin’ It

The lineup of Bean Blossom performers rivaled anything you can name today.
On an outdoor stage the size of an average backyard patio:
JOHN HARTFORD, VASSAR CLEMENTS, NORMAN BLAKE, MIKE SEEGER, DOC WATSON, RALPH STANLEY & THE CLINCH MOUNTAIN BOYS and FLATT & SCRUGGS, performing all in one southern Indiana woods; playing with the precision and refinement like anyone who has ever practiced picking and strumming for one gillion hours, on any one given stringed instrument.
The whole time at Bean Blossom, we’d feed the baby, then rush for the performers on stage we could hear announced through the woods…and they’d be standing in front of us playing, these icons…..and it would sail us into the future with the strongest love of bluegrass and roots music ever to be had.

Keepin’ It

In 2008 at the CEA Music Awards in Emery Theater, watching the former newborn Dylan hold the upright bass for Ralph Stanley & Clinch Mountain Boys; helping back-stage with their performance… my heart leaped one extra beat, knowing some roots had taken hold for good.
I met Ralph Stanley in 2012, waiting in line after his last Emery show; I wanted him to sign my DVD of the 1971 Bean Blossom Bluegrass Jamboree we’d all been to way back. Dr. Stanley was tiny and sparkling in his western stage gear. He looked like he’d just performed for the very first time; exhilarated from the music and the show. I reached out and shook his hand and could see his eyes twinkling; just like when I first saw them 45 years ago.
Goodbye, Dr. Ralph.

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