Time has again slipped upon me as I was preparing to help John & Fern Hutchinson & Family celebrate 32 years of the "Central Virginia Family Bluegrass Music Festival." Yep! I've been getting the RV ready for it's 2011 maiden voyage and suddenly, today, I remembered I haven't told you about it. First, I am proud to be one of the very few to have attended every Amelia Festival. That's right, this year will be the 63rd Bluegrass festival I have attended at the Amelia Family Campground. This is actually my 66th festival there, because there were 3 Bluegrass Gospel Festivals held there, too. Before the festivals at the Amelia Family Campground, there were three others held in Amelia.
The earliest were the festivals held at "Bluegrass Grove," hosted by the late Mr. Roy McCraw. These festivals began in the late 60s and continued until the mid 70s. During this same time period there were a few festivals held at what was known as "Pete Pike's Farm." A couple of the Labor Day Weekend festivals at "Pete Pike's Farm" were hosted by the late Carlton (Check out The European Bluegrass Blog for more on Carlton Haney here.) Haney who also holds the distinction of creating the multi-day Bluegrass festival by hosting the very first one near Roanoke, VA in Fincastle, VA on Labor Day Weekend of 1965. Also, starting just two years before the "Central Virginia Family Bluegrass Music Festival," in 1978, there were festivals held at "Tom Scott Park" hosted originally by the late Claude Warden and then by Barney Jones. These festivals ended in the mid 80s. So, there's a brief history of the Bluegrass festival scene in Amelia County. I attended a few of all of these various festivals and have fond memories from all of them, but none can compare to the great times and memories I have from my days at what we now warmly call the Amelia Festival.
Let me get started telling you about who'll be at Amelia on Thursday. First off is the group The Bluegrass Mountaineers. The best way to let you know about the Bluegrass Mountaineers is to let them tell you about themselves in this excerpt from their web site: "The sparks the Bluegrass Mountaineers ignite while performing traditional bluegrass music is very unique. Their burning desire fueled by their experience and music shared by four generations to continue a family tradition is one of the world's most valued treasures in such a wonderful music style. The fourth generation of the bluegrass mountaineers, Tyler Efaw and Chris Wilcox are eager to learn their instruments at the young age of 5 years old. In a quest to carry on the traditional bluegrass sound, the Bluegrass Mountaineers combine old time claw hammering, classic country yodeling and twin fiddles to their unique style. All members of the Bluegrass Mountaineers take turns showcasing their vocal and instrumental abilities. Their love for the traditional genuine bluegrass sound is evident every time they take the stage.
The Bluegrass Mountaineers have many qualities that make them unique. The basics of their success lies in old fashioned hard work combined with shining star talent, that only appears to glow more brightly with each performance. They bring to each audience an energetic, entertaining, family orientated show. They rely on driving instrumentation and accurate vocals to produce their unique sound. They present a fast moving live performance, exploding with energy as they perform for the audience. Their powerful stage presence is accented by a neat, clean-cut appearance that adds to the public appeal and the esteem of their fans they value so greatly. When people hear the Bluegrass Mountaineers they agree that they play their kind of music and they are their kind of musicians." Next up is a great Virginia based group known simply as The Honakers. They are a family based band consisting of the husband and wife team of Sherry & Poncho Honaker and their son T. J. Honaker along with Bucky Beauchamp and Christy Cahill. Sherry speaks of their music: "Life is hard, and music can be soothing to the soul, comfort for the weary and can minister to and heal a hurting heart. This is what I pray for our music. That God would use it just for that purpose, to help someone to forget their troubles for just a moment. To encourage someone who may need their spirits lifted. To give someone a part of yourself that God has given you to help others. It's more than just a song, its my heart." Also featured on Thursday is the entertaining music of Goldwing Express. I'll let them tell you about their music with an excerpt from their web site: "Goldwing Express is made up of Three Native American brothers and their father. A segment of their performance is dedicated for their Indian Heritage. Each Brother wears his very own Native American Headdress which represents the Creek Indian Tribe which their Mother is from. This family music show comes from Okmulgee, Oklahoma. Now the family resides in Branson, Missouri producing their own music show along with many appearances throughout the United States and into Canada." Wrapping up the day of Thursday is The Little Roy & Lizzy Show, featuring Little Roy Lewis and his adopted daughter Lizzy Long. To visit their web site and hear samples of their music click here.
Friday is a busy day at Amelia filled with great Bluegrass music. Getting things started is a local favorite, Country Fried Grass. Read the following excerpt from the bio page on their web site. Check out the mystery (Maybe we should contact "48 Hours!") within this paragraph! "Country Fried Grass began in Sept. 2006. John Simmons, Steve Robbins, & P.J. McCrowell were to showcase at the "Virginia Folk Music Association" festival. Chris Hart was asked to join them for the show & the band was born. Right from the start there was a high level of energy on the stage. The band plays with a real raw emotion that strikes the audience. Within a year the band was playing festivals, clubs, & recorded a cd "It Must Be Sunday Morning". The title track along with other original material like "I Took The Blame" have become popular songs where the band plays. As the band was starting to roll along, P.J. McCrowell disappeared. He left band practice on July 14th 2007 & hasn't been heard from since. The band was able to perform their dates with the help of friends who filled in. In the spring of '11 the band found their banjo player - Chuck Clifton. With the addition of Chuck, the band's music went to a new level." Carolina Road, from the Raleigh area of North Carolina appear on Friday. Band leader Lorraine Jordan plays mandolin and sings most of the leads. To watch a you tube video of their hit song "Carolina Hurricane" click here. Marty Rabon & Full Circle are up next. Marty's career began in Bluegrass, but quickly he moved to country music as part of the group Shenandoah. Several years ago he returned to Bluegrass, hence the name of his band Full Circle. Friday ends with one of the hottest groups in Bluegrass today, Junior Sisk & Rambler's Choice. Junior seems to be playing everywhere these days and with good reason. Junior's voice is unique and as good as Bluegrass can get. He has a great stage show and you don't want to miss Ford, VA's own Jason Davis as he wows us not only with his super Banjo playing, but his great vocal talents. Don't miss it!
Saturday at Amelia gets underway with a great area based band, Virginia Blue. Following Virginia Blue is Tommy Brown & County Line Grass, based out of the great state of Kentucky. I'll let them speak for themselves with an excerpt from their web site: "With family roots traced to Bill Monroe's home place of Ohio County, Kentucky, Tommy Brown cut his teeth, so to speak, on classic traditional bluegrass. A third generation musician, Tommy began pickin' the five-string banjo at age six. His musical abilities were recognized when he garnered both the Kentucky State and the Tennessee State Banjo Championships. In addition to banjo, Tommy is a masterful guitar and mandolin player. His powerful pickin' style and soulful vocals embrace his passion for the mountain-style bluegrass music he performs today. Tommy also showcases his song-writing talents on the groups latest CD, Fallen Leaves ." A central Virginia favorite band The Bluegrass Brothers also perform on Saturday. Again, I'll let the band speak for themselves with this from their web site: "The Bluegrass Brothers are a high energy bluegrass band that are a must see show for a traditional bluegrass delight! They have all grown up in bluegrass music families in Virginia and it is evident very soon after they hit the stage. They have made many musical accomplishments over numerous years, and their vocals and musicianship are second to none. The Bluegrass Brothers are one of the finest bluegrass shows in the country, and they are friendly country folk. They perform from coast to coast and in a most soulful, heartfelt manner. They have earned fans from several countries and everybody says: We want The Bluegrass Brothers back next year! So check them out in a town near you. You won't regret it!" Listen to sample of their music by clicking here. Closing out the day on Saturday is the "Queen of Bluegrass Music" Rhonda Vincent & The Rage. There isn't much I can say about Rhonda that hasn't already been said and much more eloquently than I could possibly say. But, heck, I don't care, I'm gonna say something! These opinions are mine. I truly believe that Rhonda Vincent's voice is unmatched in Bluegrass. She has a way with her singing style that lets you know immediately it is her and that she is singing Bluegrass. There are times when Rhonda wants to convey a country sound to her voice and that is just as evident. She always surrounds herself with top notch musicians that help her maintain the sound of Rhonda Vincent & The Rage.
Well, that's about it. I do want you to know I garnered this information from a very early flyer so some things may have changed or been added. I didn't get this out early enough to let you know about the advance ticket price of $50 for the weekend, but rest assured the gate price of $60 is still a great bargain. I have told you about 13 bands who will each play two shows. So divide 26 performances into $60 and you'll be paying right at $2.30 per show. Hey, that's bargain in anybody's book. Hope to see all of you there and until then......