The 30th Annual Old Time Country and Bluegrass Festival in Missouri Valley, IA is
now history. It may be of interest to you to know that quite a few New Englanders
were there to perform and receive national recognition for their talents. This writer nominated the late Phil "Al Roberts" Alerie for American's Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame and was on hand to present it to his widow, Mrs. LaVerna Alerie Moore who drove across the state from Ft. Madison, Iowa with her daughter and granddaughter to accept the honor. This was one of the concluding events of the week-long festival.
Al Roberts, as we knew him, was a performer, promoter
and DJ in Rhode Island for some 27 years prior to returning
to the mid-west radio/festival scene.
Before that however, Don DePoy and Martha Hills from Belfast,
Maine had a busy week at the Festival and Contests, always held
the last full week before Labor Day. They were on hand to perform
in their Me & Martha duo-Don on guitar, 5-string banjo & auto harp
and Martha on upright bass. They performed on most of the 10 stages
during the week, which featured acoustic musicians from around the world.
More importantly, Don's dad, Carl DePoy, from the Shenandoah Valley of
Virginia was inducted into America's Old Time Fiddler's Hall of Fame
and The Skyline Pals Family Band, which includes Don's mom on upright
bass, was inducted into America's Old Time Country Music Hall of
Fame (AOTCMHOF). Both of these events were known about before hand,
but Bob Everhart, President of the National Traditional CMA who runs
the event along with his wife Sheila is always full of surprises. He caught
us all off guard by also inducting Me and Martha into their Hall of Fame as well.
Don also backed up other performers, including Lois Pierson, now 82 years young,
a 2003 inductee into the Hall of Fame. Lois is the last living member
of the Jimmie & Dick and The Novelty Boys troupe, which were based
in the mid-West and also played in Mass. and Maine off and on from
the 30's through the 50's. Lois was located in a retirement home
in Arizona by Dick Hill of Hastings, NE and nominated by this writer,
both 2002 inductees into that mid-west Hall of Fame.
Carl DePoy, could barely contain himself as he performed with
his band performed after their inductions-a highly emotional time for him
as you can imagine.
The headliner on this 5 ½ hour show was Grand Old Opry star Margo Smith,
who said she thought she'd miss having drums in her backup band while
performing but did not. Even the headliners here must use only acoustic
backing when they perform. However, one snare drum was allowed on stage
during the Johnny Cash Tribute Show on Thursday night. This was a very
special night indeed and included performances by Marvin Rainwater
("Gonna Find Me A Bluebird" and others), a longtime friend
of the Cash family- Nashville songwriter, Terry Smith ("The Far
Side Banks of Jordan" among others)-Don Acuff, cousin of
Opry star Roy Acuff - Johnny's brother, Tommy Cash, Sherwin
Linton, probably the best Johnny Cash imitator around and others. They all
got to play the Johnny Cash guitar that sold at auction for $131,000.
Others of the 600 local, regional, national and international performers there
during the week were Jack Greene, Ernie Ashworth and Porter Wagoner's first
girl singer, Norma Jean (who came up from Branson where she now performs regularly).
Brown also was on hand to accept the Hall of Fame Award for
Fiddlin' Sid Harkreader, one of the first performers on the Grand Ole Opry
in 1925. He was nominated by Mark Brine, a Cambridge, MA native and Nashville
performer who couldn't make it to the festival. Brine, met and performed with
Harkreader in Tootsie's Orchard Lounge in Nashville many years ago and
they became close friends. Harkreader died in 1988.
The last award and act at the festival was for the world's highest yodeler,
the late Elton Britt of Arkansas. Mr. Everhart gave Gordon Brown the great
honor of calling him to the stage to tell a little about Elton's life. Brown,
Founder of New England Country Music Historical Soc. in Watertown, Mass. and
Britt are both inductees to the Mass. Country Music Hall of Fame. "I only got
to see him perform once in the Boston area. He was inducted into the
Mass. Country Music Hall of Fame for his work in Boston and the
Northeast during the 1950-s and 60s," Brown said. We then mentioned
many of the hit records Elton had during his career.
When the ceremonies were complete, Everhart said a prayer for the hurricane
victims in the northern Gulf of Mexico region and for the US troops
serving around the world. Then Tom Wills, cousin of the late Bob Wills came
on stage with his guitar and performed a wonderful rendition of
Elton's big WWII hit, "There's A Star Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere".
This song, though not the first to sell a million copies, was
the first to be awarded a Gold Record back in the 1940's by RCA Victor.
Gordon gave Bob a replica of this record for display in Everhart's
Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame Museum is located in Anita, IA.
During the song's performance, the entire audience stood in silent
tribute to honor Elton Britt who died in 1979, and to the most popular
song of WWII. A fitting end to a wonderful week of traditional old time
country and bluegrass music in the heart of America.
For further info on this event:
PO Box 482
Anita, IA 50020