The Kick off of The Journey of The People’s Mandolin at Merle Fest
Poor Gabrielle Gray. I told her to meet me at the bagel shop. She wandered around nearby for a while and stopped to ask. The young lady listened for a minute and said, “You must be Ms. Gray from the Museum. Daddy never gives good directions. It’s called the Dine ‘n Dash.”
I knew who she was when she walked in ’cause she had on an International Bluegrass Museum shirt. We sat down with the Lehmanns and ordered up some breakfast. Mike Lane, an old pro bluegrass photographer from the Carolinas was there to shoot some pics.
The best ideas are always the simple ones. We were carrying on so about where the little mandolin might go that a lady walked up to inquire. “You folks seemed to be having so much fun I had to see what was going on.”
“Yes ma’am, we are,” I said. “As we say in bluegrass, we aren’t having any fun but at least we’re making a lot of money.”
She laughed and asked to look at the mandolin. “Who are your favorite mandolin players?””
“Darin Aldridge and Wayne Benson.” She asked why. “Ma’am, I’m one more lucky country doctor picker. Darin has been my mando sidekick for many years and taught me more than anyone ever could. He sent me to finishing school with Wayne Benson. If a man can’t learn the mandolin with Darin on his right hand and Wayne on his left, he’s outta luck. They’ll always be my favorites. You gotta dance with who brung ‘ya.”
She was a real estate agent from Hendersonville, and one of the first folks from outside my little world to see the mandolin. She wished it luck on its journey and was on her way.
During the day it was signed by so many people we lost count. Ted Lehmann had a brainstorm, made a few connections, and all of a sudden it was backstage at Mandomania. It was a surreal moment. My little mandolin’s gonna try to make it around the world and back and there to kick it off and sign were all the best players at Merlefest. They took a picture of Sam Bush holding it surrounded by all the guys who played Mandomania for the day. The notion of Tony Williamson, Mandomania moderator and master of multiple mandolin styles and Sam Bush, the King of Newgrass and rocking right hand reggae ruler of the Mandolin Universe blessing the voyage was too cool.
Over the next few weeks I want to tell you all about these players, and much more about Merle Fest too, but I gotta head for the house. I turn into a doctor at midnight. But I did want to tell you of the most important event of the day.
Last night Boston’s Berklee School of Music conferred a Honarary Doctorate on Doc Watson. I can’t think of anyone who deserves it more, and I was very happy for him. As Doc has said, “Music is universal.” Doc brings people together with his guitar and that warm voice as well as any artist I know. My friend Wayne Benson said, “When Doc sings, I believe every word.”
So do I. Congratulations to Doc; so well deserved.
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