Lilly, Rad, Ginny, Tracy, Hazel and A Bunch More
You might think I can't spell, but really I can, mostly. So what about Lilly? Well, that's actually a pretty popular name down around Beckley and Clear Creek, West Virginia, and last week at IBMA I had the distinct pleasure of hearing some good music from none other than the Lillys of WV who'd come to be a part of the "Legends" segment of IBMA's Fan Fest.
But let me back up. At the Renaissance in Nashville, there are a few hospitality suites and I was honored with an invitation to a little gathering of folks like me who love that old time mountain style of singing - the kind practiced by Hazel Dickens, Ginny Hawker, Tracy Schwarz and people of their ilk. While the session didn't go quite as we'd hoped (at such a large convention with too many variables it's hard to get even 3 or 4 folks together at a certain time) but it all worked out nicely - a social drink or two, an occasional song, visits by various pickers and singers, a whole lot of good conversation and just the joy of being in a small room with a bunch of like-minded folks.
So finally Hazel and Ginny get in the same place and lean toward each other and start singing as only those two can and folks like Chris Sharp, George Buckner, Debbie Kaufman and Tracy Schwarz accompany them and things just get better. By now it's maybe 2 a.m. and Danny Paisley's supposed to show up (actually 4 hours earlier!) to add his strong voice to the mix but he doesn't materialize until about 4 a.m. But then the door opens and in comes a guy I recognize as a Lilly (Mark to be exact) and I remember how I first met him back in 1983 at a bluegrass festival in NH and how he was playing some great pedal steel back then - and how odd it was to hear that at a BG festival. Mark opens his mouth and begins talking and he has one of those thick baritone WV voices not unlike his daddy Everett's and I'm just captivated by his speech and want to hear more. Along with his is his friend Rad, a very quiet man with intense eyes and a real poker face and Rad is kind of checking us all out in a very intense kind of way like through a peephole in some wooden fence while Mark is just talking away in that great accent and charming the heck out of me at least. And then he starts to sing and buddy it gets serious as Hazel and Ginny join in. Yeah. Don't you wish you were there?
So a few songs later (by now Mark's playing my guitar) we take a break and Mark commences to telling stories and I swear it's some of the funniest stuff I've ever heard and in a matter of moments I am actually hurting from laughing so hard. Reckon I broke some ribs?
Suffice it to say that I never got into bed until something like 6 a.m. that morning because I couldn't tear myself away from this captivating company. About 4 a.m. those of us still stirring around headed down to the Grey Fox suite where we were treated to a few songs by Danny Paisley hisself. Yeah. After that it was time to chill and a few hours of fast sleeping was just the thing. There won't be pictures of this because it didn't seem to be the thing to do at the time. You know what I mean?
Anyway, it was great to hear Hazel and Ginny emoting those songs in their intense way and to spend the night in such good company. All that laughing was just a bonus to what would have been a very memorable evening.