The minute I walked through the Music Man door, my mind went careening back through time. It was a little after 9:30 on a recent Saturday morning. I was there to hear some good ole boys playing some good ole tunes. The Saturday Morning Jam was doing what they enjoy doing.
Every Saturday evening when I lived with my grandparents, I would crawl up into granddad's lap and spend a wonderful time listening to "Uncle" Dave Macon" and the Grand Ole Opry. It continues to be one of my fondest childhood memories.
Fast forward 16 years and change the scene from Milton, Florida to Bristol, Tennessee. Instead of my grandfather's lap I am seated on the side of a bed in one of the men's dorm rooms at King college. It is my senior year and I am looking forward toward graduation and Union Theological Seminary.
During my senior year I was invited to preach each Sunday in the New Providence Presbyterian Church in Surgoinsville, Tennessee. I say preach and I readily admit that calling it preaching is a tremendous stretch. It was more like a pious talk, but these folk were very kind, generous and receptive.
With some of the very first money received from the church, I went down on State Street in Bristol and bought my first guitar. I paid $50 for it. It was a small Martin guitar. The company discontinued this model many years ago. One Christmas I gave it to my son, Jim, and then later, when he had moved to Philadelphia, I had it reworked by the Martin people.
But I digress. In the small room with me was Dan Norman, Hardy Bledsoe, and a young man from the mountains of western Virginia. His name was MacCracken. There may have been some others who dropped around to join in the festivities. It really was loud, and I remember it as festive.
Bledsoe could not sing the tune. He always harmonized. He spent several summers visiting the hollows and coves in mountainous North Carolina in and around Asheville. He accompanied a friend who went with his recorder capturing on tape the mountain folk as they sang their music sitting on the porches of their cabins at close of day and on Saturday and Sunday. This was before the days of television and the music was pure. Most of their music came over from England, Scotland and Ireland. Hardy played a homemade guitar. I have not seen one like it before or after. Dan Norman was one of my roommates. He played the ukelele and we were on our was to the Seminary.
A classmate named MacCracken played the mandolin. I can't remember his first name, but he could play anything with strings except maybe a mop. I think that he was a science major. This is how I learned to play the guitar. I sat there trying to keep up with them, learning new chords and enjoying myself greatly. This is how I learned to play the guitar and where I learned to love folk music. It is where I first learned to appreciate the music of my forebearers who settled North Carolina and brought their music and dancing with them.
We played and sang, "The Wreck Of The Old 97", "Life is Like a Mountain Railroad", and a lot of Tennessee Ernie Ford's music. As you may remember he happened to be from Bristol. I was told his brother had attended King College a short time before I arrived.
As I say when, I walked into the Music Man out north side, I stepped back in time for a very pleasant hour and half. I will be going back for another helping. Y'all come. You hear!