you know how i ended up in lampe, mo the other day? well, i always keep track of who’s playing at the ryman, home of the original grand ole opry and currently hosting more than half of the broadcasts while the big house is being repaired. while browsing through the upcoming acts, i was thrilled to see that earl scruggs and his family would be appearing and i figured, hey, this could be the last chance to see earl since he’s got to be, what? 80 or so? just as i was about to buy the tickets, melissa informed me she and em would be visiting that very day. i’m such an earl fan that i considered taking mel and em–i know they would have enjoyed a trip to nashville and any kind of banjo music, but it was not the right time, obviously. so i looked around to see if earl was doing some sort of tour or something and discovered they would be at this place called black oak mountain amphitheatre, listed as being near branson, and this time with steve martin. well, it looked like it was Meant To Be. Husband helped me pick our seats, and we were on our way. Turns out, it wasn’t in branson at all and so it became even more of an adventure as we tried to figure out how to get there and what to do, etc. —-that’s another story, though, so i’ll skip to the part where i’m at a very nice brand-spankin-new outdoor venue in a remote part of the ozarks, hothothot, sweaty and hot (like every place else in the country right now) feeling like woodstock, $5 beer and no professional cameras allowed. rhonda vincent, who is a very fine performer, sang first. oh, we had great seats, by the way. just as the sun was going down, from the side of the stage, out walks this tiny, osteoporotic figure, arm up waving to us all; he walked to the center of the stage where there was a comfortable chair set up and his sons handed him his banjo. for some reason, i started crying at the sight of the 86!!-year-old man, sitting there looking rather stroked, but still obviously earl scruggs, my hero. he never said a word, just played his banjo: earl’s breakdown, sally goodin (he’s probably been playing that one for 86 years), foggy mountain breakdown, fingers still picking, using his distinctive clawhammer style. he’ll be 87 soon and we all shouted happy birthday to him, and i was so glad that i went to the work to get there, to say the least.
i don’t want to sell short the experience of seeing steve mar-tin, though. he’s doing a rather limited tour, so i felt pretty honored, but he’ll hopefully be around a long time to entertain us all. the man is sooo funny. he played with the steep canyon rangers for about 45 minutes, then left them alone for about 15min and came back to just sit solo on his stool with his banjo and play and talk. he’s just great. when the band came back, rhonda vincent came out and joined them all to sing the dolly parton part of my favorite steve song, “pretty flowers”. we went on our way very pleased and happy (and drunk on $5 beer, if you’re us).
this will be our last roadtrip of summer 2010 and we had a grand time. i’ll tell you more about the scenery and where we stayed over at my garden blog.