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17th Annual Alton & Bertha Walters Memorial Bluegrass Festival

Posted by retiredguy on Monday, May 25, 2009

 Clem’s Shoal Creek Music Park. Wow! What a week, the festival didn’t start until Thursday so I checked in early Monday around noon.  There were five motor homes already there (since Sunday). I settled in and started jamming with one of my neighbors (Tom) right away. I had my Tyler Mountain open back out but soon put it away in favor of my Guitar. I soon realized I’m just not ready to jam with the jo. The entire party of campers joined together in a building at the top of the hill and jammed till late. The owner/sponsor of the park/festival, Clem Sayer is as fine a lover of Bluegrass music as you will find. I know he didn’t make a dime off the festival and probably never does, he does three a year, but he loves the entire scene that much.

I continue to be amazed at the Bluegrass Fans. As I have said before, I never really considered the fan. Guess it was because of my self centeredness,  but these folks are loyal. Only some of my camping friends actually play an instrument, they are there just for the love of the music. All of these folks knew each other, were at the last festival at Rholetters and will be at Rudy’s for the next festival. They come and sit in the concert area for six hours or so,,, take a break and come back to close out the evening.

And the music on the stage was just outstanding. I guess the bands, all which had names, that no one outside the general area had ever heard of, were themselves great fans of Bluegrass music, I doubt if any of them even made gas money to and from the festival. While on stage, they played there hearts out.

On Friday and Saturday, after the last show there was a jam session with mics on the stage. Most of the jammers and there must have been twenty or more, were band members that had performed earlier. I got up there and played my heart out along with them.

I guess my favorite group of all was Ed, Lawton & Friends. Ed is Ed Teague, and 84 year old Banjo player. He plays the form of clawhammer where he uses the thumb to drone the fifth strings and plays the rest using his “pointing finger” with a (bare finger) UP PICK stroke. I sat and talked with him for a while and readily took his banjo (Alverez (something) Whyte), and demonstrated his method. I asked him how long he had been playing and he said, “well, I guess about 70 years”. I actually held his pointing finger and ask if ever used that finger to downstroke and he assured me he didn’t. So when he performed on Saturday I took my small computer, with HD camera attached and set it up to video the whole thing. Everything look good, beautiful picture on the computer and all that. When he finished I reached to stop the video and saw that I had failed to hit “make video”, so all I had was a photo. That was his last performance of the festival. I can’t express my disappointment. Here is a man that someone should sit down with and record his playing and listen to his story. He told me that he is a member of the Georgia String Instrument Hall of Fame, the Smithsonian and other things. He was such a pleasure to talk with and readily showed me and answered every question I had.  He said that I went on You Tube and type in ED Teague I would see a little bit of him playing.

The festival was nothing like the festivals I attended there at Shoal Creek, back in the late 70s and early 80s because the big names, (Bill Monroe et. Al) were not there but it was a great week. My thanks to my new found friends and Mr. Clem Sayers for a wonderful week.

1 comment on “17th Annual Alton & Bertha Walters Memorial Bluegrass Festival”

chip arnold Says:
Monday, May 25, 2009 @10:52:35 AM

Hi Donald, Ed Teague wasn't playing clawhammer style :-) Clawhammer is a downpicking style wherein you strike the strings downward with the back of your nail. He was playing N. Ga. 2-finger style. This style was the way folks here played banjo before the days of bluegrass. It was also a very common style in E. Tn. and W. N.C. Not many of the old players are left but there are a few younger ones who carry it on. This is the style I began with. I've since added other elements to the style but still use a 2-finger, index lead like Mr Teague. Check my Hangout music page.

Last I knew (ten years or more ago) Ed had three cassette tapes available. I'll bet that he has got them on cd by now. He's been extensively recorded by Art Rosenbaum who has done a great deal toward saving the old Ga styles from obscurity.


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