For the past thirty nine years, a quiet unassuming organization has been very busy ‘saving’ what they call America’s old-time music. Located in the very Midwestern State of Iowa, it was founded by Smithsonian Institution recording artists Bob & Sheila Everhart who make their home in the Corn State. Over the years they have managed to build a Performance Arts Theater, a Pioneer Music Museum, a Fiddler’s Hall of Fame, an Old Time Music Hall of Fame, and an Ag-Expo Festival of acoustic old-time music to support it all. One of the major responsibilities of the 501(c)3 corporation is to recognize contributors to the music they are saving.
According to Bob Everhart, the President, “This year, Minneapolis resident, Larry Long, enters a Hall of Fame with the likes of Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, Sr., the Carter Family, Roy Acuff, Johnny Cash, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, even Patti Page, already in it. Selection is not determined by a popularity contest, neither is it determined by huge record sales or miles traveled. It’s determined by ‘talent’ and how it is used to enhance the choices offered in todays hodge-podge music world. Old time ‘real-deal’ acoustic music is perhaps the most discriminated genre of music in America today, and that makes it doubly important to us to make sure that those who actually perform it, play it, share it, enhance it, promote it, create it, gets a pat on the back, and a standing ovation of appreciation from our membership. We will be doing that this year at our 39th Annual National Old Time Festival of Traditional Music & Rural Lifestyle at the Plymouth County Fairgrounds in LeMars, Iowa, August 25-31, 2014, and Larry Long is the centerpiece. “
According to Everhart, “Larry Long of Minneapolis, will certainly be a deserving addition to America’s Old Time Music Hall of Fame. Larry is a troubadour, much like the medieval singers who traveled from court to court, town to town, delivering messages in songs. For 40 years, Long has sung at protests, festivals, union actions and political rallies around Minnesota, the nation and the world. He writes, and in his lilting voice sings in the social justice tradition of Pete Seeger. He hews to Seeger’s belief that everyone has ‘a sacred obligation to do their best at what they’re called upon to do.” According to Larry, “When I was younger, I lived life like a bullet. A quarter-credit shy of graduation, I took off with my friend Fiddlin’ Pete. We rode the rails just like Woody Guthrie. According to Atesh Sonneborn, the Associate Director for Programs at the Smithsonian, “Folk music isn’t easily defined, but we know it when we hear it. That’s one of the reasons I keep tabs on Larry Long’s personal project, “Elder’s Wisdom, Children’s Songs,” which is based intensely in place. Larry goes into a community, working with the children and elders to find their own traditions – their music traditions in that place.” According to Larry, “When I’m doing the best of this work, I’m pretty anonymous. This systemic work is tougher to write about than say,sulfide mining issues. At heart, the work is rooted in love and empathy and core values. Out of core values, we tend to make decisions about what touches our hearts.” This wonderful creative artist certainly will be a welcome addition to those we have honored in the past for keeping America’s rural and traditional music alive.
Some of the activities Larry will participate in during his time at the Iowa Festival is a Guitar Pull, a Harmonica Howl, a Fiddler’s Jubilee, a Carl Sandburg Reading, a Banjo Jamboree, an Autoharp Gathering, a Dulcimer Do, a Mandolin Pickin’, an Accordion & Concertina Get Together, a Songwriters Circle, and a Poet’s Corner, as well as main stage performances.
The Everharts honor many different contributors to the music they love. “We are very happy to be able to have John Carter Cash with us at this year’s event,” Everhart said, “he is the only child of John and June Carter Cash, and is more producer and director than he is vocalist and instrumentalist, but he does it all incredibly well. He is a staid supporter of America’s old-time music. After all, his grandmother was Maybelle Carter. Joining John are other interesting performers of America’s great old time music. LuLu Roman, the funny lady from Hee Haw will be with us, however not as the comedy figure she portrayed on that very popular television show, but as an extremely lovely vocalist of old-time country Gospel music. Terry Smith the composer of “Far Side Banks of Jordan” for Johnny & June Carter Cash will be with us, and Hugh Moffatt who wrote “Old Flames Can’t Hold A Candle To You” will also head up the Songwriter’s Circle. Add to that terrific bluegrass bands like David Davis and the Warrior River Boys from Alabama, Larry Gillis and Swampgrass from Georgia, and well over 650 other musicians and music makers and you begin to realize why this event lasts seven days, on ten stages, from 9am to midnight every day.”
The facility where the event is held is an alcohol-free drug-free venue, with over 350 RV parking spaces with hook-ups. A number of food vendors on the grounds assures delightful dining options, along with arts & crafts, a flea market, a rendezvous village in an old ghost town, even an old log cabin front porch which is ideal for some of the old-time music makers. “We did a television show for PBS,” Everhart noted, “called Old Time Country Music. It aired in 22 states and became a household name in our state. We’re still keeping that very pleasant idea of America’s music alive and well. This music is from the hill folk, the sons of the soil, dirt farmers and cowboys and coal miners, sailors, and troubadours, and their music should not be relegated to the dust bins. This is part of our heritage. America’s heritage, and we’re doing our part keeping it alive. “