Jim, Bill, Joe and I sang at the funeral Jan. 26th. It was held at the Mt. Vernon Methodist Church just a few miles down the road from the old store and the Carter Family Fold.
It was announced as a service for the family (an open Memorial Service was held at the Fold the following Sunday) but the little church was full to busting. There were three preachers. The oldest one, a kindly faced white haired gent, won me over with his quotes from Longfellow and a reference to Janette's embodiment of the first two Commandments and the unpretentious and loving attitude she unconditionally bore to her fellow human beings. He illustrated this tendency by an incident which occurred when Janette went to the U.K. a couple of years ago to take part in a Carter Family retrospective sponsored by a prestigious folklore foundation. One of the dignitaries visiting the affair was Margaret Thatcher, to whom Janette was introduced. When asked what they talked about Janette replied: "I just said 'Honey, how are you?'"
We sang three songs for the service" "Uncloudy Day", "Fifty Miles of Elbow Room", and "Amazing Grace" which was in particular a special request from Janette, according to Rita. We'd never sung "Amazing Grace" before as a group, but the congregation leapt right in and helped us out.
I was amazed at the outpouring of sheer love for Janette and her life and accomplishment. It filled that little church and it filled the whole valley. It strikes one how much better off the world has been left by the achievements of that magnificient family. It's evident in the hearts and minds of millions of music lovers all over the world. (I met a woman who first heard the Carter Family when she was a teenager growing up in Austria -- she didn't even understand English yet that music made a life long impression.) It's evident too right there Poor Valley where it all started. The folks around have taken to naming their driveways and sidestreets after Carter Family songs, so there were lots of bright blue signs reading "Hello Stranger Drive", "Keep on the Sunnyside Street" and "Weeping Willow Lane" and even a "RingFire Road" after Johnny Cash. Janette has carried on the musical tradition that her parents helped bring to the world and I know they would be so proud of her. She has invited whole new generations into that uplifting world and given them a precious access. She started Saturday nights of music at the old A.P. Carter Store 30+ years ago. Then she and Joe built the Fold and have kept up the tradition ever since. Last year Joe died, and now Janette.
It was a beautiful sunny afternoon. There was a graveside service. Dave Morris of the old Morris Brothers band sang a song he'd written for Janette, Rita and Dale (her son). And then Jim and Bill and I sang "Daniel Prayed" which we had done at the Carter Fold so many times before. A red tailed hawk circled the gravesite during the service. Afterward people mingled and talked. I noticed a curious fellow lying down on A.P.'s grave and resting his head on the stone next to the name. He had lifted out his digital camera armslength and snapped a shot of himself. I showed him where Sara's grave was and we talked about the sad fact that A.P. and Sara weren't buried together (but Sara had remarried). Later on I asked someone who this fellow was. "Oh, that's Mark (Zwonitzer) -- the guy who wrote that book about the Carter Family (Will You Miss Me When I'm Gone)." Mark also wrote and directed the PBS American Experience episode about Jesse James which aired Feb. 6th.
Many friends and family were there, including some from Nashville, such as Tom T. Hall, Carlene Carter and John Carter Cash. And many old friends of ours, like Dave Morris, who had introduced us to Janette years ago, and gave us such an entree in to that world we might have never had otherwise; and John McCutcheon who had taken the red-eye straight from a gig in San Franscisco to be there. And there was Eugene Wolf (formerly of the "Brother Boys" and who plays A.P. in the musical about the Carter Family "Keep on the Sunnyside"). Eugene grew up in Sevierville area of East Tennessee just down the road on I-81. His grandmother had loved the Carter Family, but Eugene didn't know anything about them. "I knew all about Petula Clark but not what was right under my nose!" At one point we were all standing on A.P.'s grave too, talking and laughing in the sun, and I don't think A.P. would have minded one bit. We were definitely on hallowed ground.
A few weeks ago I got a very sweet thank you note from Janette's son Dale Jett saying "when ya'll were singing Fifty Miles of Elbow Room, Carlene looked back at me and smiled and shook her head. From the pew behind her I said 'The only way for it to be any more beautiful than this would be just to climb in and go with her!'"
(top photo of Janette from memorial program cover; stage left at the Fold; photo of Janette Gladys and Joe from Janette's book MY CLINCH MOUNTAIN HOME; Jim Watson and Dave Morris; Bill Hicks by A.P. Carter's grave, Mt. Vernon Methodist Church in the background; l-r: Joe Newberry, Jim Watson, Ron Short, John McCutcheon, Mike Craver -- all other photos by Anne Berry)
So many people exiting lately. Yet more fast and intense experiences in wintry churchyards. My dear Aunt Azile Burns Mock (that's Eliza spelled backwards) a dear friend and closest neighbor crossed the swelling tide the first week of February. I had been dreading this one. Family and friends getting together is the one bright spot in such sad occassions. My best wishes to her two wonderful sons (and my two wonderful first cousins) Fred Mock and Harry Mock, Jr. We grew up together and seem to be going through those tricky passages of life together too (the ones they don't say much about in school). Clyde E's novel, LUNCH AT THE PICCADILLY, is about the death of much loved aunt. And now I am working on this show. Life has such an uncanny way of imitating Art.
Not only do I have new LUNCH AT THE PICCADILLY CDs for sale, but also available are CD-Rs of my 1984 solo album FISHING FOR AMOUR. It's a sparkling digital remastering, and includes four new tunes from the original sessions. This CD is perfect for playing or popping in your computer and importing to your iPod. Details in my store.
The "concert for Hobart" will be repeated this coming October at the Birchmere, in northern Virginia.
I have available scores for "Dear Mister Gershwin", "Buster He's a Hot Dog Now", "Queenie Take Me Home", "Kittens in the Snow", "That Wicky Wacky Hula Hula Honka Wonka Honolulu Hawaiian Honey of Mine", and "Edna the Elephant Girl". "Iris" from OIL CITY SYMPHONY has also been transcribed. Each of these titles may be purchased at Sapsucker Music Store, along with all my cds, the MEETING IN THE AIR - SONGS OF THE CARTER FAMILY re-issue CD, the Red Clay Ramblers' MERCHANTS LUNCH/TWISTED LAUREL cd, as well as soundtracks for RADIO GALS and OIL CITY SYMPHONY. Also I now have available CD-Rs of my 1984 solo album FISHING FOR AMOUR. It's a sparkling digital remastering, and includes four new tunes from the original sessions. This CD is perfect for playing or popping in your computer and importing to your iPod. Details in my store.
On Dec. 21st I was headed down to Chapel Hill, with a car full of sound equipment, my digital grand, guitar, amp and stands, etc. -- when a car making a left turn from the opposite flow of traffic apparently did not see me and bashed right into me on my driver's side. I figured this was "IT". My car was slammed off the road and totaled. Fortunately I wasn't. I didn't sustain any mortal wounds although my neck still feels funny. I was able, with the help of my very excellent sis-in-law (who was on the scene in minutes) to scrape myself up, participate in the police report,transfer all my gear to a rental car and make it down to Chapel Hill in time to meet my obligations there: a rehearsal with banjo player Stephen Wade and fiddler James Leva. (We basically put a band together in two three hour sessions, for a four set party gig at Judge Walter Bennett's the next night!) The music was a very healing distraction.
I am sad to see my little car go. I always said I was going to drive it till it fell apart. I guess that's what happened, although it was more like "Fate" took it apart, with the assistance of another careless driver. My little car had become like a member of the family -- it took me all over the country to various theatre and music gigs -- but it is slowly dawning on me how lucky I am to have survived. If I had been hit squarely in the driver's side door I would now be lunch meat. We are all luckier than we think... and it IS a wonderful life! (Car & I in happier days>>>)
Got a note from Elise Witt saying she has been performing an old song of mine, "Three Guys", at the Goethe Institute in Atlanta. The Goethe Institute is a worldwide organization. I don't know much about it because the website's in German. But it's the Atlanta branch's 30th anniversary and they're having concerts and events every night for two weeks. Elise introduces the song as "being about a part of Goethe's life that even the Goethe Institute didn't know about!" She says she enjoys watching the crowds' reactions to it.
"LOUISIANA!" -- I recently made a quick trip to Louisiana where Greensboro guitarist Jack King and I played with Clyde Edgerton in his presentation "Walking Across Egypt -- The Art of Faith" at the Emmanuel Baptist Church in the city of Alexandria. Not a Southern Baptist Church, Emmanuel is more of a maverick organization, with a unusually keen interest in the artistic expression of faith. They have befriended students from Louisiana College, a local educational institution which has recently been under the influence of more fundamentalist doctrines. The students were very much in evidence during the weekend workshops which Clyde presented. Our participation culminated in a concert at the Coughlin-Saunders Performing Arts Center.
The Alexandria airport was full of young soldiers who appeared to be shipping out to Iraq. The Holiday Inn was full of policemen who seemed to be keeping an eye on some of the harder partying residents who apparently were world weary FEMA employees. It was an interesting weekend! (photos by Stan Lott)