The Great American Folk Boom Concert - Ryman Auditorium - Nashville, TN on May 17, 2000

Billed as "The Great American Folk Boom," Marty assembled an all-star cast and stellar band for an evening of great entertainment at the Ryman Auditorium. The concert was the kick-off for a six-month art exhibit of the works of illustrator Thomas B. Allen. This evening honored him.

Mario and I arrived at the Ryman at the same time Bashful Brother Oswald and his wife arrived. Brother Oswald, now confined to a wheelchair, enjoyed the show from side-stage and homage was paid to him throught the evening.

Outside the Ryman, Mario and I ran into Leslie Anne Rawlings and Marty's sister, Jennifer. Both expressed disbelief on the passing of Marty's steel guitar player, Gary Hogue. Inside, we talked with Barbara and Melanie Renfro who were also saddened by the news.

Our seats were center stage, front pew. They had two rows of folding chairs that sat just inches from the stage. Martypal Judy Trickett was lucky enough to sit in the first row of those chairs. Where was the Nasvhville Elite? Despite all the work Marty, Earl and Tom did promoting this show, the Ryman was only half full! You will never again get to see a concert like this. The 8 rows right behind us were empty!!! An usher said that usually meant a tour group was coming--and they didn't show up!

WSM-AM DJ and Grand Ole Opry announcer, Eddie Stubbs, came out and started talking about Marty. He said "We've known one another since we were teenagers. We became friends then and we're still friends to this day. And I love his passion, his heart and his commitment to all forms of the arts, but especially the traditions of country music. He's just got this drive and desire to see that the heritage of this precious form known as country music is never forgotten. All forms of music..gospel music, or hillbilly or rockabilly or bluegrass or honky tonk, whatever, this guy can do it all. And he does it all with his heart He's a great, great man. He's a member of our Grand Ole Opry family. He's also president of the Country Music Foundation. He's one of the true shining stars of the industry in so many ways. Put your hands together for our host tonight, Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Marty Stuart."

Marty came out and said, "I want to thank you for coming most of all. I think we're in for an incredible night of music and arts. All the walls are melting. And it all happens with the heart and soul of country music here tonight. We're going to church tonight. We're here to actually celebrate the kick-off the art exhibit upstairs. If you didn't get a chance to go up and look at Tom Allen's work, please do before you leave.

"I was raised up in a little town called Philadelphia, Mississippi. And I gotta tell you, there was something about the music that came out of Nashville that touched my heart. I didn't want to go to New York or Hollywood. I wanted to go to Nashville and be where Ernest Tubb and Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs and Bill Monroe and Roy Acuff worked.

"We had a black and white TV set. And if you remember back in those days, all those TV shows, especially if you had a black and white TV set were in black and white. [Marty laughs]. I went to Morgan & Lindsey Dime Store. For $1.87 I bought an album of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs. It was in color. First time I had ever seen them in color. And I thought it was the prettiest thing I'd ever seen in my life. Took it home and put it up in my room like it was the Mona Lisa or something. And I followed the name of the artist--Thomas B. Allen. All throughout the years. And Thomas Allen, he's a Nashville native, we're glad you got called the Patron Saint of the Arts here in Nashville and this night is for you Thomas Allen, wherever your are.

"We figure this show will be over by 6 in the morning, so let's get started. If you came here to see a formal show, you're out of place. Let it rip, that's what it's about. The first lady I'd like to introduce you to was probably the most gorgeous piece of art that Thomas Allen ever produced. It's his daughter Hillary. How about a hand for Hillary Allen."

Hillary Allen came out and said "Marty already told you that I'm Tom's daughter. And I'm not really sure what I'm doing here because I'm a rock and roll musician. I'm in a band called The Gadgets." Marty says, "You're a hillbilly tonight." Hillary continues, "Right! I'm on tour right now. I flew in from Los Angeles a few days ago. But, I'm going to give this thing a try and see what happens. It's a song called 'Wildwood Flower'."

She's a beautiful gal but did not appear to feel at ease on the Ryman stage. I'm sure it was a nervous evening for her. Marty accompanied her on the guitar and Kent Blanton on the upright bass. Hillary gave the song her own twist and it really came out sounding great. The song is one of her father's favorites.

Marty then introduced Minister Evelyn Hubbard saying, "The last concert I played on the road was New Year's Eve and it was down in Tunica, Mississippi. I love to actually start out any new year getting with a church. Begging God to forgive me all I done wrong the year before. But we played this casino and it was 15 minutes til 12 o'clock and Connie and I were together and I said, 'I'd give anything in the world to find a church to go to start off the new millennium.' And we didn't care what denomination it was, we didn't care anything about that. We just wanted a place to go to worship.

" On the way out of Tunica, there was this little white church that I spotted and did a U-turn real fast and I tell you, we walked into something really, really special. The spirit was there. It was just full of it. And we found some precious people and I met one lady in particular that just really pulled my heart apart. I know Mahalia Jackson has sung on this stage. Some of the great white gospel singers of our age. Right now I'd like to present to you the first time ever in Nashville, the first time ever on this stage or most any stage--Minister Evelyn Hubbard of the Commerce Baptist Church in Tunica, Mississippi. Will you make her feel welcome?"

She sang "Amazing Grace" a cappella and the auditorium was silent. It brought tears to my eyes as I thought of Gary and how he was in God's heaven and silently prayed that God gives Gary's family the strength to get through the rough weeks and months ahead.

A special guest of the evening was Governor Don Sundquist who had proclamed May 17 as "Thomas B. Allen Day" in Tennessee. The Governor had some wonderful things to say about Marty, too. "First of all, I honor Thomas Allen. But secondly, I wanted to say something about Marty Stuart. [Marty says, "bye."] He is one of the most talented people I know. If you haven't read his book, you ought to go out and purchase it. It's filled with photographs of everybody -- just magnificient. Marty came and told me what he was doing and we wanted to help obviously. So we got a resolution/proclamation. We were trying to figure out who ought to read it and who did you suggest? Mel Tillis, I think. We thought the show would be too long. I'm not going to read the whole thing either. But I just wanted to summarize it and Marty asked if we could make today, May 17, Thomas B. Allen Day in Tennessee. And whatever Marty asks me to do, I do. We're honored to have this day for all Tennesseans to be Thomas B. Allen Day in all of Tennessee."

Tom Allen came out to accept the proclamation. "I'm overwhelmed, of course. I also want you to know how proud I am to be part of this -- what I perceive to be a renaissance afternoon in Nashville led by a hillbilly picker from Mississippi. Culture wasn't affordable when I was a kid in Nashville. But my mother wouldn't hear about that. So she had us taking piano lessons, my brother and I. And by the time I was nine I had done enough damage to 'Polly Wolly Doodle,' that I asked if I could have art lessons. I liked drawing much better than I liked practicing the piano. She found a teacher for me who was teaching at Watkins Institute. So, I was on a streetcar in the afternoon, riding a streetcar into town to art lessons at Watkins Institute. And now Watkins Institute is now Watkins College of Art and Design. So we've grown up since those years the 1930's. Thank you."

As Tom and the Governor walked off the stage, Marty said, "I think you'll all agree that those two gentlemen define the epitamy of southern culture. That's pretty cool. Well that's one branch of it. I'd like to introduce you to another realm of southern culture the kind where I come from. This is my man right here. How about a hand for Mr. LeRoy Troy from Goodlettsville, Tennessee."

LeRoy comes out wearing his usual overalls and carrying his banjo. Marty says, "Make yourself at home LeRoy. Which chair would you prefer?" LeRoy said "Probably that one," and pointed to the farthest one. Marty asked about LeRoy's overalls. "New?" he says? LeRoy said he'd had them about a year. LeRoy is a very animated performer, has a thick Tennessee hills accent and is genuinely funny! Marty played guitar and joined in on harmony on "Bottle of Wine."

Marty was a wonderful host. Just listening to him talk--he can really hold your attention. Marty continues, "The thing I love about Tom Allen, the genius of Tom Allen was that the could take fine art and turn it into art that an 8-year old kid in a dime store could understand. It got me going to art museums around the world. It got me into culture. I swear I took in everything from over at the Governor's mansion. And I love everybody in this town. I love what this town stands for. And certain areas of town that you can't find anywhere else. And I'd like to introduce you to some elite American society right now. Ladies and Gentlemen, how about a hand for the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band.

This group of characters features Mike Armistead on guitar, Lester Armistead on jug, Superman Kent Blanton on upright Bass, Glen Duncan on fiddle, LeRoy Troy playing the weirdest contraption you've ever seen and Marty Stuart on mandolin and guitar! "I tell you what. We're going to do this song for somebody that's very special. Over here in the wings......... edge him out there. This man came to Nashville and started at the Grand Ole Opry in 1939. Please say hello to Bashful Brother Oswald. This is for you buddy." They performed "She'll be Comin' Round The Mountain" and "Too Old To Cut The Mustard."

A last-minute addition to the show was the Melvin Sloan Dancers. LeRoy and Lester were in the background dancing up a storm. They had two left feet compared to the pros that were out front kicking up their heels.

Marty says, "Makes my heart beat faster. I tell you what, let me give you a quick history lesson. Country music really got its start in 1927 when a man Ralph Peer stopped in Bristol and put an ad in the paper and asked for people that had homemade songs to come and see him. And there was a group called the Carter Family and they recorded their first songs. And as far as I'm concerned, as far as country music goes, Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family are our royalty. And I'll bow in deference to everything the Carter Family has ever recorded. A.P., Sara and Maybelle Carter and there's a precious lady that lives almost in Tennessee and barely in Virginia, a little town called Hiltons Poor Valley, Virginia. She has a show called the Carter Fold that she puts on every Saturday night. She preserves what you're watching tonight. It's a way of life for them. And I'm honored to have her on this stage tonight. It's her first time to ever play at the Ryman Auditorium and I want you to give her a royal welcome. Miss Janette Carter."

Janette says, "It's an honor for me to be here. I've been down here before. I never have been on a program at the Ryman Auditorium. So, it is an honor for me, too, to be here."

Marty had his guitar and said "LeRoy got me out of tune." So Janette and Marty chit-chat while Marty tunes his guitar. Janette says, "My brother Joe was supposed to come with me but he's got a bad leg. He's got a pinched siadic nerve and he just couldn't make it. So he's (Marty) Joe tonight." Marty says, "Ain't nobody be Joe but Joe. Whatcha gonna sing?" Janette replies, "Let's do the first song that the Carter Family ever done. 'Bury Me Under the Weeping Willow' -- when HE gets in tune. [audience roars]. Marty says, "I'm just taking my time because I want to hang around with her for a while. I know how to keep a girl." [continues to tune].

When she finished, she said, "Acoustic music goes on at the Carter Fold and will soon be 26 years every Saturday night. We're trying to preserve this music, or I am, Poor Valley Maple Springs, VA. So if you've never been, you come up and see us. I come down and see you, you come up to see me."

Marty asks, "Is the traffic as bad in Poor Valley as it is here?" Janette says, " I'll be glad to get back home. It's a quiet, simple little place, I tell you." Marty adds, "You don't have a Bass Pro Shop up there?" (referring to the new store that just opened at Opry Mills). Janette says, "Let's just sing a little more, okay?" They performed "Little Moses" and "I'm Thinking Tonight About My Blue Eyes."

Eddie Stubbs once again came on stage. He says, "That's the real thing. Earl Scruggs just walked by and the same thing. Don't ever forget what you're witnessing tonight. It's magic." It's the greatest night at the Ryman. We'll be back.

After the short intermission, Eddie came back on stage. " I don't need to ask if you've had a good time thus far tonight. It's so good to be able to present something like this here at the Ryman Auditorium. I hope that all of you had a chance to go over to the gallery and take a look at Tom Allen's work. It's very impressive. Very very special. It will be continued on through October. We want to thank Ann Knolls of the Arts Company to help put all of that together.

"I hope that you've been taking mental notes and really been soaking all of this up and storing away what you're witnessing tonight. Because everything that's taken place here tonight is very very special. What's about to take place is just as special if not more special. Back in December of 1945, a 21-year-old kid from Springfield, North Carolina came to this town and got the job working with Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys here at WSM's Grand Ole Opry. Bill Monroe had a band a number of years and assembling a lot of things along the way, borrowing from other musical forms, add (at) instrumentation along the way. When 5-string banjos came in place, it changed forever the focus of what we now know as bluegrass music. This gentlemen is one of five architects of bluegrass music. The last surviving architect of this very very special form of music. When you're in his presence, when you're on the stage or down front or up in the balcony, you're truly in the presence of greatness. He's won so many awards all through his career, 1955 he became a member of the Grand Ole Opry and I hope sometime in the near future he's reinstated as a member.

"So many times, so many different heritage organizations, certificates of awards and merits, at Carnegie Hall, that many people remember from years gone by......... the Beverly Hillbillies. He changed my life, he changed every musician's life on this stage. He changed the lives of millions of people around the world. He really has. He's one of the single most important people in the tradition of country music, music the world over. He's a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Ladies and Gentlemen, put your hands together for a round of applause for the legendary Earl Scruggs."

They opened with "Rock About Saro Jane" and "Salty Dog Blues." Marty said, "Something about having Earl Scruggs at the Ryman feels just wonderful, don't it? Oh man, Ladies and Gentlemen, no introductions needed. Just in case you came in from somewhere unknown, on the Dobro, Mr. Jerry Douglas. And Glen Duncan on the fiddle tonight. And his birthday's tomorrow, Gary Scruggs on the bass, Mr. Brad Davis on the guitar over there. I'm filling in for Lester and that's Earl."

"Well, I tell you, Eddie Stubbs said it all. I like it when the pickin' does all the talking. And here's one that does all the talking. It's called "Earl's Breakdown." Gary Scruggs, a singer in his own right, then sang "You Ain't Going Nowhere."

Marty talked about Lester and Earl's fiddle player, Paul Warren. "Foggy Mountain Boys as far as a fiddle player primarily was Paul Warren. Tomorrow would have been Paul Warren's 82nd birthday. And we'd like to do this song tonight for Paul Warren's family and children and it's called 'Sally Goodin." This featured Earl on banjo and Glen Duncan on fiddle.

Marty grabbed guitar and sang "Good Things Outweigh the Bad." Next was "Fireball" featuring Jerry Douglas and Gary Scruggs sang. Marty played mandolin and sang lead on "In The Pines."

Marty says, "I finally figured out something after about 25 years. You invite Earl Scruggs to come over and be on your record and you win Grammies. Year before last, we won for a song called 'Same Old Train.' And we didn't win this time but, by George, we got nominated for 'John Henry The Steel Drivin' Man,' didn't we? We'd like to show you why we lost. This is one of my favorite tunes. This is totally a selfish call right here. I want to hear Earl play 'John Henry, The Steel Driving Man'."

Marty said "I never go to Earl and Louise's house that I don't learn something. Earl told me something the other day. He said 'I don't listen to music much in the car.' He says, 'But I had a tape that I carried for a long time and I played it over and over and over and it was Uncle Dave Macon doing a version of that same song but Uncle Dave's did a version called 'The Death of John Henry.' We thought to fill in for Uncle Dave tonight we'd have LeRoy Troy come out here and sing it . Ladies and Gentlemen, the illustrious LeRoy Troy.

Leroy comes out and says, "Can I say something first? They kinda pulled this out of my hat on me today. I wasn't expecting this." After some deadpan silence, LeRoy says, " Okay." He added "Don't get it mixed up with that other one now." (Meaning, "John Henry, The Steel Driving Man.") So Earl starts picking the other song's intro.

Someone in the audience wanted to hear the Martha White Theme Song. Marty says, "Someone say something about biscuits?" They do a verse of the song. Marty then sang "I Ain't Going to Work Tomorrow" and they played "Black Mountain Rag." Marty's fingers were flying fast on the guitar on that one. Gary Scruggs then sang "Long Black Veil" and "You Are My Flower" (which appears on The Pilgrim album).

A comment from Marty was, "I've said this before and I believe it with all my heart. When we all get to heaven, we're gonna find out that God's a guitar player. We're gonna find out that he plays just like Mother Maybelle and Earl Scruggs."

Marty continued, ""If you have a Flatt and Scruggs songbook, turn to page 8 and this is it." Earl played guitar on "Paul and Silas." Then Earl, Marty, Jerry and Glen did "Precious Memories" a cappella. Again, tears came to my eyes, thinking about Gary Hogue.

Marty says "We'd like to call a guy--our buddy, Eddie Stubbs. Where's Eddie? Where is Edward? Bring your fiddle." (Marty on WSM-AM the Monday before the show, invited Eddie to play fiddle on a song). "Whatcha gonna play?" Eddie says, "How about 'Wake Up Susie'. Paul Warren, boy he was such a big deal." Marty says, "I know. The first time I met you, I thought you were Paul Warren." Eddie says, "Tell the rest of the story." Marty says, "I can't." Referring to Marty, Eddie says, "He went and told Lester, he says 'this guy thinks he's Paul Warren. He's really weird. I want to get to know him.' "Marty laughed and said, "He was 9 years old or so."

After Eddie finished playing, Marty adds, "Earl Scruggs says, 'He [Eddie] don't like like that on the radio.' " Marty called "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" the National Anthem.

Marty thanked the crowd and a few other people and walked off the stage. The audience wouldn't hear of it. "I'd like to call Janette Carter back out here. And I'd like Earl Scruggs to bring his guitar and I'd like for Connie Smith to come out and sing a song."

"Hi baby" he says to Connie as she walked on stage. Then he says, "I'm talking to Janette." "I've tried to get Connie to sing his song. We've been married 27, 28 years [everyone laughs], I finally figured out how to do it. Just get Janette out here and she has to do it. It's called 'The Storms on the Ocean'." Connie, in a long black velvet dress, sang beautifully.

That was the final song. I spent a few minutes talking with Judy. I heard someone calling my name and looked up at the balcony and Leslie Anne Rawlings and Marty's mother were there waving. Mario and I decided to head out to the alley and see if we could catch Marty. Ran into Jodee and Gregg Stocki. We waited with several other people as the performers came out. Marty finally appeared carrying his guitar and mandolin. Connie and Hilda followed.

Told Marty it was a fabulous show and that I was so sorry to hear about Gary. Talked with his mom and Connie. Hilda introduced me to Connie's sister, Carolyn. Marty wanted to make sure that two security men walked his mom to her car in the parking lot. We were parked in that same lot, so walked over with her. She's such a lovely lady.

The evening was so very special! I hope this review and these photos have conveyed that!

Review by Sherry Mattioli, Nashville, TN
Photos by Mario Mattioli

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