Merlefest - Wilkesboro, North Carolina on April 29, 2001

We, my Dad went along for the ride, arrived at Wilkesboro early Sunday morning, around 9:30, to get set to hear some great music. What an experience Merlefest is. The crowd was HUGE, and the music..... well it was something for everyone. Lots of bluegrass, but also gospel, zydeco, and some country in the mix. The day turned out hot and sunny. They offer reserved seating there, but it is only for those who purchase 4-day passes, so we took along chairs and settled in as close as possible.

Once we were settled. we knew we were in for a long wait for Earl and Marty. It was still only about 10:30 or so and they were not scheduled to perform until 4:15 p.m.. Needless to say, I have a definite "glow" about me today after sitting in that hot sun. The stages are set up in a unique way, there is the large Watson stage in front and a smaller Cabin stage to the right. This allows other performers to play while they set up the microphones for the next band on the Watson stage. Jerry Douglas did triple duty playing one set with his own mix of musicians, then one set with Sam Bush, and Tony Rice, right before he went on with Earl. As he was moving from one stage to another, I knew it was about time for the guys to hit the stage. I went down front and waited near the front row, I had to squat down to keep from getting in trouble.

As Sam and Tony were finishing their set, I looked up on the Watson stage and Marty, Brad and all the others, except for Earl, were already on stage. Needless to say, I completely forgot about the others performing and started trying to snap pictures. Before Earl came out, I found an empty seat not too far from the stage and listened to some of the show. They played lots of old favorites. "Rock a-bye my Saro Jane," "Sally Goodin," and of course, Marty and Earl played "John Henry" from The Pilgrim. Brad was great on the guitar. I'm glad Earl saw his talent, just like Marty did, and invited him along to play. You could tell they were having a great time on stage together, laughing and carryin' on. "Reuben" was another great tune. Earl played the guitar on a song (can't remember it to save my life), but Marty made the comment that "when we get to heaven we're gonna find out that God plays the guitar a lot like Earl and Mother Maybelle." They performed the song "Long Black Veil." Gary Scruggs, Earl's son, sang lead and Marty's lead guitar was awesome. Everyone sang along on "Precious Memories," and "Cry, Cry, Cry" fell into the mix. Lots of wonderful music.

Earl was to sign autographs after their set, but with the large number of people in attendance, we headed straight out to beat the traffic, plus it had been a long HOT day. It was an excellent show, if you don't mind crowds and little shade Merlefest is a great, and definitely eclectic place to visit.

Review and photo by Serena Wimmer, Copper Hill, VA

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