A.P. Carter Cabin To Be Dedicated, Marty Stuart To Perform Benefit

This appeared in the Kingsport Times-News - May 29, 2004

A well-known face has been doing some carpentry work around the Carter Fold - more notably, the transplanted location of the A.P. Carter home place.

This carpenter, however, is more known for "Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine" than hammers and nails.

Although Tom T. Hall is a country music songwriting legend, he is known these days by Carter Fold executive Rita Forrester as a do-it-all handyman.

"Tom is a very private person, and he wants everything that he does these days to go without recognition. But he has really been a blessing here at the Fold. Once pieces of the cabin started going into place, he stepped right in with his hammer and just went to work,'' said Forrester.

Hall's handiwork will be on display for the general public for the first time, as the Carter Fold will present a special dedication ceremony for the A.P. Carter Cabin project Saturday afternoon at 2.

A number of volunteers, including Hall, have been working on the cabin since it was moved to the grounds of the performance center just over a year ago.

The piece-by-piece process was a prerequisite of the Virginia Department of Historical Resources, which has the cabin listed on its grouping of historical landmarks.

"Each piece of the cabin had to be numbered, then cataloged, then brought over one piece at a time to the Fold grounds. It has been a tedious process, but one that we feel has been necessary to preserve the cabin closest to its original form,'' said Forrester, who said the price of restoration has exceeded the $40,000 originally earmarked for the process.

The cabin was the home to one of the trio members that made recording music history in Bristol on State Street in 1927.

A.P., his wife Sara, and Mother Maybelle Carter made what has come to be known the first country music recordings during that session.

As a means to help meet the cost of the restoration, one of the cabin's saviors - country music star Marty Stuart - will perform a special benefit concert Saturday on the Carter Fold's stage at 7:30.

In 2002 during a visit to Scott County to examine the cabin for a book on he was writing on country music history, Stuart pulled Forrester aside and essentially started the project right there.

"We can't let something like this just fade away. It is way too historic and valuable to just let it rot,'' Forrester said of Stuart's remarks.

"Once the furniture and everything else was taken out of it, the cabin has been used for everything, including a place to hang tobacco in. The weather and the years started to take a toll on the place.

"Restoring the cabin is something that we have had in mind for years, but it was just not feasible financially. Then when Marty got involved, things fell into place, although we still have some costs that have to be addressed. And there again, Marty has stepped up to the plate to help.''

Forrester is also hopeful that Hall, who has a part-time home in Scott County, will be able to hang up his utility belt for one evening.

"We haven't really confirmed anything with him, but we would like him to pick up his old mandolin and play at least one number at the concert,'' Forrester said.

"We also know that John Carter Cash and Carlene (Carter) are planning to be at the concert, which I think is going to be a special evening. This will be the first time since last year that most of the family will be together.

"Last year was just so hard on us, so we are looking forward to an evening that will allow us to just celebrate and think about how much A.P. and June and Johnny mean to us here at the Fold.''

June Carter Cash passed away just a month prior to her 74th birthday after complications from heart surgery, while her husband Johnny Cash succumbed to complications from diabetes five months later.

"One of the first concerts they held together here at the Fold was a benefit. They wanted things like A.P.'s music to be preserved. We hope we can continue to do that,'' said Forrester.

Although a majority of reserved seating inside the Carter Fold has been sold, a few tickets remain for the show, which will be opened to outdoor seating weather permitting.

By Kevin Castle

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