Stephen struck up a conversation with Robert’s girlfriend, Sharon, and she told us about a weekly gathering at Robert’s place. This past Monday neither of us had Chorale rehearsal or other engagement, so we decided that we would head up and check it out.
Robert’s place is north of Pickens, near the community of Midway. He has built himself a mock town on his property, which he calls “Perryville.” Stephen followed the directions Sharon had given him, and we found the rutted driveway with no problem.
We approached an amazing array of sheds, barns, and buildings, with a centrally located farm house. There were lots of cars parked in front of a row of facades, representative of Perry’s town. It looked like a pretty good sized crowd was gathering.
Just as we were getting out of Stephen’s truck we were greeted by Robert’s young grandson, Joshua. Since we were newcomers, Joshua wanted to show us everything. He took us on a tour of some of the multitude of old vehicles around the building, let us look into some of the fake storefronts, then took us around to see a red fox that they had captured on their property.
As we wandered around the grounds I kept thinking that this would be the perfect place for a visit by the American Pickers. There were vintage signs and knick knacks in just about every corner. The number of classic cars, including old Ford T-models, was just astounding. There was almost too much to look at and too many places to point a camera.
But, the reason we were here was for the music. As Joshua was giving us our tour, we heard the strains of Gospel and Bluegrass coming from one of the buildings in the “town.” As we headed on over, we were greeted warmly by several of the regulars. The venue itself was in a section of the town designated as the church, on one end, and saloon on the other. Appropriate, I guess.
The interior sported a pot-bellied stove, a stained glass window, and church pews. The place was filled. A circle of musicians was up front, with Robert on his bass, several guitar players, an electric bass, and two mandolin/violin players. A couple of other old guys played a washboard and bohdran. The walls were covered with photos of Country and Western stars, as well as programs from upcoming or past events. There were also vintage items in just about every nook and cranny. A rack was set up at the back where the players could put their cases.
Everyone we met there was super friendly and welcoming, from audience members to musicians. Most of these were regulars, and we were obviously the two outsiders. Even so, we seemed to fit right in. No one objected to our cameras. In fact, I’d glance over, and some ersatz geezer in mountaineer garb would pull out an iPad or iPhone and start recording video or taking photos. At one point Sharon came over and showed us her pet baby possum.
The music itself was informal, and different ones would take turns singing or playing lead. The quality of the music wasn’t outstanding, but it was heartfelt and fun. Some of the old Gospel songs I knew by heart, and found myself singing along with them.
Even the animals got involved. Robert’s little dog Blackjack took a lead roll in the Hank William’s classic, “Move it on over.”
Came in last night at half past ten
That baby of mine wouldn’t let me in
So move it on over (move it on over)
Move it on over (move it on over)
Move over little dog cause the big dogs moving in
Here’s video proof…
After a few tunes the group took a break. At the back of the hall were a few homemade snacks that could be purchased. Stephen got a bowl of beans and cornbread, but I satisfied myself with a canned drink. There was lots of chatter all around as we talked to the denizens of Perryville.
The group gathered once again, and we started another round of music. Here are a couple more video clips…
In that last video, the man on the train whistle was Bobby Cox. Bobby also brought the washboard and a collection of harmonicas.
Stephen struck up a conversation with Bobby. He said that he didn’t think he was talented enough with singing or stringed instruments, but he still wanted to make music. So, he brings his percussion instruments and harmonicas and joins in when he can.
I can understand his feelings. I couldn’t help but sing along when I knew the song. It doesn’t matter if it’s singing the Verdi Requiem with the Greenville Chorale, playing keyboards for some cover band, or singing Gospel songs with my family or some other group. There is something about corporate music making that is transcendent. You don’t have to be great at it – you just have to let loose and enjoy it.
Stephen and I stayed until about 9:00, then headed on toward home. However, I’m sure this will not be our last visit. Here are all of my photos from the trip…
…and here are Stephen’s photos…