Saturday, April 18, 2009

Home Town Opry - Wilkes County, NC

Main Street Music

Mike Palmer and Customer

At any time of year, Wilkes County North Carolina is a hotbed of roots music. Bluegrass, country, drop thumb, swing, and blues live side by side here in the county where Doc Watson was born and raised, Tut Taylor has moved, the Kruger Brothers have found a new home, Terry and Cindy Baucom live and the Wilkes Acoustic Folk Society provides an organizing focus. Merlefest, perhaps the largest music festival held in the east, takes place the last weekend of April each year here in Wilkesboro, the county seat. In the midst of this delicious cultural soup, Main Street Music and Pawn and The Hometown Opry stand as important institutions. Many people are used to hearing about and visiting Minton’s Music and Pawn. Long-time owner Jerry Minton has retired and been bought out by his partner Mike Palmer, who has continued the business and the traditions of this wonderful store on the north end of Wilkesboro’s Main Street.

Steve Handy - Host of Hometown Opry

AutoHarpMan - James Smith

Permanance Space at Hometown Opry

Lynn Swaim with Newly Decorated Bass
paint by Lynn & Tut Taylor

Donnie Swaim

Jerry Langford
The Hometown Opry is a weekly, live radio broadcast originating at Main Street Music and broadcast over WKBC-AM 800 every Friday from 7:00 until 9:00 and hosted by local radio personality Steve Handy. You never know who might be performing on any given Friday. I’m told that Rhonda Vincent showed up one time as well as Del McCoury. Doc Watson has been a performer there over the years, and the Kruger Brothers do several programs a year. Musicians coming through town are likely to appear on this relaxed and enjoyable program, and, of course, plenty of local, and very capable, musicians are regulars. This week, auto-harpist, story-teller, and collector of mountain music Dr. James Smith was the featured supporter, backed up by Donny Swain on guitar, Jerry Langford on banjo, and Lynn Swain on bass. Smith bills himself as the AutoHarpMan from Al-la-Bam! In his performance he serves up a winning combination of traditional folk music, Stephen Foster classics, some melodic bluegrass, and mountain music, often accompanied by his own autoharp play and sometimes by an accompanying band.

Audience at Hometown Opry

Mike Palmer Taping the Show

Door Prizes

Steve Handy Interviews John Adair of Merlefest Staff

Ed Racey

The Deer Call
A Hometown Opry performance usually includes plenty of music and lots of good natured banter between good-natured host handy and the audience, which can number as many as 75 or so people. There are usually door prizes. The station news man, Ed Racey, shows up to read a poem, tell a story about a dopey failed crime, or offer a corny story. Visitors are welcomed, and someone is selected to blow the deafening and effective deer call. The music is good, the fun is real, and the experience is priceless. Plan to visit Main Street Pawn on a Friday morning when you visit Wilkesboro.