Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Bluegrass on the Waccamaw - Conway, SC - Review

 The Old Peanut Warehouse - Conway, SC

Bluegrass on the Waccamaw has been a family affair since its inception fourteen years ago when Jennings Chestnut and local entrepreneur Donald Smith joined together to offer a bluegrass festival "Free to the Public." Each year Jennings would beat the bushes to raise sufficient funds from mostly local sources to produce a one day bluegrass festival on the second Saturday in May at the Peanut Warehouse in downtown Conway, SC.  The Peanut Warehouse, when Jennings decided to use it, was a nearly abandoned, run-down building filled with the leavings of the hundreds of pigeons nesting in its rafters and filthy from years of disuses.  He and his wife Willie spent hundreds of hours cleaning it and making the lovely indoor space fit for musicians to prepare to perform and for Willie to serve the lavish buffets she became famous for throughout the bluegrass world.  Meanwhile, the porch, renamed for the late Senator Strom Thurmond who had once given a speech from it, became the stage on which dozens of nationally known bands as well as local and regional ones performed each May for an increasingly large and loyal audience who appeared.  When Jennings died in February of brain cancer, this year's Bluegrass on the Waccamaw lineup was already booked, and his family and friends determined to hold the show as a memorial to his efforts.  With Shane Hubbard, local businessman and long-time Chestnut friend taking on the largest part of the work, the festival was held last Saturday, and plans to continue holding the event under Shane's direction and with the support of Donald Smith are well along the way.

 Jennings Chestnut with Daughter Ginger Campbell

New Executive Director Shane Hubbard
with volunteers
Gary Long and Lyn Butler 

Once again this year, Bluegrass on the Waccamaw was preceded by a Friday evening Chicken Bog dinner fund raiser.  The feature band was "The Wolfe Brothers Band" from Virginia.  The crowd was good, the music was fine, and we all had a good time at this event focused on recognizing volunteers.  This annual event, although it's never been a money-maker for the festival, has been a musical and social success for all of us who have participated in it through the years.

 Donald Smith & Auxiliary Officer Grady Richardson

Shane Hubbard and Raffle Guitar

Crowd for the Dinner

The Wolf Brothers Band

Kids Dancing to the Wolf Brothers
Willie Chestnut Giving Volunteer Award
 The Festival - Saturday
Ginger Campbell Opens the Festival

Willie Chestnut and Her Sister Renda Look On with Nephew
Saturday dawned hot and clear with the threat of heavy afternoon thundershowers as a lagging cold front approached.  The storms never materialized and the hot day cooled while the crowd moved out from under the bridge and into the space between the stage and the tent.  The music continued throughout the day.  The vendors sold and the folks had a great  time.  

The Crowd Under the Bridge

Robert Napier and Students
Open the Festival
 Robert Napier, who is a career fiddle player at the Alabama Theater in Myrtle Beach, teaches bluegrass music to a number of students, who appear annually at Bluegrass on the Waccamaw.  For those who follow the progress of these students, it's clear that Robert makes a significant contribution to bluegrass music in the region.  This was recognized this year  by his receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award given annually by the festival.  

Some of Robert's Younger Students

Red White, and Bluegrass

The Red White & Bluegrass Band, not to be confused with the festival of roughly the same name held fourth of July weekend in Morganton, NC, is composed of members of the family of the late Red White who pioneered bluegrass music in Horry County, SC and, for years hosted a television program in Wilmington, NC.  His family's band has been reconstituted, released a CD, and is performing again in the region. Their strong gospel leaning and highly energetic performance was well received on this day.  Guest fiddler Greg Luck was a pleasant surprise.

Randy Smith 

Greg Luck

Red White Jr.

Chris Holmes

Gwen White

Barbara White

The Snyder Family Band
The attention focused on the Snyder Family Band is exclusively focused on the talents and charm of two very young and attractive children, Zeb Snyder (14) on guitar and his younger sister, Samantha (11) on fiddle.  These kids are delightful young people whose instrumental virtuosity is bringing them widespread attention across the nation.  Check out their web site and try to catch them at a festival near you.

Samantha Snyder

Zeb Snyder

Owen and Laine Snyder Chime In with Bud on Bass

 The Sun was Brutal on Saturday

Jammin' on the River Walk

 The Darin & Brooke Aldridge Band

 Darin and Brooke Aldridge have been successfully touring in support of their self-titled CD and their gospel ministry.  Through their unique vocal blend and choice of music their performances are being heard in a wider geographical area by increasingly diverse audiences.  Their band provides very strong support for their program of country tinged bluegrass songs and gospel work, much of which is original to their band.

Darin Aldridge

Brooke Aldridge

Josh Greene

Perry Woodie

 Eddie Biggerstaff

Avid Fan

 Darin & Brooke with the People's Mandolin

Under the Tent

The Little Roy and Lizzy Show
 Little Roy Lewis, after fifty years of touring with his family gospel band is now touring with Lizzy Long, his long time protegee and a supporting band.  Little Roy, on stage and off, remains as unpredictable as he always has been, and the band tries to adjust to his comic rifs.  Lizzy, whose multi instrumental work is strong, continues to improve as the bands front person while working with her mentor.  When we talked, she was clearly deeply distressed  by the loss of her instruments and the contents of her house in Nashville, but none of that seemed to touch the professionalism of her performance.

Lizzy Long

Little Roy Lewis

Doug Flowers
 Lisa McClung

Al Hoyle

Lizzy Back Stage

Mackensie Long Keeps Her Dad Gary Cool

Grasstowne, after some major changes in personnel, has pulled itself together and continues to tour with a strengthened lineup and renewed energy.  While new banjo player Dustin Jenkins was unable to appear, he was ably substituted for by former IBMA fiddle player of the year and banjo nominee rookie Ron Stewart.  The addition of Adam Haynes on fiddle has been an excellent choice for leaders Steve Gulley and Alan Bibey.  Haynes' soulful fiddle blended magically with Alan's elegant mandolin play while his baritone and bass singing adds a new dimension.  Steve Gulley, of course, continues to have one of the finest voices in bluegrass music.

Steve Gulley

Alan Bibey

Adam Haynes

Ron Stewart
Kameron Keller

 Backstage Jam
Bluegrass on the Waccamaw, despite losing an irreplacable part of its essence, will continue under the direction of Shane Hubbard and Donald Smith.  One hopes the Chestnut family will remain involved.  Meanwhile, the event was a great success, with pleasant memories of Jennings Chestnut rising up during the two days and much reconciliation taking place as old friends returned to support the festival.  Keep on the lookout for information about next year's event as the time approaches.  Head for the festival web site if you wish to support it financially.