Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Palatka Bluegrass Festival - February 13 - 15, 2020 - Rodeheaver Boys Ranch

The 16th annual Palatka Bluegrass Festival, held at the Rodeheaver Boys Ranch in Palatka, Fl will run from February 13 - 15, 2020 with the gates opening for campers on Sunday, February 9th. Ernie and Deb Evans and their Evans Media Source have acquired Norman Adams festivals. Although Norman and Judy have retired, look for them at Palatka and thank them for their many years of providing high quality bluegrass festivals.  The changeover has been smooth and festival attendees can expect a high degree of continuity as the transition continues.

The Lineup
In order of appearance - Repeat Bands Only Mentioned Once

Springfield Exit

Springfield Exit was originally a Virginia-based band, coming from near Winchester. Composed of bluegrass veterans David McClaughlin, Tom Adams, and Marshall Wilborn,  formerly members of the well-remembered and revered Johnson Mountain Boys, the band highlights Linda Lay's terrific voice along with husband David, who have recently located to a new farm in northeastern Tennessee. You can count on first rate traditional bluegrass from these veteran performers who have performed at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and opened for Merle Haggard. 

The Primitive Quartet

The Primitive Quartet has been touring the country with its bluegrass southern gospel music for nearly fifty years. Traveling nearly fifty thousand miles a year, performing around one hundred and fifty dates in churches, festivals, and southern gospel conventions. They have been regulars at Norman Adams festivals. 

The Primitive Quartet - When I Get Home

Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers

Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers were named International Bluegrass Music Association's 2019 Entertainers of the Year at it's annual awards show in Raleigh, NC last September. Their hard work and cheerful adherence to traditional bluegrass music as well as Mullins' Scruggs Style banjo play earned them the honor after years of hard touring by this Southern Ohio-based band. Mullins, the son of radio tycoon and former performer Paul (Moon) Mullins, Joe is also a well-regarded radio personality and station owner in the region. He also currently serves as IBMA's Chairman of the Board. They always present a well-crafted, musical, enjoyable show. 

Joe Mullins & the Radio Ramblers

Carl Jackson, Larry Cordle and Jerry Salley

Take three of Nashville's most talented, rewarded singer/songwriter/performers and put them on three stools at anywhere from the Bluebird Cafe in Music City to a dusty, tent on the bluegrass trail. Next, invite them to sing and play their own best songs like long time friends sitting around the living room reminiscing, and what do you have? Magic. I can't count the number of Grammy Awards, IBMA, and Dove statues they have between them, but I can guarantee you'll have a wonderful time as they roam through their catalogs telling stories while giving the audience lots of insight into writing and performing. Cordle, Jackson, and Salley can't be beat!

Cordle, Jackson & Salley - Black Diamond Strings

The Malpass Brothers

The Malpass Brothers were a country music duo singing covers of classic country singers while looking for an audience...and then they found bluegrass festivals. The rest is history. With their full country band, including often derided (in bluegrass musc) a drum kit and pedal steel, they have captured bluegrass audiences with their charm, humor, and remarkably sound-alike vocals across the country. Always popular and welcome, their audience has swelled as their confidence has grown. 

Malpass Brothers - Saginaw Michigan

Bandana Rhythm
Nathan Stewart

Rachel Stewart

While only on their second year of touring at bluegrass festivals, Bandana Rhythm has become a popular and winning feature at Ernie Evans festivals while spreading their wings and developing as a fine musical duo augmernted by Rachel's two brothers. Nathan Stewart will be a familiar face to many as the former mandolin player for the Little Roy and Lizzy Show. Make sure you take part of your day to welcome this band and enjoy their show. 

Bandana Rhythm - There Is A Time

Dry Branch Fire Squad

Dry Branch Fire squad has been a feature at Palatka since the beginning, as they have been at festivals like Gettysburg, Strawberry Park, and Grey Fox for many years. Band leader Ron Thomason, who began his professional career with Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys nearly fifty years ago, hasn't stoped singing in the old time way while commenting on the contemporary world with humor and gusto. 

Dry Branch Fire Squad - Fifty Miles of Elbow Room

Penny Creek Band

Penny Creek, based in Melbourne, FL began its musical journey, like many flourishing bands do, playing in bars and fast food joints along Florida's east coast near Melbourne. Through dint of hard work and judicious additions to their personel, they have continued to spread their wings while strengthening their performances. Now, while they retain their Florida roots, audiences around the country are beginning to realize that Florida produces fine bluegrass music. This band wins audiences with its fine selection bluegrass standards and music written from within. Be sure to see them!

Penny Creek - Sunny Side of the Mountain

The Gibson Brothers

I've been writing about The Gibson Brothers for nearly twenty years, now. We first heard them at the Jenny Brook Festival in Vermont, finding ourselves entranced with their song writing, their great vocal blend, and their charm. None of that has slipped as they continue to broaden their repertory, always adding new material while finding new audiences through releasing a country album which uniquely complements their bluegrass. At Palatka, you'll be hearing the Gibson Brothers bluegrass band, and maybe a few of their country offerings, too. With the addition of noted instrumentalist Justin Moses to their band, they have continued to develop a wider range, while always staying uniquely themselves. 

The Gibson Brothers - Fireball

Jimmy Fortune - One Long Set

Jimmy Fortune, long a central voice in the storied Statler Brothers, now tours as a solo act featuring many of his songs known by music lovers around the world. I don't know what configuration he'll have with him at Palatka, but you can bet on his voice delivering songs you have treasured for a generation.  Pure nostalgia!

Jimmy Fortune - Elizabeth

Bluegrass Gospel Sing & Jam

Born Lonesome

Born Lonesome is a new Florida-based band bringing together a group of pickers who are familiar in a variety of settings, but not together as a band. Formed in March of 2019, the band has rapidly picked up steam as they've been heard at local events as well as the Sertoma Thanksgiving Festival. The link above contains a full performance from an Artist Showcase on WMNF, a non-commercial FM radio station located in Tampa. They are rapidly getting their name out within Florida, and will soon be heard in much wider circles. Palatka will be their first national festival, so you can say, "I heard them when....."

Born Lonesome - Apalachee Sky

The Little Roy & Lizzy Show

Little Roy Lewis has been entertaining audiences for over sixty years since he made his debut with the fabled gospel band, The Lewis Family. Now he's been sharing the stage with the talented multi-instrumentalist Lizzy Long for over a decade. Fans will relish hearing again their well-known songs and seeing their routines. I've long viewed them as an important and delightful tie to bluegrass history and its sawdust and vaudeville roots. Little Roy is a national treasure!

Little Roy & Lizzie Show - Travelin On

Lonesome River Band

Some bands are well enough known that their initials suffice to let you know they're coming to a festival near you. LRB has been offering its unique rock-inflected bluegrass to audiences around the world since the 1980's. A look at the list of the names of former members of the band indicates how widely their influence has been felt, and how enduring their sound is. Banjo player Sammy Shelor is known as one of the most important banjo players in the business, as indicated by his IBMA awards as well as his having won the coveted Steve Martin Prize for Excellence in Banjo and Bluegrass. The band has maintained its standard of excellence.

Lonesome River Band - Little Magnolia

Rhonda Vincent and the Rage

Rhonda Vincent has remained a significant draw at bluegrass festivals for at least three decades. She and her band tour widely and have consistently performed at well over a hundred events each year. She is known for her talent and her hard work. At the merchandise table, fans are rewarded with a real sense that they are important to her, as she stays out until the line has finished, providing autographs and pictures while greeting old fans by name and always evincing an interest in each person who has stood in line for picture or a brief word from her. Along with her voice and consistently ourtstanding bandsmanship, she has become one of the most honored and recognized personalities in bluegrass. Rhonda's a fitting person to close the show for another year. 

Rhonda Vincent - Momma Tried

My Spotify Playlist for Palatka 2020

The Details
The Palatka Bluegrass Festival is held as a benefit for the Rodeheaver Boys Ranch, founded in 1950 by evangelist and band leader Homer Rodeaheaver on a large site about fifteen miles south of Palatka, FL along the St. Johns River. Take a look at the Ranch's Web Site for further information about this worthy cause. The Ranch site includes over 500 campsites with electric and water hookups. A local contractor is available to provide pumpouts. A shower room and flush toilets are available along with freqently cleaned and well-placed porta-potties. There are usually campsites availble. For informaiton call: 386-328-1281,

Photo by Kevin Beverly

Tickets and More Information: Palatka has been the largest and most popular traditional bluegrass festival in Florida since its founding sixteen years ago. The festival has a reserve seat policy and most of those slots are held by returning fans. Nevertheless, there's excellent sound no matter where you sit, provided by BlueRidge Sound and video screens help people sitting in remote seats to see as well as hear. There are no  reservations on having fun at Palatka, though. Furthermore, bluegrass customs allow fans to sit in open seats anywhere. When the seat's owner returns, they'll indicate you are sitting in their chair. You should move immediately to another location. Bluegrass people are pleasant and generous, and there's no actual implied or felt ill feeling for your having occupied someone else's seat. So come and enjoy the show, and pre-order your next year's ticket so you can move up the ladder. Ticket prices and further festival informaton can be found here. EMS is a family run business which is extremely customer friendly. For tickets, seats, and additional information, call Deb at (386) 385-3500.

Emcee Sherry Boyd

Sherry Boyd will be keeping events moving (and on time) throughout the festival. One of the most experienced, capable, and popular emcees on the bluegrass circuit, make sure to introduce yourself to her sometime during the weekend. 

John Holder and Blue Ridge Sound

Blue Ridge Sound, one of the best sound companies anywhere, knows bluegrass music and presents it at its best. President and founder John Holder's crew will be providing excellent sound this season.  Count on hearing the music the way it should sound at any festival where they are present. 

Evans Media Source
Ernie Evans

Deb Evans

A look at the Evans Media Source Home Page tells the story of a large "full service production company" promoting festivals, concerts, and cruises along with providing music for weddings, presenting a weekly radio program, and putting together shows for a range of other sponsor organizations. But the story goes back to a young musician from Ohio who became a working musician playing country and bluegrass music around the country and a good piece of the rest of the world, too. Responsible for a growing family, he reluctantly left full-time music to go into the corporate world. After moving to Florida, Ernie began dipping his feet into playing music as well as promoting events along with his wife Deb. Then along came the recession of 2006, when Ernie found himself without a job. In order to support his family, he returned to full-time touring with bluegrass bands along with the regional band he and Deb had formed in Florida. 

The rest of the story is about a hard working couple with a growing family struggling together to rescue, build, and grow new events, while developing new skills as they learned how to host a radio program, organize, and promote events. They know the struggles of working people and that both bluegrass and country music are hard working people's music. Throughout their growth period and continuing even today, they have striven to bring great live music to people who love and appreciate it. Their recent acquisition of Norman Adams festivals has brought them into national attention as major promoters in the southeast. Let them know how much you appreciate theirhard work.

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