You know the glory time has come when fingers make the fiddles fly and guitars resound with rhythms rooted in good Kentucky earth.
Up there, close together on the modest stage beneath the mounted buffalo head, the strummers of the bass and mandolin and the picker of the banjo know the special needs of down-home people. They yearn for the simple pleasures of joy reaching from neck to shoulders, collar bones to elbows. Head to toes.
For sure, you know you’re in the right place by the clicking sounds of clogging shoes on a smooth, concrete dance floor.
It’s another Saturday night at Meadowgreen Park Bluegrass Music Hall in Clay City.
And you are there.
The Hazel Holler girls play and sing How Mountain Girls Can Love, and one by one, two by two, young and old leave their audience seats and chairs, and they begin to dance. Some have flashing red and green lights on their shoes—they look like little airport landing guides. Children as young as 4 years old join hands, clogging in a whirling circle. They act as if they don’t know the meaning of tired or had enough.
A tall man, arriving from Ohio in an antique car, launches alone into his high-step buck dance as if this floor were made just for him. He’s into Darlin’, You’re Toying With My Toy Heart, moving like a man possessed with mixed memories.
A retired farm equipment dealer slides diagonally from one corner to the other as smoothly as a downhill skier, takes his lady by the hand, and they politely do-si-do. Just the two of them. Then they caper like there’s no tomorrow. They are Harold Prewitt and Virginia Faye of Richmond, and they come to Meadowgreen as often as they can. Possibly, they’ve concluded, the couple that clogs together just might stay a mite closer down through the years. They might even still be stamping their feet and flapping their wings with angels smiling in Heaven.
Nora Barnett of Winchester “feels the song” and clogs accordingly. She wistfully concludes, “If you don’t preserve it, it’ll be gone.” It’s safe to think she means bluegrass music, clogging, and joyful living would be lost if not practiced.
James Price and Ricky Oldfield from Mt. Sterling and their band are featured on this Saturday night in February, and they heat the place up with the steel-driving John Henry and the speeding Orange Blossom Special. They follow in the tradition of Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys, Larry Sparks and the Lonesome Ramblers, Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver, The Osborne Brothers, and, of course, Bill Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys.
The first bluegrass festival was held at Meadowgreen Park in 1977, the year that Elvis died. Travolta was Stayin’ Alive in Saturday Night Fever, while here in Kentucky there was this revival of the fiercely unique, Southern, improvised sound called bluegrass.
Bill Monroe, who led the creation of bluegrass, was born on September 13, 1911, in Rosine. That’s in Ohio County. Monroe, who died September 9, 1996, has left a legacy and his spirit is alive at Meadowgreen. True, bluegrass music is not everybody’s cup of tea, neither the opera nor the symphony, neither big band nor rock ’n’ roll. Bluegrass could be called the heart and soul and especially the feet of folk.
Best to check in advance for their seasonal schedule.
If you’re coming from Lexington on I-64, enter the Mountain Parkway, take Exit 16 at Clay City in Powell County, take KY 82 toward Irvine, go only about one mile, and turn left at the prominent Meadowgreen sign. Go a short distance, turn right at the next Meadowgreen sign, drive in, and park where you can. The official address is 465 Forge Mill Road, (606) 663-9008, or online at www.kyfriends.com. Or you could just ask somebody in the neighborhood, and they’ll point your feet in the right direction.