ABOVE: Performing at LeMars, Iowa, in 2015 are Frankie Carter (left), Tommy Buller (middle), Lillie Mae Rische (right, fiddle), and two more.
Bob Everhart has left the building. He passed away on August 20, 2021, at the age of 85 from heart complications. The world of Old-Time Country Music has lost its most passionate advocate. He was a great entertainer as well. Here we are with Bob and Sheila at LeMars in 2017.
I met Bob on my first trip to the United States in 1979, visiting my hometown Friend Maria “Leni” Petersen in Omaha, Nebraska. She, an accomplished zither player and singer, took me to a county fair park called Westfair.
Instantly, I was immersed in a world where folks strummed and fiddled and balladed on every corner of some dusty arenas or around the camp fires in the RV park. You could hear bluegrass, honky tonk, highway music or Appalachian dulcimers, a vast range of styles topped off by gospels and spirituals. This good-natured music mania was also going on simultaneously on several stages. There were competitions, instruments, vendors, foreign guests–I was hooked. In the eighties, I often ventured to Iowa over Labor Day weekend for a country music bath and to hear familiar acts again.
Bob Everhart was the perfect host at his festival, scootering on a golf cart all over the park. He was also an accomplished singer of train songs, when he let his harmonica do the Train Whistle Blues, ALL Around the Water Tank, the City of New Orleans, or the Wabash Cannonball. And in the winter he usually went on tour to Europe, including Germany. When I still lived there, I booked a couple of gigs for him at the Oklahoma in Munich, the Notabene in Wolfratshausen, and even Gasthaus Lacherdinger in Ascholding. I will never forget that raucous evening with the Black Bottom Skiffle group. That night I realized that I would never want to be a music event manager. How, dear Bob in heaven, could you do that tricky business for more than 40 years? God bless you! Please tell him/her to blow a bit of traditional country music our way, and not those terrible hurricanes!
Nobody made a lot of money at Westfair, Avoca, or LeMars, but we all made lifetime friends. When I revisited Bob’s festival in 2015 and 2017, I recognized some familiar faces from the eighties, like Stanley “Gallon Hat” or Erv Pickhinke. Some I didn’t recognize because they weren’t born yet in the eighties. These young musicians were the maybe-soon-to-be-famous offspring of the CW hardliners. Bob cared a lot about growing up young country musicians. He was excited to provide them a platform to show their talents. Bob kept his Who’s Got Talent in Country Music going until his eighties. Well done! A life unmatched.
And so many of the young CW folks played him their last respects with songs like “In the Sweet By and By.” But here comes Jacob Austin as Dapper Dan.
Bye, bye, Bob! Keep on jamming with Woody Guthrie, Hank Williams, Johnny Cash and company.
Here is more In Loving Memory of Robert Phillip Everhart