42nd National Old-Time Music Festival and Pioneer Expo
August 28 – September 3, 2017
Plymouth County Fairgrounds—LeMars, IA 51520
Funny, how a small Bavarian village (where I spent most of the summer) can harbor all kinds of memories. But country music? When the Ascholding riding club let out a few country western tunes, it sent me down memory lane. Those tunes sounded much like the skiffle group that I taped two years ago at Bob Everhart’s Festival at Le Mars, Iowa (above), or back then at guesthouse Lacherdinger.
Country music was nothing new in Ascholding. More than 30 years ago, old-time country music ambassador Bob Everhart came to perform in my quaint German hometown. Maybe those stones got rolling there?
During his European trips, Bob and I and another few put several country music acts on stage in Germany. I will never forget when the Black Bottom Skiffle group heated up the fully stuffed “Saal” and eventually made off with all the door money, or when Jeff Doty ran up the phone bill mile high at my friend’s house. Kathl, by now almost 90 years old, still remembers the story. Jeff had the love-sick blues. Duh, that explains the phone bill. Luckily, there were more stints to come in Wolfratshausen and Munich.
Bob Everhart has been promoting traditional country music all his life. He has recorded classics for a select album for the Smithsonian Institute (Folkways Records), runs the Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame, “live-streams” the traditional tunes (Wabash Cannon Ball etc.) at countless appearances and hosts every Labor Day the Old Time Country Music Festival in Le Mars, Iowa.
Bob Everhart is a country boy to the bone, as he reveals in his autobiography, “What I Saw”. Bob came from a day laborer family, which was terrorized by an alcoholic, violent dad and held together by a saintly mom. The singer had his first “radio appearances” in the Navy as a radioman. Maybe he also caught the travel bug there because the Navy took them as far as Japan.
Soon after his college studies, music fever led Bob Everhart into the hard-knock music business. Big record labels called the shots, and good bands got their songs stolen. In his early beginnings in the hard-hitting music industry, newspaper reporter Bob met the Rolling Stones when they toured America early in their career before the Battle of the Bands in Omaha, Nebraska.
I visited Bob’s Traditional Country Music Festival in 2015 and was amazed that his flagship event was still going. My friend Maria (also from Ascholding) faithfully played the zither there at several workshops as 30 years before. Bob apparently had not changed much; but he was close to 80 years old now (did I miscount?). How did he keep up this energy? Music keeps him young.
Eventually, I stopped at the festival information booth. Boy, some of these photos seemed familiar. When I was a student at the University of Texas, I attended Bob’s Old-Time Country Music Festival several times. And took pictures. Yep, some of my snapshots stuck out of the photo display. Bob had kept them all these years! Even Bob’s Folkways album cover seemed awesomely familiar. I remembered that performance in the 80ies. I came to Iowa from the University of Texas. Could I have taken the picture for the album cover and didn’t know it?
Bob Everhart has a fabulously strong voice, Nashville-good. But he didn’t want to go that route, selling out to the music industry. He decided instead to serve the Midwestern people’s old-time music and friendships. It’s no easy feat to pull off such a large festival each year. Seems the audience has gotten a little older. But many young musicians join the lineup just as well as the old faithful make the pilgrimage to present faithful crowd pleasers.
If you like traditional people’s music and want to spend a couple of casual days with friendly people, the Traditional Old-Time Country Music Festival is just the right place for you.
Arnold Annen ist ein Keramik-Poet. Hier (oben) eines seiner Designs, das er der Natur (Mikroben) abgeschaut hat. Wir haben ihn und seine Partnerin Violette Fassbaender–unsere Freunde–kürzlich besucht. Beide Künstler sind einzigartige Keramik-Pioniere, Arnold mit seinen zerbrechlichen Schalen, Violette mit ihren marmorierten “Steinen”.
Our friend Arnold Annen from Basel, Switzerland, creates poetry in porcelain. His large bowls and luminescent sculptures are paper thin. His partner Violette Fassbaender, herself an accomplished ceramicist, helps Arnold push the edge of a fragile art.
We recently stayed at Arnold and Violette’s house amidst scores of highly exclusive, one-of-a-kind artifacts. All pieces of their collections were mindfully arranged to evoke a symphony of inspiration.
In 2014 Arnold, who has gained much recognition in Europe and Japan, won a prestigious award at an international ceramics show in Chicago, Best of Show at SOFA.
Who would have guessed this world fame when Arnold was born in the small town of Gsteig (Gstaad, Switzerland) in a small farm village. Arnolds relentless passion for the ceramics process drove him to perfection. Among of our most priced household possessions is a pair of paper thin porcelain cups that Arnold gifted us.
Violette’s concept in ceramics is drastically different. She creates organic patterns from different colors of clay at different stages of moisture to build them into objects resembling rocks from nature. Organic patterns as in nature.
The detail in Violette’s hollow “rocks” tells stories of ancient magma–or an observant walk through the Swiss Alps. Eye-catching blocks of “Urgestein” shape-shift in the sheen of daylight versus dusk. She also has perfected her technique since she began her organic quest in Japan. Her deceptively casual patterns require a high level of skill, simplicity, and abstraction. The soul search. Or the simple admission that there are no accidents in life.
We spent some wonderful hours with these two remarkable artists who we are glad to call friends. Their hospitality is heart-warming as well. We enjoyed some very tasty, home-cooked meals at their house. Memories.
There is much more to know about Arnold and Violette’s art. Further reading:
“Water Is Life” No debate about that. Thousands of people from all over the world gathered last fall 2016 at Standing Rock Reservation for a camp out. The Dakota tribe protested the pipeline because the DAPL violated tribal autonomy, desecrated cultural treasures and gravesite, and put the water resources–above all the Missouri River–in great jeopardy. To no avail. After a short-lived halt of construction by the American Corps of Engineers, the pipeline was finished by executive order and the protesters cleared away in January 2017. There are many stories of camp endurance, nonviolent resistance, and bravery in the harsh Dakota winter. Solidarity and support (such as donated wood-burning stoves from Germany) poured from all over the world.
Listen to this Native American speaker at a Phoenix solidarity protest march.
Nevertheless we humans keep building industrial conundrums. In the process we are soiling & spoiling our water resources. Industries sprout like there is no tomorrow. What kind of tomorrow will it be? The Dakota Access Pipeline is finished and open for business. Pipelines spill all the time. Only we don’t hear much about it, unless an offshore drill platform bursts into flames–mega disaster. Deep Water Horizon?
Here is a much better horizon: Nature listened to people at Standing Rock and sent its buffaloes.
People from all over the world joined the Dakota Nation for Thanksgiving 2016. Native Americans are the Greenpeace of our times. We all need clean water. The descendants of Sitting Bull and Red Cloud are still fighting the legal battle for sovereignty and the environment. Let’s stand with Standing Rock. The debate about water is here to stay.
My friend Earley is a Jack of many trades. Yes, Jack Earley is his name. Much to say about him (Jack on right; middle, Kate Earley; left, me)
Jack has been creative all his life, one way or another. He is a painter, book dealer, philosopher, and writer. His wife Kate keeps Jack’s back free for artistic exploration. We have been friends with the Earleys since our Loveland (Cincinnati, Ohio) days. Jack’s paintings hang on our walls in Arizona. They make us feel like we are still neighbors.
Jack’s “earliest” passion was writing. “I have been writing since I was 18,” Jack said. He got interested in literature around the time when he started college. “Everybody was talking about the weird guy next door, so I went over to meet him.” That guy got Jack to read all the great novels, about 20 of them—Moby Dick, War and Peace, Brothers Karamazov, The Red and the Black, and so forth. He has been writing every since.
Only in the last 2 years Jack has produced finished products.
Like many circumspective writers, he catches a good story when it comes around. “One morning, I was doing tai chi, and I heard a news article”, Jack recalled. “There the novel just came to me and I started writing it. It was like I was a secretary transcribing what automatically appeared in my brain.”
Jack’s novel is called “Through the Ice”. A man drives his car through the ice on a lake. In shock and far away from any help, he has to walk back to town with a coyote. Imagine that!
After this revelation, many short stories started popping into Jack’s mind. He collected 103 twitter-like vignettes together in a volume called “Saturday Nights”. They are all related to Saturday family events, poker nights, and memorable pranks. Recently, Jack has started another series called “Every Day of the Week.” He has more than a dozen together but wants to come up with over 100 to match the “Saturday Nights” stories. He records the readings of his stories for YouTube, where people can subscribe for free. Listen to this:
Each of Jack’s short stories contains a little snap, a little epiphany. “We all go about doing things that we think are right. Suddenly, out pops a piece of knowledge, an unexpected awareness. According to James Joyce, such an epiphany normally means that God revealed himself in the streets.”
Jack camouflages these real life events by fictionalizing the characters, but all experiences are his own. In “Steak Every Night” he cast himself as the young dude getting annoyed with a loud-mouthed Polish coworker. There is a true learning moment there. If you pay attention, in each of Jack’s stories a little light bulb goes off.
All right, easy enough. But, then, ask Jack about science. Scientific discoveries may not come on accident. “In science, people are working their tails off in one direction,” Jack said, “until a little epiphany takes them into a completely different direction—because more stuff is coming at them than they are aware of.” His conclusion: Science is the art or attempt of predicting the future.
Now we are getting philosophical. Let’s take it one more step further.
According to Jack, neither painting nor story are linear, they only appear so. All of the time is right now, regardless in which order the paint was laid down or the characters enter the scene. The future is only the place where the energy is heading.
Get it? Along the way of our unsuspecting lives we are collecting more knowledge than expected. So that is called a learning experience.
Based on his definition of the common man’s epiphany, Jack is bothered by a movie called “Arrival.” In it some aliens gift humanity with a “una-language” for perfect communication and a glimpse at the future.
“However, if you can see the future, it means it is already here,” Jack said. “And if it’s already here, it means everything already happened. And if everything already happened, what’s the point? What’s there to learn? Why aren’t we just catatonic? Why do anything?”
Quick, Jack, just write another story, paint another picture.