• IOWA - 35th Festival of Old-time Rural Country and Bluegrass Music


      LEMARS, Iowa....The NTCMA is preparing for their 35th festival of old-time rural country and bluegrass music, and according to Everhart, 'We even include some other musical art forms in our umbrella of rural music. Folk music is quite different today than it was during the time of Woody Guthrie, but we still have a large interest in the folk music that came from the upper Midwest. We also include ragtime music, which drifted up the Missouri River from Joplin, Missouri. We're also concerned about the 'nationality' music of the original homesteaders and settlers. Therefore, you'll find polka music, schottische music, accordion music, and even zither music that represents early settlers from Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Norway, Poland, Finland, England, Scotland, Ireland, and many of the other countries that our pioneers came from. We also include dancing. One of our ten stages is a dance hall,' Everhart continued, and an excellent opportunity to re-visit the polka and the waltz, and all those other incredibly fun customs.'

      Bob Everhart is the President of the National Traditional Country & Bluegrass Music Association. 'We formed the NTCMA in 1975, but it was a much smaller organization then. We did our first festival of traditional music in 1976 as a Bicentennial celebration. This gave us our first opportunity to begin the work of 'saving' some of America's fine old-time rural music. Since then we have been featured in American Profile Magazine, a national newspaper insert, and on numerous national and international television shows. Over the years we have been in just about every relative newspaper and magazine that deals with 'tradition' as such. Our interests are in music and rural lifestyle, and from that small beginning 35 years ago, we now have a Pioneer Music Museum which houses over 2,500 artifacts of early rural music.'

      America's Old Time Country & Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame is also located in the museum, and contains an incredible collection of momentos from some of the biggest name in this musical genre.

      One of the ways Everhart makes sure that his 'tradition' of traditional music continues, is to include much of it in the NTCMA's annual festival, along with the life-style of the early pioneers. "We have a history of being a very rural agricultural society here in the upper Midwest, especially Iowa," Everhart added, "the customs, food, dance, art, crafts, and of course the music, is very important to us. That's why such a famous country music super-star like 'Whispering' Bill Anderson is making the trek to LeMars, Iowa. He'll be with us on September 3rd, to be inducted into America's Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame. He's already in the Nashville Country Music Hall of Fame, and we were concerned he might think this was a step down for him in recognition, but he thinks just the opposite. "The rural areas of America where what we call 'country' music came from is very important to all of us in country music. My home-state of South Carolina also has me in their Hall of Fame, so I'll be looking forward to my trek to Iowa, perhaps one of the most rural of the States in America."

      "It's also an opportunity for us to induct Jim Reeves," added Everhart. "One of his cousin's is coming to represent him. So, we'll have a very nice Tribute Program to Mr. Reeves We'll have well over 650 performers this year over the seven days, and quite a few Hall of Fame inductions throughout the week."

      The festival that Everhart directs, also has a Tipi Village, to make sure even early Native American music is represented. "It's not easy to present all this remarkable music and life-style in just a day or two, so the festival has been expanded to seven days," added Everhart. "We even have an early-bird pot-luck and Gospel show on Aug. 29th, the day before the festival officially kicks off on Aug. 30th. It goes to September 5th, with Labor Day being on September 6th."

      Everhart goes on to remark on another 'tradition' that he is interested in. "Yodeling was very very popular in the early years of country music, and it is still practiced today by many different kinds of yodelers. This year we are introducing a "Yodeler's Paradise" made up of yodlers from around the world. From the United States we have Joyce Leonard from Michigan (just back from performances in Branson, Mo.), Mike Johnson from Virginia. I believe Mike is the only black country singer I know that yodels. And from Utah the very famous yodeler Kerry Christensen. He yodels at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo. annually. Add to that Stew Clayton and Gordon Wilcox from Canada. Stew is a fast yodeler, and Gordon yodels the slow Jimmie Rodgers style. Greta Elkin from Ireland is another fast yodeler, but Ben Steneker from Holland can slow his yodel down. The special treat is Roger Tibbs from New Zealand. He's the most famous yodeler from the Southern Hemisphere. So you can see why this festival is so important to 'tradition' and preservation work."

      According to Sheila Everhart, Bob's wife, "We have an open door policy with our festival, and always have had. Every performer in show business had to 'start' somewhere, and we extend an invitation for anyone interested in performing country music to be with us. That's why super-stars come, and that's why beginners come. It's a sharing experience for all those that enjoy America's rural music, from the very beginning."

      The Everhart's have a website where more information can be obtained. "We have excellent rural-style food at this event," noted Sheila, "and we also have arts, crafts, and even an old log-cabin stage where quiet dulcimer, harmonica, and acoustic guitars can be heard without a public address system."