Welcome to a special edition of Southern Songs and Stories, where we pay respects to Jeff Eason by sharing some of his work on air at WNCW, where I am program director. Back in 2007, I was the morning music host on WNCW, mixing the tunes from 6 to 10 AM weekdays. I came up with the idea to make a daily music talk segment, with myself as host, joined by guest panelists conversing about everything from record reviews, to moments in history, to editorials and think pieces. If you’re like me, you can talk about music for hours without really even trying, and that sort of spontaneous water cooler talk about artists, songs and such was already a real boost to my workday. So, I gave it a platform, called the show What It Is, and brought in fellow music heads Jeff Eason, who was then a newspaper editor at the Mountain Times in Boone, NC, and Fred Mills, who was then the managing editor for Harp magazine.
Do you remember the 1980s? The Cold War, Reagan, big hair, synthesizers, yuppies, AIDS, MTV? It can be easy to point and laugh at times, maybe easier than it is to remember the good things about the era. It did not make national headlines, but one of those good things was Green Acres Music Hall, which came of age in that decade.
In our first episode, we touched on some of the history of the music scene in the region and how rough things could get in the 70s, with biker gangs taking over outdoor festivals and rock clubs, and in this episode we get to some more of the history of the live music business in the 80s and early 90s. You know, the days when you didn’t buy tickets online, but at a window after you waited in line. When being social was always in person rather than often on a network. This was the heyday of Green Acres Music Hall.
This episode features conversations with artists like Bela Fleck, John Cowan, Darin Aldridge, the band Acoustic Syndicate, Sandy Carlton, Ashley Capps of AC Entertainment, Green Acres regular and frequent emcee Vicki Dameron, Carol Rifkin, former club owner Phil Dennis and Mettie, the “Little King”, Steve Metcalf. We’ll also feature more live music recorded at the Acres, as we have been able to dive into more tapes from Steve Metcalf’s collection, and live shows from archive.org.
Plus, we travel to a place in neighboring Cleveland County called Brackett Cedar Park, which also brought in artists that were fusing bluegrass and country with rock elements, and is still going.
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It all started with a cinder block building that was also an auction house, on farmland in the foothills of western North Carolina. The bathroom had a toilet but no sink. There was no phone, and it was heated by a large wood stove. The owner had a band, and brought in others that played there often as well, starting around the mid 1970s. It went on to add an outdoor stage, amenities, and thousands of fans. It became a key stop for bluegrass, "newgrass" and roots music artists of all kinds. Even the likes of Garth Brooks and Merle Haggard came calling to play there.
This is part one of our series on Green Acres Music Hall, with interviews from artists like Bela Fleck, John Cowan, Carol Rifkin and the band Acoustic Syndicate, along with the man who helped take it from its humble beginnings to its peak, Steve Metcalf. Joining them are some of the folks who frequented the venue, myself included. Of course, the music itself is here too, with audio from shows by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, the John Cowan Band and others.
We hope you enjoy the show! Please help spread awareness about this independent endeavor, subscribe, and comment on this and other episodes, especially on platforms like iTunes. Becoming a supporter is easy to do, by clicking on the "Tip Jar" button on our site's front page, or by chipping in monthly on our Patreon page, which offers a lot of great bonus material. Thanks for listening, and thanks to our supporters, our sponsor Dynamite Roasting, and to Osiris Podcasts and Bluegrass Planet Radio for carrying our series.
David Childers laid out his approach to songwriting by saying that, for him, less is more: you don't have to say so much. There can be great depth in the straightforward. What seems simple at first reveals, upon reflection, a wealth of meaning. This applies to David the man as well, I believe. He is, as producer Don Dixon said, "deceivingly sophisticated".
In this episode, we explore the world of North Carolina singer songwriter, painter and former lawyer David Childers, showcasing his music and some of his influences, along with interviews of David, son Robert, label head Dolph Ramseur, producer Don Dixon, Avett Brother bassist Bob Crawford, and writer, musician and WNCW radio host Carol Rifkin.
This episode is sponsored by Dynamite Roasting, organic and fair trade coffee, by Ramseur Records, and we’re sponsored by you when you support Southern Songs and Stories on our Patreon page, or directly on our website, with links to both in the right column on this page. We’re glad you’re with us, and hope you may support the music of David Childers and other artists you enjoy hearing here, and can spread awareness of their work as well as ours at Southern Songs and Stories.