Saturday was our biggest day at White Springs, and I'd actually had plenty of sleep--six hours or so. We all started picking---warming up for our show---by about 10:00 in the morning, because our set was scheduled for 11 on the Old Marble Stage, the festival's old, historic main stage.
The rain held off for the morning, so we ran through quite a few songs and tunes. Then, somehow, we hit on a particular Bill Monroe number called "Stoney Lonesome". Recorded by Bill in the 1950s, the tune is named after a place in Indiana, and not many people play it now. But it's an absolutely amazing number if you get it to sound right, and this weekend we had the folks to do that: John Hedgecoth, who'd played a stint on banjo for Monroe and is a national authority on Bill's old tunes; me, and I like to play Monroe stuff; Chris, who's been studying (and recording) Monroe-style tunes for years; and fiddler Jenny Leigh Obert, who's been studying Monroe and Kenny Baker, one of his great fiddlers, fanatically. So when we tried playing "Stoney Lonesome", it worked. It sounded RIGHT. Everybody was aiming in the same direction, going for an in-depth Monroe sound, with the spirit and drive Bill and his fiddlers put into the tune to begin with. So we added the number into the show.
I'd thought, when I first saw our 11:00 set time on the festival schedule, that it was way too early to draw a crowd. "Who's going to be there at 11?" ---but I was wrong! We had a big crowd, and they were very nice to us. We kicked things off with Monroe's "Toy Heart" and Chubby Anthony's "Stay Out of Your Way", and then veered into some more obscure and original material sung by Chris and John. The audience ate it up, enjoying every instrumental break. And now, it was time for "Stoney Lonesome". We played that tune for the very first time on stage, and it worked great. We finished up with "Helton Creek", and the audience really liked it all. And there wasn't a drop of rain!
After the set, we went back to the campground. Now it was time for some relaxing and more picking until 3:00, when we planned to back up our friend Dale Crider on his own set. But this weekend being the rainiest I remember lately, it started to rain. In fact, it was raining hard by about 1:00, and showed no signs of quitting at the 3:00 show time. So John, who'd brought his big van, gave us all a ride over to Dale's stage, and each of us made a mad dash to get under cover.
We were all pretty wet by the time we got under the tent and Dale started his set. The rain was coming down so fast that the sound men had to turn off the system, and we played all-acoustic. But this didn't faze Dale Crider, who's an understated but great natural showman. He simply carried on, and had the whole crowd singing along with him on Will McLean's "Hold Back the Waters" and his own "Tallahassee Wolf". The rain was pouring down a few feet away, but Dale pulled off a great success.
Chris and I had a mandolin workshop scheduled for 4:00 nearby, but as Dale's set finished we saw that the rain had really set in for a while. John carried us over to the workshop tent, and about a dozen dedicated, determined mandolin students showed up. We played a few mandolin tunes, answered a lot of questions, and tried to be heard over the downpour. I think the students learned something to take home with them, and we sold some CDs and Murphy Method DVDs. That sure helps with the gas money.
About suppertime the rain finally stopped, thank goodness. We clustered under an awning in the campground, and spent the evening talking and picking. Dale Crider, old game warden and coon-hunter that he is, regaled us with a hilarious story about "Coon Dogs A-Go-Go", an official Florida Game & Fish Department event at Daytona Beach in 1970. (No, I'm not making that up. You'll have to hear the story from Dale.) Finally we all got into some high-powered picking which went until after midnight.
It was a good day.