Tag Archives: will mclean

Red Henry

Red Henry

Chris, Jenny (his fiddle-playing girlfriend), and I drove down to Florida recently for the Will McLean folk music festival, and we had a great time. It was a long way for us to go, being held not far from Tampa, but it was certainly worth the drive.

The festival is named in honor of Florida's pioneering folksinger and songwriter, Will McLean. A highly individualistic and creative person known as "Florida's Black-Hat Troubadour," Will influenced many other musicians and blazed the way for the rest of us who followed after.

We arrived at the show on Friday afternoon and promptly started warming up--we had a set to play at 7:00. And the set went great. We played a mix of bluegrass and Florida Folk material, and our friend Ron Johnson posted our two-guitar harmony arrangement of Will's song "Osceloa's Last Words" on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iW-TmL-PCKE . (Red Henry and Chris Henry--guitars, Jennifer Obert--fiddle, Barbara Johnson--bass).

After performing it was time to pick, and pick we did, until late at night. On Saturday Chris and I led a well-attended mandolin workshop, playing some music and answering lots of questions, and selling a good many CDs and Murphy Method DVDs afterwards. Then we backed up our friend Dale Crider on his afternoon set for a lively crowd. There was more picking that night, and Dale showed up to sing lots of our old bluegrass favorites from when we were learning to play in the late 1960s.

On Sunday we backed Dale up on another set, and then played our own show at 2:00 on the Main Stage. We had a terrific crowd which (I say modestly) gave us a standing ovation, and then we sold some more CDs and DVDs before hitting the road. We won't get rich playing at folk festivals in Florida, but you know what? We'll be back!


P.S.-- Next shows:

Gamble Rogers Music Festival, May 1-2, St. Augustine

Florida Folk Festival, May 28-30, White Springs

Red HenryAmong the pictures which Jinx McCall sent us recently is one which brings back a lot of memories. It shows the great Florida folksinger Will McLean, relaxing and enjoying some music, attired as ever in his black stocking-cap and sitting with his old white van in the background:

Will McLean

We (Red and Murphy & Co.) recorded Will's great song "Hold Back the Waters" on a 1977 album, and Casey & Chris & the Two-Stringers made a next-generation cut of it on their own CD a few years ago. Christopher and I put two of Will's songs on our "Red and Chris" CD as well, showing our respect and love for Will and his music.

Will wore that stocking cap nearly all the time, and he must have needed it on what looks like a chilly festival morning. And he was rarely far from the old white van in the background, which after his wife Alice died was not only his transportation but also his home. A tremendously creative individual, Will no doubt was forming the words to some new original song in his head that morning, and his gentle Southern-gentleman personality seems to come right through the photo and a lapse of 30 years. We miss you, Will!

RedFolks who are interested in southeastern folk music may remember Will McLean, the ethnic genius who preceded almost everyone else in the region as a singer-songwriter. I recently came across this photo from 1978, taken at Stephen Foster State Park, in Florida, during a special program for Will:

Will McLean Day

Everybody was having a good time, and there’s a lot of nostalgia in this picture. Many inspiring folk characters are shown, some of whom are now gone forever: our hero Gamble Rogers is standing near the left of the photo; Will McLean himself is near the center; toward the right, in an elaborate old-fashioned dress is "Cousin Thelma" Boltin, the organizer and driving force for many years behind the Florida Folk Festival; and next to her is Don Grooms, the well-known Gainesville-area performer. These folks are all missed.

But speaking of people who are still around, take a look at the right edge of the photo. You'll notice a young couple with their baby. Murphy is holding Casey, who was just 6 months old, and I'm holding my favorite drink, which was a big mason jar full of fresh iced tea. (As you can see from everyone's appearance, it was a warm day.)

Memories abound from this event. Earlier in the afternoon, Murphy and I had had the pleasure of playing a set of music with the great Chubby Anthony playing fiddle. That was certainly a time to remember! And a little later Jim Fee and Bill Pruitt arrived, and Chubby played a set with his own band. That was some powerful music!


(P.S. --- A special note to Banjo Newsletter and Banjo Hangout fans, some of whom have discussed a certain mystery for years: the Flint Hill Flash is in this picture. No, I'm not going to tell you which one he---or she---is!)

This post comes from Red Henry, who played at WillFest in Florida on April 4th, 5th, and 6th.

Had a great time at WillFest this weekend. The show has been held for many years now in honor of legendary Florida singer-songwriter Will McLean. Starting this year, the show has moved to the Withlacoochee Bluegrass festival park, and now everyone has plenty of room for camping and parking. Attendance seemed up, in spite of the change of location-- we had excellent crowds for every show.

Picked for several hours on Friday with a few friends, and got warmed up for the weekend's performances. Played my first set on Saturday to a full tent at the Cypress Stage, and all had a good time. My mandolin workshop that afternoon drew a lot of folks with excellent questions. There were folks with mandolin-experience levels from beginners on up, and I was flattered that a couple of the festival's performers showed up.

The rains came through that night, but on Sunday I hit the ground running with a morning set on the Main Stage. There was already a good crowd, and they warmed up as the set went along. I tried out a variety of songs and stories, numbers from Dale Crider, Gamble Rogers, Chubby Anthony, and Will McLean himself. The crowd got into it, and many sang along on "When the Roll is Called Up Yonder". (Well, it was Sunday.) One of the best folk sets I've ever played.

I also had the enjoyable honor of playing fiddle and mandolin on two sets with Florida folksinger Dale Crider, a man with more creativity and talent than I can describe.

The monsoon came back Sunday afternoon, but that didn't keep us from having a good time. Thanks to Margaret Longhill and her heroic crew of organizers and volunteers who produce this festival! Good job.