Following our dinner with my dad’s family, once we force that last piece of pumpkin pie into our bellies, we hang around comatose (if we can find a place on one of the couches). We ache and moan, and then we push ourselves down the road to the Prichard’s place (now called the Carter Farm)…just a short waddle down the way…to see more family, more cousins, and listen to some incredible bluegrass music.
I experienced the power of music, the way it works on the mind and heart, early on in life. Although my brothers and I received the shallow end of the gene pool when it came to musical ability, my second cousins are very talented musicians. Because of their capacity to perform so well on stringed instruments, we were all exposed to some mighty fine live music in our childhood. (Don’t get me wrong… my dad sometimes took to the ukulele and was witnessed on numerous occasions performing “Sweet Georgia Brown” and “If You Don’t Like Peaches Baby, Quit Shaking My Tree”…I do not want to take away from his style and enthusiasm. The Prichard boys, on the other hand, they were the real thing!)
It was, and still is, a family affair. Cousin Fred Prichard picked the banjo, his brother Lew is brilliant on the mandolin (My dad always said “best mandolin player in Rockbridge County”), their daddy Fred Sr. entertained on the piano. Cousin Will joined in on guitar or stand up bass.
Bluegrass to me represents the core values of family. The stories told reflect both happy and troubled times. When I went to college in South Carolina, I sometimes babysat for a young family. The daddy went to Episcopal High School, a boarding school in Virginia, and coincidentally was roommates with my cousin Will Carter. He told me about his trip to Lewisburg once, his first to West Virginia, with Will to meet his family. He remembers driving into a beautiful piece of property, open and lovely in the spring green, and as they pulled in closer to the Prichard house, a young man, not much older than he and Will, was standing naked….buck naked…in the open field. It was Cousin Fred playing his banjo. What a memory of his first visit to the mountain state. I smiled and, although a little uncomfortable, I was thrilled to hear that story of my extraordinary Cousin Fred, as I was hundreds of miles away from home. He is a beautiful, one-of-a-kind character with a remarkable sense of humor.
To this day, music transforms me. It promotes clarity, peace and tranquility in my life. It evokes feelings of joy and happiness. It soothes my mind and soul. The joys and sorrows of life expressed through music is a healthy and healing avenue to deal with life issues. Music has a magical effect on the mind. It can be almost supernatural in the way it transforms you from one mood to another.
I remember early teenage years…sitting in an old cabin in the woods on Smithover, listening to Fred and Lew picking away, and sipping on some scotch that was being passed around the room. The feeling of warmth was three-fold: the fire, the whiskey, and the music. It was a memory that I will never forget. I was in a familiar place with familiar people, but having an experience really of a lifetime. It was my family and my music that I loved. It was the place that I loved. I felt safe and ever so grateful to be part of it.
Tomorrow: For the Love of Marriage