Bluegrass bands gather for special fan

'Dancin' Mary Ennis with Rhonda VincentBluegrass lovers have long cherished the close bond that exists between the performers and the fans, something that is cultivated and fostered on both sides. Folks new to the music marvel at how approachable the artists are, and how much time they spend at live shows socializing with the audience.

We expect bluegrass artists to be generous with their time where devoted fans are concerned, but this weekend we’ll see an especially high level of dedication from a number of acts, all for a special fan beloved for the joy she brings to her favorite performers.

Mary Ennis is a familiar sight to show and festival goers in central Virginia. She won the nickname “Dancin’ Mary” for her spontaneous, free-form reaction to her favorite music, and has been befriended by a number of top bluegrass artists.

One such friend is Larry Stephenson, who when he found out that Mary had been diagnosed with lung cancer, responded by organizing a benefit concert in Lovingston, between Lynchburg and Charlottesville, VA. Rhonda Vincent is also a Ennis fan, and is interrupting her tour schedule to be available for the show next Thursday (8/6). Nothin’ Fancy, The Little Mountain Band, In the Tradition, Plain and Simple, the James River Cutups and popular radio host Brenda Lawson will also appear.

Larry Stephenson explained what got him involved in this endeavor…

“Fans like Mary Ennis are why we do what we do. I’ve traveled all over the world in the last 35 years and I’ve never met a better bluegrass fan then Mary.

The second Friday of January each year we play a date at the Bingo Hall in Madison Heights, VA for the James River Bluegrass Association, and that’s where I met Mary. She has made that date the most fun date we play all year. It’s always a joy to see her and her family at shows in and around central Virginia.

I put this concert together in a little over an hour from my home in Tennessee, and no one said no. Bluegrass fans, bluegrass artists… it’s a wonderful community, and I’m so proud to be a part of it. It will be a special night in Lovingston, VA and I thank everyone involved.”

Rhonda Vincent is also a big supporter of Mary Ennis, who she counts among her friends. Rhonda will not only appear on the August 6 benefit show, she has also come up with a couple of other ways to give for Dancin’ Mary.

“I met Mary Ennis the first time she rushed to the stage, and started making eyes at my guitar player, during our show. She just wouldn’t sit down. She kept dancing, smiling, winking, and was so excited listening to the music. We all started laughing.

She would come right up to the edge of the stage, dancing by with such excitement.

So it became an expectation at any Virginia show, to see Dancin’ Mary run up to the stage during the songs she loved.

She seemed to have a thing for guitar players. But when I called her last week, the first thing she said was, ‘I LOVE your banjo player… I love Mickey, and I love Hunter, I love your whole bunch, but I LOVE your banjo player.’ She has a very special place in her heart for Aaron McDaris.

A couple days ago, Aaron called Mary at home. She was thrilled, and told him how much she loved him, and how handsome he is. She said, ‘You just can’t help how good you look.’

During the Rhonda Vincent Chat last Monday, I was sharing with all the chatters, that I was trying to think of something special to do for Mary. One of our Ragers suggested I write a song. The next morning, as I was washing dishes, a song came to me, and I started singing about Dancin’ Mary. I already have 2 verses and a chorus, and I hope to have it finished by August 6th, to sing at the benefit. It’s a fun happy song, and it makes special mention of Aaron and his five.

Rhons Vincents red Nine West shoes, offered at auction to benefit Mary EnnisI knew I had started the song, but I still wanted to do more. I recently found these awesome Nine West red shoes. (Size 7 1/2). They are now my favorites. As I packed them for our current trip, I threw them on, took a photo, and posted on our web site, with a message that I would wear them on August 6th, and auction them off on our web site. Even before the official bidding has started, we are up to $200.

It’s all for Mary. A lady who is the perfect example of the passionate bluegrass enthusiast. And the best part, she’s not afraid to show it!”

Concert details are posted on the Larry Stephenson web site. Any of Mary’s friends who can’t make the show – or anyone moved to be of assistance – can send contributions for her to:

Mary Ennis
c/o Larry Stephenson
The Larry stephenson Band
1937 Upper Station Camp Creek Rd
Cottontown, TN 37048

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.