Talk about a family reunion!
A lot has changed over the past 50 years. Camp Springs had fallen into disrepair and disuse, but the park was recently purchased by Cody and Donna Johnson, who have restored and updated the facility, adding a modern bathhouse, hot showers, a fishing pond, and a concession area. They have hosted a number of live music events since taking over in 2018, and are delighted to see bluegrass at the park once again.
Back in the 1970s, when the concept of bluegrass festivals was in its infancy, the great bluegrass impresario Carlton Haney held weekend shows at Camp Springs with his brother. That stage saw performances by all the creators of the music: Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, The Osborne Brothers, The Country Gentlemen, and all the popular acts of the day.
Carlton had hosted festivals in Virginia from 1965 to 1968, and the hubbub created from his Camp Springs festivals in 1969 and ’70 stirred filmmaker Albrt Ihde to travel to North Carolina with a crew to capture live footage in 1971. The rest of the country was largely unaware of the bluegrass festival phenomenon, and Ihde presented examples of the music and the bluegrass culture in his 1972 feature-length documentary, Bluegrass Country Soul.
In the film, we are treated to music from Earl Scruggs, The Lilly Brothers, Ralph Stanley & The Clinch Mountain Boys, J.D. Crowe & The Kentucky Mountain Boys, Jimmy Martin & The Sunny Mountain Boys, Del McCoury & The Dixie Pals, The Country Gentlemen, The Osborne Brothers, Bluegrass 45, and The Bluegrass Alliance, which featured young superpickers Sam Bush and Tony Rice. Ihde also shot audience footage and interviews with Carlton Haney and a number of attendees.
Since 1971, the film has been carefully restored and new, high-quality prints created for theatrical viewing. A copy is in the permanent collection of the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum in Owensboro, KY. It is also available on DVD in 4k HD widescreen format with Dolby surround sound.
On Friday, September 3, at 9:30 p.m., attendees at the 2021 Camp Springs Bluegrass Festival will enjoy a screening of Bluegrass Country Soul on the main stage, while they sit on the ground where the film was made fifty years ago.
Some of the same acts appearing in the film will also be performing on the festival this year, including Bobby Osborne and Doyle Lawson.
Further details and ticket information can be found online.