Bob Everhart passes

Robert Phillip ‘Bob’ Everhart, multi-instrumentalist, singer, entertainer, old-time country, bluegrass, and folk artist, passed away during the evening of August 20, 2021, due to heart complications. He was 85 years of age.

Bob Everhart, founder and president of the National Traditional Country Music Association (NTCMA), was born in the Sand Hills of Nebraska on June 16, 1936. He grew up on a small farm near St. Edward where at about the age of five he learned the rudiments of the harmonica from a grandfather. He was also a self-taught although limited pianist.  

Upon graduating from high school in Council Bluffs he went into the Navy and was introduced to rock-n-roll music. Following his four-year stint in the services he studied Business Administration and Psychology at the University of Nebraska. 

During the 1960s he played tenor saxophone in a variety of groups, one of which was a comedy/rock-n-roll combo. In another – the Royal Flairs – he was the harmonica player. However, this adventure was short-lived as Everhart suffered a serious head injury in a shooting incident.  

In 1972 he started work as General Manager and radio announcer on KJNO, Juneau, Alaska, introducing a two-hour country music/talk show, and during the three years that he was there he increased listener numbers significantly. 

This led him back to the Midwest working as a radio announcer and itinerant musician, making appearances on the Ozark Opry, the Silver Dollar City Mountain Folk’s Music Festival, and the Union Mill Opry. 

Having returned in earnest to his first musical love, traditional country and bluegrass music, Everhart was driven to promote a wide variety of traditional music styles and preserve its heritage as much as he could. Indeed, he devoted the remainder of his life to these aims. Hence in 1975, he started the non-profit NTCMA with the express purpose of preserving America’s roots music, country, bluegrass, Gospel, and folk and, to facilitate this, decent venues, staging, sound and audiences were needed. One location that Everhart used was the Corrnhusker Country Music Theatre in Louisville, Nebraska. 

Thus he was able to not only promote the fully professional musicians, but to help the amateur musician become more professional, and help the semi-professional to gain more exposure. 

The first NTCMA festival took place in 1976 at Westfair in Council Bluffs. Six years later it was moved to Avoca, Nebraska. Subsequently it was moved back to Iowa, first to Missouri Valley and then to The Plymouth County Fairgrounds, Le Mars. The events never made much money but provided some magnificent opportunities for a great number of performers.

As a result of an exchange of correspondence with a like-minded group in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Everhart took his music and ideologies to foreign shores. In 1978 he made his first of many tours to Europe with dates throughout the UK and in Germany. Other visits followed in quick succession. 

In all he made well over 20 concert tours of Europe, where he was presented with many various accolades over the years. 

In recent years Everhart, with help from his wife, Sheila, owned and operated the Oak Tree Opry and the Pioneer Music Museum on Main Street in Anita, Iowa. The former serves as the venue for local and national-touring musicians who play old time music, and the latter houses America’s Old Time Country Music Hall of Fame and America’s Old Time Fiddler’s Hall of Fame. 

Everhart’s recording career spans several decades beginning in 1962 while with the Royal Flairs. These tracks included surf songs, some R&B and their version of ‘British Invasion’ sounds. A few singles were released, but most of the material remained unavailable until the 1980s. 

The most widely known are albums that he had released by Folkways Records from 1978 to 1985. On these Everhart, playing 12-string guitar and harmonica, and backed customarily by an ensemble of 5-string banjo, reso-guitar, mandolin, and bass, performs a mix of his original compositions and traditional country songs. 

Everhart’s subsequent releases, most of which feature his wife playing bass, were released by their own Prairie Music Records outlet, with re-releases on Condor Records in Canada and numerous labels in Europe. 

The Everharts have performed their one-of-a-kind show around the world, from China to the North Pole (Bob was on an Arctic-Dewline Replenishment Expedition). 

For seven years he produced, hosted, and performed on the PBS national television show Old Time Country Music, and produced and performed on Bus Stop, a local TV show taped in an old-time cafe. Additionally, he co-produced, with his wife, and performed on a syndicated radio show called The Old Time Music Hour, distributed to eight radio stations in the Midwest. 

The Everharts were recipients of a Lifetime Achievement Award from World Music Events; the Kitty Wells/Johnny Wright Leadership in Country Music Award; the Tennessee Ambassador of Goodwill from the Tennessee Governor, Don Sundquist; and the Entertainer of the Year Award in Cologne, Germany.

In keeping with his preservation convictions, Everhart has a number of rare/obscure stringed instruments, including an 1884 autoharp, a zither, mandolin harp, and pianoette, that he plays sometimes. Others are displayed in the Pioneer Music Museum.

R.I.P. Bob Everhart 

A memorial service will take place on Monday, September 6, 2021, (Labor Day) at 1:00 p.m. at the Hoy-Kilnoski Funeral Home in Council Bluffs, Iowa. 

A Discography 

Bob Everhart

  • Everhart. Volume One (Kajac LP-002-77, released in 1977 and re-issued on Folkways FTS-31060 in 1978)
  • Waitin’ For A Train (Folkways FTS-31071, 1979)
  • Time After Time (Folkways FTS-31082, 1980 (German issue on Folk Variety FV-12027))
  • Country (Westwood Recordings WRS162, 1981 (UK)) 
  • Everhart International (Folkways FTS-31090, 1982)
  • Everhart Takes The Fifth (Folkways FTS-31059, 1983)
  • Everhart Alive At Avoca (Folkways FTS-31081, 1985 (with Bluegrass Playground))

Bob and Sheila Everhart

  • 20 American Classics (Condor HCD 4458 (Canada), 1985) 
  • Home On The Range (Rosedale CD-377 (Canada) … some tracks from Condor HCD 4458 
  • Old Time PrairieCountry Music (ESKA Records SCD 034 (Poland), 1995)

These four CDs may still be available from Prairie Music Records, P.O. Box 492, Anita, Iowa 50020.

Bob Everhart, Blackberry Pickers

  • No One Comes Near (Association Country Club Music AX 0001-1 (Czechoslovakia), 1992) 

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.