Surely one of the most beloved characters in the bluegrass and old time scene in the Blue Ridge region this past 20 years was the late Bobby Martin, known at festivals, jams, and conventions as The Bluegrass Drummer. His was an unforgettable personage, a large, friendly man with a huge laugh who brought his cajon (hand drum) and his unerring sense of time to many a jam session throughout Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee.
And he was always welcome among the contest regulars who knew that he added to any session he joined because he deeply appreciated and understood mountain and roots music, and knew how to support instead of interrupt the various intersecting grooves that develop within an acoustic ensemble. Bobby became good friends with many top players, in particular The Kruger Brothers, and appeared with them many times on stage.
Martin is especially remembered for his fondness for children, and his kindness and encouragement to young pickers. He was forever passing out drum sticks to youngsters which they would keep as a memento of the jolly drummer they had met at the festival.
Following his passing from cancer in April of 2016, the Carolina in the Fall Music and Food Festival and The Kruger Brothers have chosen an excellent way to memorialize Bobby’s many contributions to the music. This September they will host the inaugural Bobby Martin Young Songwriter Competition for artists 20 years old and younger, with the winning song performed on stage during the festival. The top finisher will also receive a professional recording of the song, cut by The Kruger Brothers, plus a $200 cash prize and a trophy. Second and third place writers will receive a lesser cash award and a trophy.
To be eligible, a writer must be 20 or younger on September 23, the date of the competition at the festival. The same is true for any co-writers. Submissions must be received by August 15, and the 10 finalists who will perform their song at the festival will be announced on September 1. There is no limit on the number of songs a writer may submit, and there is a $30 fee for the first song, $20 for each additional entry.
Each finalist must perform their song for the judges live at the festival, and will be allowed one accompanist. A full list of rules and restrictions can be found online.
The Carolina in the Fall festival runs September 22-23 in the historic downtown area of Wilkesboro, NC. They also host the annual North Carolina Banjo Championship on the 23rd.
The addition of the Bobby Martin Young Songwriter Competition is a fitting tribute to a giant in our music.