Closing the loop at Delaware Valley

Our good friend Katy Daley, morning host at WAMU’s Bluegrass Country, shared a touching story that occurred over this past weekend at the Delaware Valley Bluegrass Festival. It was the closing of a loop, one that began in 1972 when a fresh-faced, 13 year old Marty Stuart played his first festival with Lester Flatt.

If you didn’t follow bluegrass in the early ’70s, you may not have the image of Marty, the outlaw country bad boy of today, as a cherubic teen tearing up the mandolin as a member of Lester’s Nashville Grass. But that is exactly how he got his start, and it was at Delaware Valley that he hit his first festival stage.

According to festival director Carl Goldstein, who is also Chairman of the Board of Brandywine Friends of Old Time Music, that summer in ’72 Marty had just come up to Nashville from his home in Mississippi with Roland White to meet the band, and then headed east to play the festival. On recent trips to play there as a headliner, Stuart had made reference to that fact, and shared how the memory of that first show has stayed with him.

Now, bring young Ryan Paisley into the story. The 12 year is a crackerjack mandolinist with his father, Danny Paisley’s, band. Back in ’72, his grandfather, Bobby Paisley, was a featured performer on the same stage where Marty debuted with Flatt. Young Danny didn’t join his father’s group until 1974, but one suspects that he may have been in attendance.

Well this year, Stuart invited Ryan to join him on stage to play a tune, intersecting several layers of bluegrass history at this storied festival, now in its 41st year. Fortunately, Frank Baker was on hand, and sent a number of photos testifying to the fact that both the young student and the veteran mentor enjoyed themselves thoroughly.

Goldstein tells us that he was standing with Danny Paisley when Ryan ran up, nearly exploding with excitement. He relayed their conversation as follows:

“Dad… Marty Stuart wants me to play with him on stage!”

Well, son… I guess you better put on your good shirt.”


Here’s some video shot from the crowd…


…and Frank’s photos from his vantage point.


Katy described it as “one of those lump in the throat moments,” saying that “Marty was just wonderful,” the way he beamed at Ryan.

Well have more of Frank’s photos from Delaware Valley over the next few days.

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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.