While checking my Facebook account back in November, I ran across a post from an old friend, Rick Pardue. He and Tommy Long were having a reunion show at a venue down in North Carolina called Harry’s Place. I believe the show was for that same night, just not enough notice for me to make it. I probably wouldn’t have gone anyway because the WVU Mountaineers were playing South Florida that night on ESPN. We even called off our regular Thursday night band practice because of the game, so I know I wasn’t going to get in the car and drive 6 hours to see Rick Pardue.
Sorry Rick, I like ya man, but… the Mountaineers!
I really would have liked to have gone down to Harry’s Place, because it had been a long time since I thought about this establishment, and an old friend that frequented Harry’s on a daily basis. The late Darel Wiles was a good friend to a lot of folks, and a well known dobro player from Elkin, NC. He was probably best known for his work with the group Blue Denim, and the work that he did with Arthur Smith from back in the 1970’s.
I first met Darel when I was playing with the Laurel Mountain Boys. Darel would travel with us occasionally, and we drifted into a friendship. I had been down to Harry’s Place many times over the years, because Darel would always take me there to eat some of Moma’s cooking, whatever the special of the day was. Moma actually ran the place back then and whatever Moma said, well that’s what we did.
Over the years Darel and I would get together and just kill time by picking, or just going to listen to some picking. We would go months and not have any communication, and then out of the blue one of us would call the other and set up a get-together. He would come to WV and pick with our band, or I would go there and pick some with him. Darel tracked on records for the Laurel Mountain Boys and when he cut his last CD, God’s Lent Child, I was honored that he asked me to come and sing.
Darel can be heard on different projects including Blue Denim Records on the Old Homestead Label, and the Laurel Mountain Boys on the Leather Label.
Now I mention all of this because as I thought about Darel, I was listening to his music and to several songs that he played on for different groups. His style of playing was his own, and he could just make a song bind together. When I heard the song God’s Lent Child, I couldn’t hold back the emotion I felt as I heard Darel give a bone chilling recitation at the end to his late son. Mark Wiles was tragically killed in a car wreck while he and Darel were returning from a golf outing.
God’s Lent Child: [http://traffic.libsyn.com/thegrasscast/gods_lent_child.mp3]
Mark’s death was heartbreaking to say the least, and Darel never really seemed to get over it. I visited with him several times over the next few years and he would always talk about how he missed his son. I don’t think he picked his dobro much after the accident, but we seemed to always play a tune in his living room while I was visiting. I think he still would go to Pardue’s annual chicken stew to jam with the many musicians that were there every year.
My friend passed away in Novenber 2008 at the age of 62 years. He left a lot of great memories, and his stories will live with me until we meet again, as I know we will someday.
I share all this because I want his memory to stay fresh in the minds of his many fans and friends.
Thank you, Darel. I miss you, but you are not forgotten buddy.