George Matthews at The Flagler Museum Bluegrass event with The Gibson Brothers
Jamie Dailey, one half of the Dailey & Vincent phenomenon, shares his respect for George Matthews and the Flagler Museum bluegrass series.
In an ever-changing interdependent world, old school traditional music lovers, along with millennial music consumers, have unlimited reach to help them find what best suits their music tastes, no matter what genre they’re searching for. This also applies to helping them choose which concerts they want to purchase tickets for, and which venues they would prefer to see any given performance by their favorite music entertainers. With many of the hardcore, traditional bluegrass music fans, many prefer outdoor bluegrass festival venues where they have become accustomed to familiar show productions, bands, campgrounds, and of course, the traditional style of music.
Several years ago, our agent at the time, Don Light told us that a man by the name of George Matthews had called from Palm Beach, Florida and wanted to book us at his Flagler Museum Bluegrass event. Immediately we wondered if there was even a bluegrass music fan base in Palm Beach. We agreed to take the date, and the following April we made our way to Palm Beach. When we pulled the bus into the parking space at the beautiful Flagler Museum, we were met at the bus door by Mr. Matthews who pleasantly and professionally introduced himself to us. With no further ado, he handed us a check for the agreed amount. At the time, this struck us as a bit odd that he paid us in full before we even hit the first note! He led us to a nice greenroom inside one of the back rooms of the Flagler Mansion filled with snacks, water, and towels with a comfortable table and chairs.
During the sound check, we were taken aback by the breathtaking architecture of the glass-ceilinged, glass-walled historical museum, filled with rows of white chairs. We saw over 400 seats and a beautiful stage with his great granddad, Henry Morrison Flagler’s, late 1800s railroad car as a backdrop, which lent itself well to the esthetic of bluegrass music. In my mind, knowing that Palm Beach wasn’t a bluegrass town I was thinking, “There is no way this will be full of people.”
As show time rolled around we were delighted to see our old friend from XM radio, Kyle Cantrell, who was handling the MC duties at this yearly bluegrass event. By the time Kyle introduced us and we took to the stage, the warm afternoon sun was peeking through the glass ceiling panels into a packed room, full of excited bluegrass fans old and new – and to my great surprise it was full. At this point, I knew it was going to be fun, and fun it was!
When we finished our show, we were stunned to see what we thought was a formal Palm Beach crowd rise to their feet calling for an encore. We were shocked but excited, too! A good time was had by all. But for us and the opening band that afternoon, it wasn’t over. Immediately following the performance, and after mingling with the room full of bluegrass music fans, we were taken to a nice restaurant in town by the Matthews. There Mr. Matthews stood in the private dining room reserved for us all. He gave both bands nice compliments and a huge thank you for what he said was a show well done. After a nice meal, with excellent and humorous conversations, we took pictures together, shook hands, said goodbye, and once again we were on our way to another state, another town, and another show.
Once we were aboard our bus I begin to think about how special the Flagler Bluegrass in the Pavilion was. I appreciated the fact that we were treated respectfully, and the camaraderie and the overall feel was different than many other places I had performed. In other words, the event was different yet it had the same traditional familiarities that bluegrass music fans have come to love and expect. But at the same time, it was obvious to me that the Flagler Bluegrass event had its own identity, and to be a successful operation, identity is a must.
One of the reasons I wanted to write this story is to share with other bluegrass music lovers this Flagler Bluegrass event that many of you may have never heard about. This show in Palm Beach is just as relevant as all the other great festivals and bluegrass shows out there, and worthy of your attention.
I had a chance to sit down with Mr. Matthews and learn why he decided to take a chance and bring bluegrass to Palm Beach. He said that he hadn’t been completely satisfied with the music scene in the Palm Beach area, and he believed that if bluegrass music was given a fair chance to be heard by area residents, that in the end the traditional music art form we know and love would win out.
And, as the story goes, it did win! It won over the hearts of music lovers from all over the Palm Beach area, and now for the past 14 years it has become a highly anticipated annual event that sells out well in advance. Mr. Matthews held the first bluegrass show at the Flagler Museum in 2006 when he brought in music virtuosos, The Kruger Brothers, and bluegrass veterans, The Mark Newton Band. Since the first year this event began, Mr. Matthews has brought the best bluegrass music has to offer, including Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Blue Highway, Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out, The Gibson Brothers, Joe Mullins & his Radio Ramblers, The Larry Stephenson Band, and many more.
Mr. Matthews, a man who strives and understands the importance of improving his event from year to year, hired sound guru Philip Zanon to come into the museum and equip it with the best sound possible. Now, the live audio in this beautiful structure is second to none.
Out of the hundreds of bluegrass shows where I have performed, the Flagler Museum’s Bluegrass Music event is certainly in the top 5 of all time. The musicians are treated with great respect, admiration, and love with a fun filled and relaxed camaraderie to boot!
In 2020 Mr. Matthews and his Flagler Museum Bluegrass event will celebrate 15 years of success in an art form that isn’t always the easiest to maneuver or succeed in. His 2020 show will be headlined by yours truly, Dailey and Vincent, and we are looking forward to hitting the stage and performing for one of bluegrass music’s best Ambassadors, Mr. George Matthews, at his Flagler Museum Bluegrass In The Pavilion concert.
For more information please visit the Flagler Museum web site.