Those of us who are devoted fans or part time/amateur pickers see the world of a touring bluegrass artist as a glamorous life. Riding around on a nice bus, getting to play before adoring crowds, making the big money…
Some of that is undoubtedly true, but a sad reality for many of our beloved bluegrass entertainers is income insecurity. Nobody stays on top forever, and a slow down in gigs means a drop in income for all but the most successful acts.
That’s why many performers in prominent bands still work a day job during the week, and function as weekend warriors in the world of bluegrass. But those who dedicate their whole lives to music are especially vulnerable to income loss when health issues arise. Even with insurance to cover medical bills, the inability to perform takes away their means of earning a living.
So we hear from time to time about members of our community who need a hand, and here’s another one.
Eddie Adcock is a legend in bluegrass. He was part of The Country Gentlemen during their first hey day, playing banjo on many of their classic recordings, like Bringing Mary Home and Little Bessie. His innovative style was a clear break from the Earl Scruggs or Don Reno camps, at roughly the same time that Bill Keith was expanding the role of the instrument in another direction with Bill Monroe, and well before Tony Trischka or Béla Fleck came to prominence.
Much like Don Reno before him, Eddie approached the five string like a guitarist – which he was – even adapting the then-very popular Merle Travis style of fingerpicking to the banjo. After leaving the Gentlemen in 1970, Adcock continued to push boundaries in bluegrass. Two subsequent groups, II Generation and Talk Of The Town, which also feared his wife, Martha Hearon, found popularity at the edges of bluegrass as the New Grass sound was starting to find its niche.
He also formed and ran a successful sound reinforcement company that was in great demand at major bluegrass festivals. In recent years they have performed as Eddie & Martha Adcock, doing a number of shows with former Country Gentlemen bandmate Tom Gray.
But health concerns have plagued him of late. Eddie underwent open heart surgery in 2004, and three brain surgeries between 2008 and 2011. He has come through all of them wonderfully, with the brain procedures correcting a tremor in his hands that looked to prevent him from playing. They have given him a new life in plain fact.
Unfortunately, the image of Adcock as old and frail has persisted, though he is truly healthy and hale. He and Martha find themselves in dire financial straits at this point and, as a lifelong performer, he is at a loss as to how to make an adjustment.
As he puts it…
“I’m old and that seems to be bothering our booking. We don’t get as many bookings as we used to get. Martha and I did OK last year even though it slowed down. Next year is looking better, but I’m afraid I could lose the house before it comes around.
I’m 75, and I won’t retire until I have to. Martha says that the two happiest times in my life are getting home, and leaving home again.”
In the face of this financial crisis, several of Eddie’s friends have come together to see what they can do to help. A trust for Eddie’s benefit has been established, along with bank and PayPal accounts where donations can be sent. A benefit concert in Nashville is being considered, and Bluegrass Today has readily agreed to help make people aware of the Adcock’s situation, and how they can chip in.
Martha shared a few words to help us understand how they reached this state, and why Eddie has resisted reaching out to the community for assistance.
“You know, it’s a very hard thing to admit needing help — for some, especially so. Eddie Adcock is of the do-it-your-way-full-steam-ahead school that usually gets results in life as it has in his playing, but when health and circumstances stymie that grab-it-and-growl attitude, well, what’s to do? It’s just a blessing that he has friends who can and will jump in to help stop those gaps!
Here’s what’s going on:
Since his triple-bypass heart surgery in 2004, his first brain surgery in 2008, and two subsequent brain surgeries in 2011, things have really been up and down for him (and for us). He wasn’t sure he’d ever be able to play again, and then he could, and then he couldn’t… what a roller coaster.
His biggest obstacle right now seems to be the debilitating COPD with its extreme shortness of breath, ‘severe emphysema’ as his pulmonologist has termed it. ‘Why doesn’t he quit smoking?’ he’s been asked… Well, he DID – he left cigarettes behind more than 40 years ago! But inhaling second-hand smoke over the years (think Shamrock and all the other smoky bars) is blamed as the biggest culprit, and you can add on the millions of miles touring in a stream of highway hydrocarbons. Another big factor was the collapsed lung and general mashing and rummaging-around in them suffered during bypass surgery. Ever since then, he frequently seems to keep a lung infection; for almost the whole past winter, he’s had a persistent one requiring a half dozen courses of antibiotics and steroids plus other medications, and numerous pulmonologist appointments. Lately he uses oxygen most of the time. But he is soon to see a different doctor, and we hope this one can help more.
And then you can add aging to the bag — which once wasn’t a bad thing in bluegrass. But nowadays the youth culture has overtaken our music as well (and which, as an IBMA board member for 6 years, he assisted; so I suppose you could say he created his own assassin). There are so many bands now competing for so few concert spots and so few radio slots.
But in the face of enough difficulty to make some people quit, here’s a guy whose attitude is unstoppable. There’s not much work for us in 2014; we have had, and are still facing, some blank calendar pages this year. Of course, the bills and the mortgage don’t stop for that. Next year is looking somewhat better and, the good Lord willing, we’ll be there to bring music to our fans everywhere.”
So just how can fans and friends offer support to help the Adcocks get through 2014?
Checks can be sent, made out to the Eddie and Martha Adcock Fund, to the following address:
Eddie and Martha Adcock Fund
PO Box 941
Franklin, TN 37065
… or you can use the PayPal button below to make a donation online.
Eddie and Martha have always been among the first to jump in to help when a member of the community is in need. Now it’s time for them to let us carry them for a bit.
We’ll post more about the benefit show once those details are worked out.