Notes From Gettysburg, August 2019

It’s no secret to regular readers that the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival is one of my two favorite stops of the year, the other being IBMA’s World of Bluegrass in Raleigh every fall.

The festival is just an hour from home, features a powerful and eclectic lineup, and gives me twice-yearly fixes of Moe’s catfish and Antietam Dairy ice cream, and a chance to catch up with some of my favorite vendors.

And there’s always news to be found and fun to be had with the artists. Here are some of the nuggets from notebook from the August edition.


Some day, Junior Sisk and Michael Cleveland are going to be on the Gettysburg bill at the same time, and we can settle an argument once and for all.

The question: Which bluegrass star has the quickest wit.

I’m not sure of the answer, but I’m pretty certain the judges would need a stopwatch that measures milliseconds.

Last year, Cleveland made a claim for the crown with a remark that wasn’t only lightning fast, but also disarmingly self-deprecating. After a band member said he brought his Speedo and couldn’t wait to jump in the pool off to one side of the stage, Cleveland noted that sometimes it’s a blessing to be blind.

Sisk made his play this year. A request for a t-shirt in a size that wasn’t on display sent Junior’s fiddler Doug Bartlett crawling under the table to dig through a box. When he emerged from under the table with the proper size, the fan told his wife over the phone that it was found by “the world’s greatest fiddler.” Bartlett looked at me with a grin and said, “Make sure you print that.”

But Bartlett’s moment of glory ended quickly when Junior got a pained look and spouted, “Stuart Duncan was here? Wish someone had told me.”


Fans who enjoy Carly Arrowood’s fiddle work with Darin and Brooke Aldridge will be pleased to know that she’s hard at work on a solo project that should hit the streets early next year.

Carly gave me a sneak preview of one of the upcoming singles, Dear Juliana, as we sat backstage. It’s a keeper. The vocal is tender and sweet, and the song is sure to get some play on bluegrass radio.

She wrote the song as a tribute to North Carolina fiddle maker, Bob Kogut, and the fiddle he built that Arrowood plays. He names all of his instruments, and this particular one he christened Juliana.


Everybody knows that moving is a pain in the butt. But at the same time, just about everyone has a story about something interesting or fun that was uncovered during the process.

It’s no different for Rhonda Vincent, who brought one of her newfound trophies to Gettysburg. Seems while she and her husband were sorting through stuff in preparation for relocating, she came across a box of  “limited edition” Martha White muffin mix.

Not just any mix, mind you, but one from a long-ago “Legends of American Music” series that feature a dark-haired version of the fan favorite on the front of the pouch.

The package appears to date from the early 2000s, which would coincide with the beginning of Rhonda’s affiliation with the baking company.

“Look at the hair,” she said backstage. “I’m afraid to look at the expiration date.”

Needless to say, band members would be wise to avoid any artificially flavored blueberry muffins that turn up on the bus.

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About the Author

David Morris

David Morris, an award-winning songwriter and journalist, has written for Bluegrass Today since its inception. He joined its predecessor, The Bluegrass Blog, in 2010. His 40-year career in journalism included more than 13 years with The Associated Press, a stint as chief White House correspondent for Bloomberg News, and several top editing jobs in Washington, D.C. He is a life member of IBMA and the DC Bluegrass Union. He and co-writers won the bluegrass category in the Chris Austin Songwriting Contest at MerleFest in 2015.