Carl Jackson, Larry Cordle, and Jerry Salley at the Spring 2020 Palatka Bluegrass Festival – photo © Bill Warren
Ernie and Debi Evans are now the promoters of the Spring Palatka Bluegrass Festival held at the Rodeheaver Boys Ranch in Palatka, Florida. Norman and Judy Adams have retired, but are mentoring Ernie and Debi through this year.
MC Sherry Boyd opened the show with an open mic session Thursday.
Geoffery Keyes manned the sound board for Blue Ridge Sound, with Jackson and Zack handling the on stage duties.
Springfield Exit kicked off the stage show. Linda Lay has one of the truly magic voices in bluegrass music. She is surrounded by well-seasoned talent – her husband, David Lay, David McLaughlin, and Troy Engle. Carl Jackson joined for a tune during the evening set.
The Primitive Quartet was up next. They have been inspiring audiences with their bluegrass Gospel music for 47 years. Reagan Riddle has been battling pneumonia and was back for his first show in a while. Brother Mike sang most of Reagan’s parts, but Reagan did do a couple tunes during their evening set.
IBMA Entertainer of the Year, Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers, followed. Joe has brought what started out as a part-time gig to help promote his radio stations, to the very pinnacle of the bluegrass world. Congratulations to mandolin player, Mike Terry, on the birth of his granddaughter a week ago!
Carl Jackson, Larry Cordle, and Jerry Salley then brought their great show to the Palatka stage. They not only sing many of the wonderful songs they have written, but also provide the backstories of the songs. These stories make the songs even more meaningful.
The Malpass Brothers closed out the day’s entertainer with top-flight vintage country music. They also brought 14 year old Katie O on stage to sing a couple tunes. One word – WOW! Chris and Taylor understand the importance of encouraging youngsters who have a love for the music.
Ted Lehmann has been a dear friend for many years. He and I have had a running “competition” – getting a picture of the other one napping. Well – I am up one!!
Friday saw Sherry bring Bandana Rhythm to open the entertainment. They are a family band from North Carolina. They are becoming a crowd favorite at Evans Media Source festivals.
The Dry Branch Fire Squad always spends two days entertaining at Palatka. This year was a little unusual as bassist Jeff Byrd had a serious medical issue between Friday’s sets. He did receive a stent Friday evening and is recovering nicely. The band soldiered on and performed their sets on Saturday. Ron Thomason thanked everyone for all the concern shown for Jeff.
Penny Creek is a Florida band that is commanding attention throughout the region, a five-piece band that can feature all five as lead singers.
The Gibson Brothers followed. Their brother harmony keeps every audience wanting more. The brotherly banter is always entertaining – mostly at Eric’s expense. Eric did get one good shot in. Leigh said he ought to get his wife a bald eagle for a present. Eric said: “she already has one.” The audience roared!
Jimmy Fortune closed the Friday show with his many hits from his time with the Statler Brothers and the songs he has written.
Preacher Mike and Mary Rose Robinson had a morning Gospel sing on Saturday. They were followed by a showcase from the “Duck Wallow Lane” band.
Then The Dry Branch Fire Squad took the stage. Ron Thomason always puts forth folksy wisdom that comes from his heart. “I told you that to tell you this,” is one of his lead-ins to what will surely be a pearl.
The U.S. Navy Band Country Current was unable to make the show. Florida band, Born Lonesome, did a good job filling in.
The Little Roy and Lizzy show blasted onto the stage as they always do. Andy Stinnett is the new guitar player for the show. Roy still has more energy than most young men. Lizzy is in recovery mode from surgery, and uses a chair when she performs. It certainly does not affect her playing or singing. She brought a 10 year old youngster to the stage to do a couple tunes. Lizzy appreciates all that was done for her in her younger days, and believes in doing the same for other youngsters.
The Lonesome River Band put on a top flight show. Barry Reed had the tin roof of the pavilion rattling with his bass! There are few adjectives left to describe the excellence of LRB.
Norman and Judy Adams were honored by the staff of the Ranch with a commemorative brick in front of the Ranch Cafeteria and a handmade lap quilt. Ernie Evans thanked everyone for their support and thanked Norman and Judy for their mentorship.
Rhonda Vincent closed out the festival in her wonderful way. She introduced a young man from Oklahoma, Vernon Lee Johnson, who had gone on a country cruise that she was on. He sang a couple vintage country numbers with her, and did a super job. Rhonda spent all of the supper break greeting fans, signing autographs, and posing for pictures. She is very generous with her time!
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