Pickin’ For Phil in Bristol

If anyone believes the spirit of giving goes into hibernation each year after Christmas, they should have seen the tangible evidence of love and concern for our fellow man displayed at the Paramount Center in Bristol, Tennessee this past Sunday, as musicians, friends, volunteers, and fans gathered in support of Phil Leadbetter. The show was another in a series of benefit concerts which have been held to help see the Leadbetter family through hardship brought on by his battle with cancer.

The cast was stellar, one that most any major festival would be happy to present over the course of a weekend, all packed into a two-hour concert. In addition to complete groups like Blue Highway (minus Rob Ickes, who was serving as a pall-bearer at Earl Scruggs’ funeral), the Darrell Webb Band and Kenny & Amanda Smith, there were performances by a number of all-star combinations which included Don Rigsby, Michael Cleveland, Larry Cordle, Missy Raines, Dale Ann Bradley, Steve Gulley, James Allen Shelton, Jerry Butler, Tim Laughlin, Justin Moses, Donna Ulisse, and Matt Leadbetter. Valerie and I were also honored to be included in the program (special thanks to Missy Raines and Darrell Webb for backing us up).

The concert was organized by Larry Gorley, an avid bluegrass fan, DJ, and promoter involved in the Bristol Rhythm & Roots festival. Gorley met Phil many years ago, but has worked with him often in recent years as part of the Bluegrass All-Star concerts Gorley organizes and promotes. Having seen Phil’s willingness to help others many times in the past, Gorley wanted to do something to help Phil in his time of need, and decided to organize the Bristol concert, promoted as “Pickin’ For Phil.”

While the star power was evident onstage, actor David Keith visited backstage, complimenting the performers and posing for photos. At the close of the show, after an onstage jam, the cast gathered around Phil for a group photo.

All performers donated their time, and additional donations and product sales will likely result in substantial financial assistance for Phil and his family. When asked for his reaction, Phil offered the following comments:

“As I arrived for the show today, I passed Bristol Regional Medical Center and recalled the many times Steve Gulley and I stopped there to visit Ernie Thacker after his accident. We did our small part to help his family, and saw firsthand what a difference it made, and how folks responded when we solicited donations at our concerts. I have seen, in the past when trying to help others as well as from the outpouring of support in my case, that bluegrass fans are always there to give generously to help others in need.

My family and I thank everyone from the bottom of our hearts and look forward to getting well and back on stage playing the music we love.”

Anyone who was unable to make it to the show may make donations online at www.unclephilfund.com.

Share this:

About the Author

James Gabehart

Jim has been playing the banjo, and other string instruments for nearly 40 years. Since joining the musicians union and becoming a performing musician at the age of 15, he won five West Virginia State Banjo Championships, as well as dozens of other competitions, and has taught hundreds of students. Jim was elected as Prosecuting Attorney for Lincoln County, WV in November 2012, and is an active touring performer with his wife and musical partner, Valerie. Learn more about their music at www.JimandValerieGabehart.com.