A lot of people in the bluegrass world have been gladdened by the news that former Grascal founding member, Terry Eldredge, is getting back into singing and playing again. We had recently reported his involvement with the new side project band, No Joke Jimmy’s, and that he has been doing some shows with The Farm Hands.
Bluegrass fans have loved Terry for many years, even before his time with The Grascals, going back to when he played with The Osborne Brothers and Wilma Lee Cooper. His powerful singing has been remarked on since he was a youngster, and a great many festival goers have missed seeing and hearing him on stage.
One big fan, and friend, of Terry’s is Megan McKnight, a bluegrass musician and educator in West Virginia. Megan led the bluegrass program at Glenville State College for several years, and is now teaching third grade in the Lewis County Schools at Roanoke Elementary School in Roanoke, West Virginia. Her class is well aware of her bluegrass background, as she talks about and sings and plays music for them on a regular basis. They are also familiar with her husband, Luke McKnight, who is also a bluegrass artist, grandson of the great Jesse McReynolds, and long time friend of Terry Eldredge.
One of the songs she has taught the children is Where Corn Won’t Grow. They first learned it by listening to Travis Tritt, who had a top ten hit with the song in 1997. When the students asked if that was her favorite singer, she told them about Terry.
“I told them that my favorite is me and ‘Mr. Luke’s’ friend, Terry Eldridge… but that he has taken a break from singing. They all got this idea to encourage him to sing more, so they thought to send him ‘fan mail’ for Valentines Day of them singing.”
So McKnight showed the kids a video of The Grascals doing the song, which they loved.
In return, they made Valentine’s cards to send Eldredge, along with video of them singing along with the Grascals version.
Then Megan had them draw Valentines to send Terry, which were as precious as you might imagine.
Megan also shared some of the sentiments the children included in their cards.
“Terri and your band make me like this kind of music. God is with you and I hope that you keep singing to us.” Isaiah
“Miss Megan taught me your song that you sing and now I sing it all the time. I hope I get to meet you someday.” Tamblynn
“I did not think that I would hear about music in the third grade until I got a new teacher. Now I understand more about Appalachia, the music, and this band. I enjoyed hearing Terry singing and I hope that he keeps doing it.” Leah
“Bluegrass music makes me happy.” Dakota
After talking to Miss Megan in my class in a discussion, I think I understand what the lyrics mean in the song. I am looking forward to learning how to write and learn to be a better student. Thank you Terry for sharing your talents with us.” Liam
McKnight was delighted with how quickly her students have warmed to studying the traditions of the Appalachian region, and the music to which she has dedicated so much of her life.
“I knew when I first walked into my new third grade classroom that I would carry on traditional music one way or another. It started with a rocking chair, quilt, rug, and a guitar that the class voted to name Ole Bessie. I find creative ways to get music into the curriculum, such as learning how to spell our vocabulary words, poetry, and sometimes just for soothing and calming the students during a hard day.
Each morning the guitar is played by one of our staff members, Dwayne Thompson, until I arrive to work. He was a former Football player for West Virginia University and when the kids notice that he and I both play guitar they were blown away. They are surprised that there are more musicians in the building than they realized.
We just finished a series of folklore that included poetry, folk tales, folklore, and fables. In social studies and health both I have found creative ways to sneak songs into the curriculum, and this song was perfect. The students were really engaged and quite mature for their age. Every day they are asking for new songs to learn but I told them perhaps we should take it at least one or two weeks at a time. It brightens my day and fills my heart to know that young children are excited to learn about traditional music and Appalachian traditions.”
She also shared these photos of some of her students with the boxes they made for Valentine’s Day.
Megan tells us that this is just one example of why she enjoys what she’s doing
“I love being an elementary teacher. The most rewarding part is watching their eyes light up when they understand, and sharpening dull pencils because they’re working so hard. It hasn’t been easy on anyone during the pandemic, but this small school is very family oriented and really provides all necessary needs and skills from all angles. Our administration, including Principal Kristina Benedum, has been beyond supportive of my endeavors.”
Terry said that he got a bit emotional seeing the students singing along with the Grascals video.
“It absolutely just tore my heart out – it touched my heart and soul. I just felt blessed. It brought a tear to my eye and a warming to my heart.
I’m so glad that Megan is sharing her knowledge with her students. I know she is a wonderful teacher.
Hopefully one of two of them will be touched enough to continue doing it. Keep your noses in those books, but study that bluegrass too!
One of the Valentines said, ‘Please sing some more.’
That’s what I’m planning on. Just coming back to it slowly. It’s great to get back out and sing with my friends.”
Well done Megan and the third grade class at Roanoke Elementary! Let’s hope it works and we get to see more of Terry Eldredge this year.