Top 10 moments from SamJam 2017

This past weekend marked the second annual SamJam Music Festival, held at the Pike County Fairgrounds in Piketon, OH. The festival is growing at an amazing rate, with Sammy Karr and Rick Greene at the wheel. These guys strive to make each festival unique, and want it to be one of the best in the country. For only a two year old festival, it’s turning into a venue you won’t want to miss.

After all the fun and excitement for the weekend died down, I got ahold of Sammy and asked him to list some special moments that were highlights from the 2017 SamJam.

So here they are….

10. Thursday’s crowd – with Sparks, Ralph II, and Joe Mullins pushing the traditional grass on Thursday night, the crowd was bigger than 2016’s Saturday crowd. The amount of folks coming in the gate only got bigger as the weekend went on. Camping was sold out months in advance.

9. Seldom Scene bringing the house down with Nadine on Sunday evening. Them boys tore it up!

8. Sunday Morning –  this year marked the first Sunday morning service. A beautiful crowd of folks got together and sang songs, told uplifting stories, and held prayer. The service was hosted by Christy Mullins and will continue each year.

7. Make shift Music Hall – the rains set in hard early Friday morning and never let go until very early Sunday morning. With two days of rain in the middle of an outdoor event, that usually means devastation. Not for SamJam. The Pike County Fairgrounds opened up the Multi Purpose Building (usually used for band hospitality) as an option to host the show during the rain. With bleachers pulled out, people bringing their chairs indoors and a second sound system onsite, SamJam continued with no worries at all. Every night, the building was packed to capacity, and then some. The Multi Purpose Building saved the festival.

6.  Yuengling Toast to a fallen hero – Yuengling Brewery is a proud sponsor of SamJam and set up a beer garden all weekend hosting happy hours with $1 beer. Proceeds from beer sales went to Pike County Library to help further education for the county’s youth. Yuengling also happened to be Justin Helton’s favorite beer. You may say “who?” but people of Pike County know the name well. Justin offered the greatest sacrifice by laying down his life for his country. A fallen hero of ours was honored Sunday as the crowd stood with their Yuengling’s high and toasted a True American Hero. Just another sentiment of how lucky we are to enjoy the music we love and the festivals all around the country. Thank Justin tonight in your prayers.

5.  The Cleverlys closing Friday – We didn’t know what to expect. The festival took a chance, and hit a home run. A better closing act couldn’t have been chosen. It was fun to watch people’s faces as the band approached the stage, filled with slight confusion. Everyone was soon laughing their tails off at Digger telling about his late wife, who happened to be a toothless midget wrestler. These boys put on one heck of a show.

4.  The Evans Brothers Tribute to their Dad – With the passing of bluegrass legend, Dave Evans, this summer, Sammy and Rick brought in Dave’s boys, Tracy and Todd, for a special tribute to their Daddy. Barry Crabtree joined the brothers proudly playing Ole Bess, Dave’s prized Gibson banjo. Singing songs in the style of their dad, no one could have done a better tribute. Sunday afternoon was filled with tears, especially as they closed with Pretty Green Hills.

New raghead Larry Sparks at SamJam 2017 - photo by Jennifer Buckler

3.  The ragging of Larry Sparks – Yes, its true, Larry Sparks is now a Raghead! He closed out the show Thursday with a white strip around his head. After hearing the story of the Ragheads, which Sammy Karr’s dad started, Sparks agreed to it and the crowd loved it even more. Sammy told me after the show, ” I never thought I’d ever get to rag that man. He’s my hero.”

2.  Guitar explosions – By now, I’m sure you’ve heard the good bad and ugly over the planned stunt brought to the crowd in Saturday by Skip Cherryholmes. Skip smashed a guitar to splinters after an 8 minute rendition of Lee Highway Blues. It was planned by Sammy for Skip to do the guitar switch off and smash the extremely cheap guitar for the crowd to see. Some may disagree with that decision, but the crowd did no such thing. Sideline put on a great show, but topping it off with Skip blowing up a guitar was a sight to behold. Videos of the destruction can be seen online.

1.  The Original Quicksilver Reunion – By far, one of the best shows ever put together. The reuniting of Lou Reid, Jimmy Haley, Terry Baucom, and Doyle Lawson was nothin’ short of amazing. Almost forty years after the first recordings, these guys didn’t sound one bit different. An hour and forty five minute set with every song ending in a standing ovation. The Multi Purpose Music Hall was shaking with applause. This reunion was extremely exciting, and you could tell that all the band was having a great time too. If you weren’t there, you missed one heck of a reunion.

So as you can see, SamJam is full of surprises and unique experiences, making this one of the up and coming festivals that folks around the country should put down on their calendar. Sammy Karr and Rick Greene, along with all their sponsors and volunteers would like to thank everyone that attended SamJam 2017, making it the best festival they’ve had yet. Mark it down for Labor Day Weekend 2018!

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About the Author

C J Lewandowski

A native Missouri boy, CJ Lewandowski grew up under the wing of the 1st generation Missouri Bluegrass musicians. Learning from men 50 years his senior, he developed a passion and love for Traditional Bluegrass in its rawest forms. CJ has traveled and play with The Warrior River Boys, Karl Shiflett, James King and now heads up Randm Record Recording Artists, The Po' Ramblin' Boys. CJ proudly endorses Pointer Brand Work wear of Bristol TN and makes his home in Hopeless Holler TN. He is becoming well known for his traditional based "Ozark Mandolin Style" and his preservation of the old music.