What does one do after a big weekend at a bluegrass festival?
You jump in the camper, drive home, take a quick shower, and head for a local legend’s 90th birthday party.
Wendy Smith has been a major part of the bluegrass scene in Michigan for many, many years. He fronted Wendy Smith and Blue Velvet, where some prominent bluegrass musicians got their start. Dana Cupp thanked Wendy for being a mentor to a young kid, and Andrea Roberts was part of Blue Velvet as a youngster. She sent birthday greetings. Wendy said, “Yes, she married that Roberts boy. He’s a good one.”
Wendy also promoted the Whispering Winds Bluegrass Festival in central Michigan for many years. It was there that I was introduced to the music of Enoch and Margie Sullivan, Lillie Mae and the Dixie Gospelaires, Randall Hylton, and a number of other great musical groups.
Wendy is also the writer of Caroline the Teenage Queen, which the Lonesome River band made into one of the most well-known contemporary bluegrass songs. Lar Williams, Dave Russell, and Jeff Tuttle did a great rendition of the song at the party.
It was a big jam with a lot of musicians joining in. Carl Vanover sang, who was a Blue Grass Boy for several years in the mid-1950s. The youngest of the jammers was Gavin Conley. He will be a freshman in high school this fall. Gavin has been on stages with his grandfather, John Coffey, since he was three. Jeff Tuttle said of Gavin to John, “You couldn’t keep a tenor singer for your band, so you raised one!”
Banjo players were in abundance at the party. Brad Campbell had a stint with Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. Tim Ellis did some time with Jim & Jesse. Dana Cupp was Bill Monroe’s last banjo player. He also took over when Sonny Osborne retired. Dean DuBois had the quote of the day, “I met most of these guys when I was 13 years old. Here we are 50 years later – still friends and celebrating together.” That pretty well sums up the bluegrass community.
One young lady who was obviously new to a bluegrass jam marveled at how many songs these guys knew. My wife said, “If they played everything they knew, we would be here until Tuesday morning!”
Wendy was joined by his kids, grandkids, and great grandkids for the special day.
We all ate, visited, and enjoyed the music.
Happy Birthday Wendy!!
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