August 7, 2000
The Concert at the Art Museum

Sixteen-plus instruments are played by the Current Red Clay Ramblers.  A lot of work and talent goes into putting on their shows, from transporting people and equipment and doing sound checks, to keeping schedules and books, from arrangement to practice, from researching and writing music to entertaining. Jack Herrick, Clay Buckner, Bland Simpson, Chris Frank, Michael "Barney" Pilgrim, Ed Butler, and Don Lewis played at the N.C. Museum of Art on Saturday, August 5, and thanks to The Red Clay Ramblers, dad, David, and I, and the rest of dad's entourage had front row seats. I noticed dad moving around in his chair deliberately and enthusiastically almost as if he himself were playing. I believe he was able to totally lose himself in the music, and I could tell that he felt very much included in the band during the show and afterward. Before and after the show, The Ramblers all warmly greeted him, and after the show Chris Frank, saying "Good show, Tommy," helped him down from the backstage platform. Dad said he was very, very happy several times, in many ways.

The RCR's sure can put on a good show. They started out the evening slowish with, among many other favorites, Clay's version of "Cotton Eyed Joe" and a medley of Celtic "attack tunes." I really loved their arrangement: drums and electric bass together with more traditional stringed and wind instruments help communicate the power behind these ancient sounds. The second set began with a rare (but soon to be more frequent?) solo performance on guitar by Jack. When the others all came back, they seemed to go into hyper-drive with "Wahoo," and "Old Jim Canaan," among others. We watched, astounded and delighted, when Ed and later Chris demonstrated the meaning of the word "Fiddlesticks" while Clay and Michael were fiddling. Chris crooned that old favorite written by Singer/Zaret "One Meatball." They honored their home state playing "Sound Side" and "Neuse River" by Bland Simpson. They received a standing ovation and finished up the evening with Ralph Stanley's "Traveling That Highway Home," a traditional Red Clay Ramblers encore.

I told Alice Watkins of the Alzheimer's association when I saw her at the concert, it is important for someone shut-in like my dad, to have such real-life pleasurable experiences. It's a lot of work for caregivers, and it can't happen everyday, but a little goes a long way for a person who hardly ever gets out. There is no way I could have made this attendance happen without the considerable help of many people. Aside from thanking the Current Ramblers for hosting us, I thank David Eustice, Susan Ketchin, George Holt, and several NC Museum employees for their sensitivity and their assistance in handicapped accommodations for dad. I thank Susan Ketchin and Allison Lee for their love and their great cooking. Also, Bren Overholt for taking the time out of her busy life to attend the concert she helped to promote.

--Jessie (with the editorial assistance and musical wisdom of David Eustice)

 (Ed. note: Who can be too busy for a terrific experience like a Rambler concert?  I loved it!   -Bren)

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Besides Tommy's section of the site, the following pages are also related to Jesse and Tommy:
Blurred Time "The Sleeper": the aftermath of Jesse and Bobbie's car accident
Mike Craver's "Visiting Tommy"
Roots of the Red Clay Ramblers:
Fuzzy Mountain String Band: Jesse's mom, Bobbie, recorded with Rambler Bill Hicks and others
Hollow Rock String Band: Tommy and Bobbie Thompson named this band for their community

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August 7, 2000