Wednesday, October 18, 2006
So, last night the community I live in awarded me a 2006 Kentucky Star Award. And it was very humbling. Others given this award are folks like Bill Monroe, Loretta Lynn, Rosemary Clooney, author Bobby Ann Mason, and Tom T. Hall. My little star of a career casts no light in the reflection of these other folks. I went to the theater and wondered out loud to my friend Bryan if they would spell my name right on the award. When I got the Stephen Foster Award earlier this year they spelled it wrong. It sits on my shelf, all important looking, but with my name spelled funny.
Sitting on stage during the ceremony I looked into the theater and saw so many of my friends in the audience. I was glad they were there. I needed them to be there. During my introduction I listened to the MC recount the road I took to get to this stage, this moment, this award. He talked about how I left New York at 19 and moving to the Mexican border to become a DJ in Laredo, Texas. Hearing Turn, Turn, Turn by The Byrds and noticing it was written by my neighbor, Pete Seeger. Deciding to leave Laredo and become a folksinger, moving into the little hamlet of Mousie, Kentucky. My daughter Melody was born there. Learning the Appalchian music and songs and traveling up and down the hollers learning the music. Starting touring and recording. The Troubadour Concert Series. The miles. The books. The songs. The records ... some good, some bad ... all the way to the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour. Now the Evening Song album and the Walden play.
It was a nice introduction, very flattering. But I felt tired after hearing all we've done in such a short amount of time. Wow, it's a lot of work to do this thing we call "playing."
He called my name and the audience stood up as I walked to the stage. Some of my friends made believe they were doing the wave as I came to the podium. I looked out and sitting in the crowd, about ten rows up right in the middle of the theater, was the most lovely and beautiful of sights ... Colista Ledford came all the way to Lexington to be there. Colista is the loyal, loving and magnificient wife of my friend Homer Ledford. The WoodSongs theme on the radio show is a tune called Colista's Jam that I began writing on the Ledford's couch one afternoon, long ago.
And I thought about my friend Homer, a sweet, gentle and humble man. Homer is a great bluegrass musician, a brilliant luthier. He married a woman full of joy and devotion and love and he, in turn, provided her with a life of family, friends, comfort, and music. Colita was Homer's second choice for a date one night after another woman he asked out stood him up. Till this day he says it was the "best 25 cent movie he's ever seen." Colista say's how happy she is "that crazy woman cancelled on Homer" so she could have her chance with him. Homer is a very lucky man. They have been married 51 years. Homer hasn't been feeling very well these days. He stopped working in his little wood shop and the music that resonated from his handcrafted instruments now drift through the air in the hands of other players, not his own. It took extraordinary effort for Colista to leave Homer's side for this occasion ... but she was there.
Homer is a real Kentucky Star. Not me. Homer embodies what an honor like this means. Not me. Homer is a Kentucky musical treasure. And there are others - like the brilliant John Jacob Niles - who deserve one and still waits from his grave for his Star. John Jacob Niles is a Kentucky Star. Not me. But there I was ... holding my award. After I said my Thanks, some pictures were taken and the audience stood up again. It was very sweet. Very moving. All so very nice.
And then, in the most fitting of ironies, I sat back down and looked at my award, awash in the glory of the moment, to find that: Yes, they mispelled my name. Again :)