Amy and I joined my mother Sunday for a benefit brunch for the families of Chance Harman and Joshua Cantrell at Ray’s Restaurant and saw a lot of new and old friends as we carbohydrate-loaded on biscuits, gravy, bacon and eggs.

Then Skip Pendrey, who runs the sound board at the Friday Nite Jamboree, stopped by the table to drop some disturbing news about an apparent meltdown by a prominent Floyd musician on stage.

“You should have been there,” Skip said. “Your name came up.”

hayden.jpgRetired Floyd barber Ralph Hayden (right), leader of Barbershop Grass, closed out the band’s traditional 8:30 – 9:30 p.m. set with a tirade about not getting respect and about how one writer-photographer – yours truly – is trying to destroy him, the Country Store, the Jamboree and the Crooked Road.

I talked to several people who witnessed Ralph’s comments Friday night and all said it was off-the-wall and over-the-top. Country store owner Woody Crenshaw said it came as a surprise to everyone – including, apparently, his band.

I had heard – from Woody – that Ralph was upset that a photo of his band was not included in the feature we did in The Floyd Press when the Jamboree reopened in February following extensive remodeling of the Country Store. I had missed most of the band’s set because I was eating dinner but had some photos that did not make it into the final layout (I always submit about twice the number of photos that eventually make it into the paper).

At Woody’s request, I returned to the Country Store on another Friday and shot photos of Barbershop Grass which were posted on Blue Ridge Muse.

That apparently was not enough for Ralph who told the audience Friday night that the gesture was “meaningless” and threw printed pages from Muse on the floor when he walked off stage, vowing never to return.

Ralph apparently feels the band is not getting the respect he feels it deserves after 23 years of appearances at the Country Store.

A cursory check of Google shows he and Barbershop Grass are often the focal point of features about the Friday Nite Jamboree, including:

–Stories in The Washington Post on January 27, 2004, and again on May 10, 2005;

–A feature in American Profile;

–A feature about The Crooked Road on the Virginia web site;

–And a number of others, including photos in The Floyd Press throughout the years.

I’ve had one conversation with Ralph Hayden since returning to Floyd County in 2004. It came in my one and only visit to his barbershop next to the Country Store that year. I needed a haircut and decided to try the local barber.

Along with the haircut, I got 45 minutes of commentary about the sorry state of affairs in Floyd, including attacks against “hippies” and “outsiders” and blacks and Mexicans and gays and all the other “bad elements” that he and others in the barbershop felt were ruining life in the county.

I said nothing, paid for my haircut, left and never went back. Ralph and his friends are entitled to their opinions but I had no wish to hear them again.

In the more than two years we’ve lived in Floyd, I’ve worked hard to help promote the traditional music culture that is so vital to the county with numerous features on this web site and in The Floyd Press. I’ve contributed photos of the Jamboree and musicians to the county’s annual events calendar and to Blue Ridge Country magazine. We produced a video documentary on the jamboree in 2003 and have chronicled the many improvements to the facility under new owner Woody Crenshaw. We can call a number of county musicians personal friends. I grew up in Floyd County. It’s my home.

I don’t know what drove the outburst that disrupted the normal Friday night enjoyment at the Country Store this past weekend but I suspect there is more to it than just a photo that didn’t make it into the paper.

Whatever the reason, I’m sorry that a musician with a previously-unknown personal grudge against me used the Jamboree venue to disrupt the evening. Woody Crenshaw, Alzora Wood, Skip Pendrey and all the others who work so hard to keep the Jamboree running deserve better. So do the musicians and the people in the audience who make the event so special.

© 2004-2022 Blue Ridge Muse

29 thoughts on “Meltdown”

  1. The perfect answer for crankiness…


    Remember that commercial on tv way back yonder in time? Dad comes home from the office after a trying day and almost runs over junior’s trike left carelessly in the driveway. Dad is about to blow a gasket at junior but wifey suggests instead that he pop down a Compoz pill or two or three or four. He does and becomes a spaced-out bliss ninny and doesn’t yell and scream at junior for being such a dumb cluck.

    A wonderfully entertaining commercial that had me laughing hilariously. Sadly, the anti-drug crowd got quite irked by this commercial and it was soon off the air. Why, those cranks! If only they had taken Compoz so they wouldn’t have had such cranky attitudes…

    Tv commercials these daze just aren’t as entertaining as they used to be. Just no sense of unintentional humor.

  2. Doug, I was raised in a small, country community. We had (and it STILL has) a very basic country rule. NEVER, never speak badly of another -because you don’t know when you’ll need his or her HELP! Ralph Hayden should not have made a public statement about you. And you should never have replied!

  3. I don’t live in Floyd, but I grew up and reared my children in a town and area much like Floyd, in the Ozarks of Missouri. I’ve seen persons of Mr. Hayden’s type, bitter, bigoted, angry. They never forget, and never forgive. They hold grudges for even imagined wrongs,and vengeance is in their very core, until it is eaten away by their bitter bile. As Andy Griffith used to say, “They usually “nasty away”.

    That is how I see Mr. Hayden, after hearing of his behavior both in his barber shop, and at the Jamboree.

    Doug, I know you from your writings and opinions. You have, at times, come close yourself to eating your own broken heart and tormented soul away with the strength of your opinions and feelings, especially for your country. The difference being, your conscience always smites you and you humbly come asking for forgiveness when you go over the top. You always humbly admit your failings, eventually, and right what wrongs you feel you’ve committed.

    Hopefully, Mr. Hayden will come to his senses and give you the deep apology you richly deserve. I have come to known and admire Floyd simply from YOUR great praises, photos, and descriptions of it’s colorful, rich, tapestry of people, both old timers and new comers, which make it a beautiful place in my mind. Don’t let one man’s bitterness, bigotry, and hatred steal your county of it’s pride. Stand tall, and hold your head up high. You’re a man among men. Courageous, a leader. Fallable? Yes. You’re human. But you haven’t done ANYTHING wrong in this situation. Not a thing. Hang in there, and enjoy being in your home. It’s a great place, and you are part of the tapestry which makes it so.

  4. What a shame….but he’s just one man with a personal problem who shouldn’t be part of the Jamboree if he’s out of control. I know this is disheartening to you, Doug, but I think your coverage of the Jamboree is magnificent, so keep it up. You did nothing wrong; and all of us here in floyd need to find a way to minimize the bigotry, on all sides.

  5. Elgee writes:

    I was raised in a small, country community. We had (and it STILL has) a very basic country rule. NEVER, never speak badly of another -because you don’t know when you’ll need his or her HELP! Ralph Hayden should not have made a public statement about you. And you should never have replied!

    Elgee, in an ideal situation I would agree but this is far from ideal. When someone takes the stage at a public event and claims that I’m trying to destroy programs that I’ve worked hard to promote, those charges must be answered publicly. I cannot, and will not, allow such lies to stand without a response.


  6. To those who say Doug should have kept quiet about Ralph Hayden and his remarks, I say keeping quiet about such people in our midst is far worse than speaking out.

    Mr. Hayden’s bigotry and racism is one of those little Floyd secrets that nobody likes to talk about. Many county residents know about the vile comments that he inflicted on customers who ventured into his barber shop and that is why many county residents went elsewhere for a haircut.

    I’m a Floyd County native and, like Doug Thompson, moved back here with a spouse who is not. My husband’s visit to Mr. Hayden’s barbershop was a two-in-one deal: His first and his last. Most people don’t like to be bombarded with racism and bigotry and that is why you would most often see Mr. Hayden sitting alone in his barber chair reading a newspaper. It told me that the number of racists and bigots who agree with his views were dwindling in Floyd County and I saw that as a positive sign.

    A not-so-positive sign was the people who overlooked Mr. Hayden’s attitudes and welcomed him to the jamboree. This is a free country and everyone is welcome to their opinion but I have a problem with looking the other way when those opinions preach hate and intolerance.

    This is one Floyd County resident and jamboree regular who will not miss Mr. Hayden.

  7. I own one of Mr. Thompson’s excellent videos of the Friday Nite Jamboree and took a look at it today. There is a shot of Mr. Hayden playing his guitar along with other shots of the Barbershop Grass band during the intro song. Would Mr. Hayden rather have his picture in the local weekly or a documentary that played on a national cable channel?

    I found the Jamboree because of Mr. Thompson’s web site and have been back many times because of his writing and photography. When we can’t attend, we enjoy his many stories and photos about the music scene in Floyd.

    Keep up the good work Mr. Thompson. You are not trying to destroy the jamboree. In my opinion, you are helping it thrive.

  8. Like others here I’d prefer to see any differences between Mr. Hayden and Mr. Thompson hashed out in private but I cannot fault Mr. Thompson for responding publicly after Mr. Hayden used the stage as a pulpit to launch his attack. I see no evidence that Mr. Thompson initiated this war or used his position to fan the flames. Mr. Hayden did, though, and once he did so Mr. Thompson was within his rights to correct the record.

    I can argue that Mr. Hayden’s personal beliefs towards minorities or others with different sexual orientations are not germane to his position as a performer at the jamboree but when he chooses to use that position to lash out at someone for little or no apparent reason I can also understand why his attitudes towards others are now an issue for discussion.

    I do not know Mr. Hayden or Mr. Thompson personally but as a regular reader of Blue Ridge Muse I can say that, through it, Mr. Thompson is nothing but supportive of the musical venues in Floyd and I have never previously read anything here that suggests he has a grudge against or problem with Mr. Hayden, Mr. Hayden’s band, the jamboree, the country store or the Crooked Road.

    Like Mr. Thompson, I wonder if there is not another agenda at work here and Mr. Hayden’s decision to use the stage as a venue to advance that agenda was a mistake on his part. He threw down the glove and challenged Mr. Thompson. I cannot see how anyone should fault Mr. Thompson for picking it up.

  9. For all those able even walks

    Grateful, grateful, grateful

    Still we all fall down

    Ascend the mountain with wondrous sound

    Compassion, caring, faithful

    Breathes a dancing heart

    The circles round the Jamboree

    Sublime, ecstatic, life to be

    The joyous pike is taken

    Empathy, tough on the tear sacks and often quite puzzling will always lend aid.

  10. Doug, I wasn’t at the jamboree last week but I have certainly heard about the incident from friends. You were right to respond and set the record straight.

    But I wonder: Why should anyone care about what Ralph Hayden thinks about Floyd or the Jamboree or you anyway? He’s not a Floyd Countian and he never has been. He’s from Woolwine in Patrick County, graduated from Woolwine High School and still lives in Woolwine. Who is he to come up here and tell us what is wrong with Floyd County?

    You keep up the good work. I love your photography on this web site and in the Floyd Press.

  11. I have been reading your blog for at least 2 years now and I can’t recall you ever saying anything bad about a musician. I think you have done a fine job putting Floyd and its people in a good light. I hope Mr. Hayden was just having a bad day and needed to let go. Sometimes a person says something and later regrets it I hope that is the case with Mr. Hayden. I will continue to enjoy your coverage of the Friday night Jamboree.

  12. The jamboree is about the music. It’s what brings people there. I know Doug and his love of music. All music! Musicians need people like Doug,people who know music and can write about the art that everybody uses. Bernie

  13. Evilness is evilness. To slander the dignity and value of people’s lives who have done nothing wrong is just plain evilness. Whether evilness is young or evilness is old is irrelevant, it’s still evilness and not single person anywhere at anytime is ever obligated to be a doormat to evilness. Not one single time ever.

  14. I really hate to get into this mess, but no one seems to want to defend Ralph so I guess it is left up to me. Ralph is not so much different than a lot of folks that are his age and grew up in this area. For many people interracial marriage, homosexual behavior, flag burning and even change is a hard pill to swallow. I have known Ralph a long time and I count him as one of my dearest friends. Do I always agree with him? Of course not. Does that make either of us a bad person? I don’t think so. I believe that he is a caring, helpful individual. I have seen him give haircuts away to those that were going through rough spots in their lives. Not many people seem to remember all the help he give to “Shorty” Lee in the latter years of his life. How about his visits to a friend that no one in Floyd would have anything to do with when he was in prison.

    I have traveled with some of the best musicians in the world, and I have always thought that Ralph was one of the best rhythm guitar players I have ever known. Ralph was offered a job with Bill Monroe but choose to stay in Floyd and serve his customers. What no one seems to mention is his dedication to the Jamboree. I have played with Ralph when he was so tired and his hips hurt so badly that anyone else would have gone to the house. And he did all this without pay for most of the 23 years he was a fixture at the store. All he wanted was a little respect. He felt, (whether justified or not) that he wasn’t getting the respect that was due him.

    I appreciate Ralph and Doug Hutchens allowing me the privilege of being a part of the group play when I was just beginning to pick a little and certainly wasn’t in the same league as the other members of the Barber Shop Grass. I will always treasure the friendship of Ralph Haden

    Kenny Wurzburger

  15. Mr. Wurzburger:

    Your defense of your friend is admirable but if he felt he wasn’t getting respect should he not have taken that up first privately with those he felt weren’t showing that respect? To use a public stage at the Jamboree was a childish act that showcased his shallowness and stripped him of the respect he felt he deserved.

    I know a little bit about how newspapers work and I know that Mr. Thompson is not the one who selects the photos that appear in the Floyd Press. He submits his photos and the editors make the choice. I have seen photos of Mr. Hayden’s band in the paper many times before. Just because he didn’t make the paper on that one time is no reason for the disgraceful public display that I, and others, witnessed on the stage of the Country Store on that Friday night.

    My parents are native Floyd Countians and are both older than Mr. Hayden and neither share his views on gays, interracial marriage or minorities. Age is no excuse for intolerance.

    As Mr. Thompson stated, Mr. Hayden is welcome to his views but for Mr. Hayden to try and blame his woes on Mr. Thompson is disgraceful. Mr. Thompson has been a tireless promoter of the music culture in Floyd. His love of Floyd County is evident to anyone who reads this web site. That fact that he chose to return to his home after a successful career as a journalist and put his considerable talent to work here, often for free, shows his love for the area and the people. His incredible photos of high school sports in the Press, along with the frequent photos and stories about music, provides considerable evidence of his commitment to the area.

    Mr. Hayden, on the other hand, has shown contempt for others through his comments to customers at his barber shop as well as contempt for the Jamboree and its audience by his childish display on the stage of the Country Store.

  16. Friendly Advice (think of Smokey the Bear Cub),

    The justifiably feared “Consumption” occurs more often than one might imagine. It can be very sneaky, snaky, snarly – the Fire Breathing Dragon. Fire eating skills vary and fortunately the practice can usually be avoided, however do keep insulated explosion proof suppression gear handy at all times.


    The relentlessly pervasive Four Element Theory taught to many a boomer was misguided. Fire is not a true Element. Just so much Roman propaganda is all that is, all that it ever was and all it ever will be. Earth, Air and Water are the only ones essential in aiding the life that is good. And any one of them alone makes an excellent extinguisher.

  17. From what others at the Jamboree have told me, Ralph planned to retire from the band this year and said he wanted to play “at least one time” on the new stage after Woody Crenshaw remodeled the country story.

    So his departure was most likely planned. The way he chose to leave left a sour taste in many people’s mouths. I saw no evidence of lack of respect for Ralph or his band. They were a featured act of the Jamboree and, as Doug pointed out, have been featured in numerous articles ranging from The Floyd Press to The Washington Post.

    What I did see from the audience was a lot of anger that apparently needed to be released. Why Ralph felt so much anger is unclear but what is clear is that he directed his anger at the wrong person. Ralph owes Woody Crenshaw, the county store, the audience and Doug Thompson a public apology and, until he makes one, he should never be allowed back on the stage of the Friday Nite Jamboree.

  18. And so it continues……he said, he did etc. Maybe it’s time to let the subject come to a rest. What’s done is done right, wrong or indifferent.

    I must say I’ve heard many stories about Ralph here that I’ve never heard before. He never showed any animosity (that I saw) from the stage of the store until recently when he did indeed give his opinion on Doug. Now Doug has done the same, along with many others.

    Each has had his say along with those of us who felt the need to give our opinions. In news speak let’s put this to bed. Life’s too short!


  19. Serena:

    I agree that life’s too short for the time this thing has taken out of our lives and the disruption it caused for fans of the jamboree but I also have to say that I find it unsettling that you seem to equate Doug’s answer to Ralph with the unprovoked attack by Ralph on Doug from the stage.

    I witnessed Ralph’s “meltdown” on the stage and can find no excuse for it. I cannot, however, fault Doug for answering nor can I fault him for giving his reasons for not having any contact with Ralph after that one encounter in the barbershop.

    Doug did not attack Ralph. He simply said he did not agree with his opinions and chose to avoid contact with him. Ralph, on the other hand, chose to attack Doug from a public stage for no apparent reason other than a photograph that did not make it into the paper, a decision that was apparently made not by Doug but by the editor of the paper. He then blithely dismissed Doug’s gracious gesture of publishing new pictures on his web site.

    The best way to put this to rest would be for Ralph to apologize to Doug from the very stage where he attacked him. Until he does that his years of service to the jamboree will be forever marred by his rude and childish exit from the event.

  20. I agree that it is time to move on. I appreciate the comments posted here along with the many emails and phone calls that I received expressing support.

    When I visited the Country Store last Friday night, a number of Jamboree regulars talked to me about their feelings over what happened. My thanks for the many kind comments from those who said they know how much I support the Jamboree, the Country Store, the Crooked Road and the music.

    I will be at the Country Store this Friday night and future Friday nights doing what I can to document the jamboree through photos and video and working to report on the music scene in Floyd. I welcome comments, pro or con, from those who wish to discuss the issue.

    But it is time to bring the issue to a close here. As I said in my original post, I am sorry that an evening of enjoyment for visitors to the Jamboree was interrupted. I was unaware of any problem between myself and the person involved. My goal is, as it always have been, to support the Jamboree and the Country Store and have been assured by Woody Crenshaw, Alzora Wood, Skip Pendrey and others involved with the Country Store that they appreciate my efforts.

    So let’s move on and enjoy the music. The discussion here is closed.


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