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.”
Retired 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:
–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.