Once again the first weekend in June has rolled around, and once again I’m on the road to scenic Princeton, Kentucky- home of the Pennington Folk Festival- now celebrating its 16th year, and how sweet it is! For the third time, Eddie, his lovely wife Penny, and their children Alonzo and Rosebud have welcomed us into their community to attend, photograph and help out with one of the most charming little music festivals in the country. The people are friendly, the music is inspired and guaranteed to put a smile on your face and set your toe to tapping! A world class guitarist and winner of accolades too numerous to mention, Eddie is a master thumbpicker in the style made famous by Merle Travis and Chet Atkins, and a member of the Thumbpickers Hall of Fame, as well as a winner of the National Endowment for the Arts coveted Heritage Fellows Award. Although the threat of severe weather forced the Festival from its usual sunny outdoors location and into the Butler gymnasium, the rains could not dampen the spirits of the performers, or the crowd as the music and the smiles brought sunshine to the little town of Princeton, Kentucky for yet another year of Penningtonfest! A special thanks should also go out to Stacey, Dog and all the other tireless volunteers and contributors that make this all possible. Great work, y’all!!
A whole lot of talent, professional and homegrown
Friday night headliner, Blues guitarist- Bosco France
Bosco gets down!!
The fine folks of Princeton, Caldwell County
The big man himself- Eddie Pennington- and all the talented family
Saturday night headliner, country legend Gene Watson
Once again, the intrepid traveler and neon explorer has loaded up the trusty Retromobile and set a southwesterly course through Kentucky and on to Tennessee before making my yearly pilgrimage to Princeton and Penningtonfest! As planned, it was a long drive, but one teeming with roadside treasures and surprises galore. My trusty and loyal crew and I were rewarded with new adventures and plenty of bizarre and interesting bits of vanishing small town Americana. …and, of course, plenty of neon, lost commercial ephemera from bygone eras and interesting architecture that the 21st Century has bid a not so fond farewell to in favor of a landscape of homogenized conformity.
What would a trip to Memphis be without a stop to Graceland. Sorry, no published pictures allowed! Elvis, Elvis!
Historic Elmwood Cemetery in Memphis- Beautiful!
Some cool neon in Memphis
I just LOVED this house- Was formerly a Doctor’s office, now up for sale, but too far from anything to make it practical
Old small town movie theaters
Several generations of wildly diverse roadside architecture in the South
Who knew that rural Tennessee was home to such great Deco design?
Once again I count my blessings that I have the good fortune to make a living, however meager, doing what I truly love.
….and I admit it, I love guitars, and everything about them! The variations of their sonic palette is infinite, as are the players that finesse, throttle, bludgeon and seduce those glorious sounds from these musical sculptures of wood & metal. Nowhere else on the planet are more beautiful, and more interesting instruments created than in the humble workshop of luthier Matt Artinger, in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. I’ve known and worked with Matt for over 10 years, and consider myself a lucky man indeed to be able to spend even a few days a year photographing, and playing these stunning instruments. Every one a work of art, every one a player’s dream.
Underwear is Everywhere! My Brother Threw Up on My Stuffed Toy Bunny! Diaper Rash! …… and who can forget that immortal anthem- Don’t Put Your Finger Up Your Nose! Yes friends, these and many more delightful ditties celebrating the joys of childhood, warped or otherwise, sprang from the creative mind of children’s singer/songwriter and author Barry Louis Polisar. Barry and I have been friends and collaborators for over 35 years ( I’ve illustrated 3 books with Barry & several albums and CDs) so when he called and suggested I accompany him on a short roadtrip to Mifflinburg, PA. I of course jumped at the chance! We of course, swapped stories and compared notes over breakfast at the West Shore Diner in Lamoyne before arriving in Mifflinburg, where a charming street festival was in full swing, with wine tastings, traditional German cuisine, and buggy rides and demonstrations of the fine lost arts of the wheelwright, blacksmith, and buggy maker, recognizing the town’s long heritage as an American mecca for the production of fine buggies. Barry helped kick off one of the inaugural performances in the town’s new cultural arts center, located in a lovely old former church, situated in sight of three, count ‘em three cemeteries. The audience was excited and appreciative, and of course, who can’t relate when Barry says” I’ve Got A Teacher, She’s So Mean!” ….. and did I mention, Barry wrote the opening theme song to the movie “Juno“?
Every musician needs a good cup of Joe to start the day
a bit of tasty festival food in Pennsylvania
If I had a hammer, I guess I’d be a smithy
Mifflinburg is historically a center of the buggy makers art
The many faces of Barry Louis Polisar
….and of course the happy faces in the audience! Hey, wait a sec, isn’t that guy with the spiked hair in the heavy metal band, Ministry? Guess Barry has a wide fan base!
….and so ends another happy day on the road!
The day dawned overcast and cloudy as we left our quiet suburban Maryland town and hit the road for a return trip to the Amish country of nearby Pennsylvania, but as we neared our first destination, the Prospect Diner in Columbia, the sun broke through and cast its warm rays over the meeting place of another of Mod Betty’s Retro Roadmap get togethers. Betty & her amiable spouse, Retro Roadhusband once again played host to a meeting of the local lovers of the great, but vanishing American roadside, graciously coordinating a day of fun and exploration a stone’s throw from York, PA. Diner aficionados from as far away as upstate NY made the journey, and there was a feeling of goodwill and camaraderie shared among the participants celebrating the spirit and vision of the small town American entrepreneur. After a breakfast meal that couldn’t be beat, and enough coffee to sustain an army, we set out to explore, and unearth the treasures in the local antique stores. Bargains and treats galore awaited the patient and practiced eyes of our intrepid shoppers, and afterword we retreated to lunch at the classic American lunchcounter at Hinkle’s Pharmacy , celebrating 120 years of service to the local community, and was this place hopping on a Sunday afternoon! After fortifying our crew, we set off again for our special tour at the Haines’s Shoe House in nearby Hallam. The brainstorm of local shoe salesman Mahlon Haines, this charming bit of wacky architecture was built in 1948, and , though never actually inhabited by an Old Woman with so many children, is surprisingly cozy and quite comfortable inside. A satisfying find for any commercial archaeologist! We took the boot, bid a sad farewell to our roadside friends and returned to our antiquing, while many of the adventurers had a last bite to eat at the yummy Maple Donuts before setting sail for home. Our thanks go out once again to the ever vivacious Mod Betty for putting it all together. So, till next time, put on your traveling shoes and be on the lookout for that wonderful bit of America while it still exists!
Breakfast at the Prospect Diner
A braintrust of the great American road experience
The Retro Roadmasters outside the Prospect Diner
Scouting for treasures
Strange things from another time uncovered by our intrepid archaeologists
A full house for lunch at Hinkle’s Pharmacy
The Shoe House
In a secluded corner of the Maryland suburbs,not far from the pre-heated seats of power that control the workings of the free world, a small and select group of independent-minded men have gathered 3 times a year to participate in a time honored ritual shrouded in deepest secrecy, the inner working of which are known exclusively to a quartet of living souls, known only as “The Four”, or, to the outside world as the public face of The Gentlemen’s Tasting Club of Olney. Led by a shadowy figure referred to as “Mr. President”, the foursome lead lives that to the unsuspecting populace may seem ordinary, even mundane, and go about their daily routines in business, family and love wrapped in the cloak of kindness, creativity and respectability, but for 3 days out of the year, when they invite a finite number of deserving men to participate in the deepest secrets of the infamous GTC, participating in the rigorous, and quite often humiliating and painful initiation ceremonies reserved only for Gentlemen of accomplishment and distinction. Through the generous, but mysterious underwriting of Miss Molly’s Meat Rub, the often copied, but never equaled Men and Meat Firepit Event continues to this day,lurking in the shadows of Stonehenge on the Ascott, as strong, independent, smelly, rude, funny, flatulant and always loving men, caring and protective of their womenfolk, and the community at large, travel forth, from far and wide, to ignite the fires of freedom and spread the good word of meat, whisky and bad jokes told well and oft repeated! We salute you! …..Hey, remember that time when you woke up in a bathtub full of ice and your kidneys were gone ..
Miss Molly says” Time to eat? Rub the Meat!”
Salmon & Oysters
The closest thing to greens at the event- used as a brush
The President’s special twice fried fries!
No chicken here- These are pheasants- wrapped in bacon and stuffed with sausage
The musical world lost a great voice yesterday when Richie Havens passed away at the age of 72. I only saw him perform live twice, but his magnetic presence and incredible right hand were the stuff that legends are made of. Mr. Havens provided me with one of my most memorable personal moments in the music industry in 2007 when I had gone to photograph a performance and interview Arlo Guthrie at the Wolf Trap Performing Arts Center in Vienna, Virginia. Richie was opening for Arlo that night, and my editor and I arrived that afternoon during sound check so he could do his interview prior to the show. While the writer was busy in the green room chatting to Arlo, I stuck around on the Wolf Trap stage to watch Richie warm up and do his sound check, snapping candids here and there. Eventually, the backing musicians left the stage to rest up, and I was left alone on stage with Richie. We talked for a few minutes, a very quiet, sweet and charming man, and presently he began to strum the opening power chords of the Who‘s “Won’t get fooled again” on his battered old Guild acoustic. As I sat on the stage at his feet, Richie Havens proceeded to bless me with a command performance of that rock classic for 20 minutes, singing, stomping, growling and smiling as if this was a moment that he lived for. To play THAT song, for me, and me alone. It was magic! We will miss you, Richie, and I thank you for a musical present that I will always cherish! Rest in Peace. Freedom.