January 07, 2008

Charlotte Observer | 01/06/2008 | 90-year-old is keeper of old-time music

This is something like the jam at Wayne's (though not exactly, since that is a magical place). They play all of the same songs too. Makes you wonder how many are out there and makes you want to go to them all.

Charlotte Observer | 01/06/2008 | 90-year-old is keeper of old-time music: "There is nothing fancy about Nelia Hyatt's Music House. Worn linoleum covers the floor. The light is fluorescent. The furniture is a mishmash of folding wooden and metal chairs and old car seats propped against the walls of the garage. Off to one side, there's a coffeepot and sweets and snacks, donations appreciated.

The music is acoustic, mostly bluegrass, country and gospel, but that's not what distinguishes this place from other music jams. You can find mountain music at the museum in Old Fort on Friday nights, at the Cook Shack in Fiddler's Grove on Saturday mornings and at other places in between.

What sets the Music House apart is that musicians still gather at a private home for socializing and music-making, the way they gathered for hundreds of years when families lived isolated in the hollows of the Blue Ridge Mountains, before telephones and cars and other modern conveniences."
...he jam moved to Thursday nights after Wayne retired in 1971 and it became so popular, it outgrew the living room. Nelia helped Wayne haul river rocks from Barnardsville, 30 miles away, to enclose their carport.

Wayne, a big tall man in overalls, ran the Music House as it came to be known. Nelia baked chicken and dumplings for as many as 75 people in a night.

Word spread and strangers came from as far away as Europe to play or listen. The door was open to all with a few unwritten rules: No smoking, no drinking, no foul language....


A familiar melody fills the tiny garage as Kim and Jeff sing: "To Canaan's land I'm on my way."

The crowd joins in: "Where the soul of man never dies."

Seth, now 15, feels so comfortable among the old-timers that he picks out the next song on his banjo and "Foggy Mountain Breakdown" explodes into the room. Maxine Maynard returns to the dance floor and Nelia Hyatt sets to clapping again. For a few minutes, everyone is caught up with the music.

As the last notes fade, heads still bowed over instruments, an unusual silence settles in.

"What we doing?"

"I don't know."

"Somebody pick one."

A note here, a note there, and soon they're all playing "John Henry."

Karen Howard, who is Nelia Hyatt's granddaughter, takes center stage next and begins "I'll Be All Smiles Tonight."

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