Woody Fest 2018 — Lived up to Woody’s life completely

| July 29, 2018 | Reply

Turnpike Troubadours on the Pastures of Plenty stage, Woody Fest.

This first appeared in the Friday, July 27, 2018, edition of Paris News.  Story and photos by Mary Jane Farmer, who still has about 2,000 more photos to process.

Okemah, Oklahoma, celebrates one of its own every year, mid-July, with a music festival in his honor, and two other regional favorites, also Okemah natives, play it every year.

Woody Fest, or the Woody Guthrie Festival, is celebrated on the weekend nearest July 14 each year, and features Even Felkner and the Turnpike Troubadours, and also John Fullbright, both of whom were born in Okemah.

On July 14, 1912, Woodrow Wilson Guthrie was born in a frame house in Okemah, a house which later caught fire, killed his sister Clara, and destroyed the family home. It was a hard life for the family, especially after his mother was committed to a hospital for the insane, but later determined to have been a victim of Huntington’s Disease. Woody’s dad, Charles, soon moved to Pampa to repay his unsuccessful real estate debts.

As is not a secret, Woody Guthrie was one of thousands who moved from Oklahoma to

Riley Amanda, Woody Fest Youth Songwriting Contest Winner.

California to escape the Dust Bowl and the poverty is created. Circumstances were such that Woody returned his family to Pampa but answered the call of the wanderlust himself. The rest is history, and there’s a museum in downtown Okemah that documents much of that history.

Woody Fest is produced by A Coalition, a non-profit corporation, of interested and involved music lovers, who are already planning their 2019 festival, to be held on July 10-14. This past year, there were four daytime stages in the downtown area, plus numerous ‘outreach’ themed concerts at churches, nursing homes, the museum and such; and it all shifts for the night performances to the Pastures of Plenty stage just slightly off the beaten path.

The musicians come from all over the United States and points across the oceans. Around the first of each year, the Coalition begins accepting applications from those who want to play. That is always

Bob Livingston and David Amram

posted on the Website, WoodyFest.com. After the shut-off date is met, the Coalition makes it choices. Some, like the Turnpike Troubadours and Fullbright, don’t have to apply, they are just automatically included. Others are there many years, and some play a year or two, and then are rotated out to make room for new talent. Those most often there include the Red Dirt Rangers, including Randy Crouch, from Oklahoma; Croatian-born and USA-raised Radoslav Lorkovic; David Amram, New York’s classical composer and expert at musical instruments from across the globe; and Joel Rafael from California. Regular repeaters can include Texas’ own Butch Hancock; a

Kyle Nix, with Turnpike Troubadours, plays backstage with new, young fans.

man of few words, Sam Baker; and several of Woody’s musically inclined granddaughters and great-grandchildren.

Some of the newer ones that instantly became this writer’s favorites include the following.

Ronny Cox — Actually, Cox is one of those more-often repeaters, and it’s because his

songs are so refreshingly frank, very Woody-style. Cox is also an actor, who prefers playing music to acting, but still accepts numerous screen roles. His first, or at least the one that shot him to stardom, was as the picker in the 1972 film, Deliverance, in which he was the duo portion of the “Dueling Banjos” scene. He turns down about 90 percent of the acting offers he’s given in favor of playing about 100 festivals and concerts each year.

Ronny Cox

This year, Cox brought Radoslov, or “Rad,” on stage with him, Rad on keyboards and his accordion and Cox on guitar and story-telling via songs, spellbinding the audience. That’s no easy feat for an 80-year-old, but easier for those octogenarians who make music their lives and who have something, like Cox, to say through their music.

Chloe-Beth — This young lady, barely 18 years old, managed to keep the residents of

Care Center captivated at an outreach concert. Nervous, having not played in public often, Chloe-Beth made her first smart move by dressing and applying make-up similar to the flapper-age icon, Betty Boop, someone many residents were familiar with. She presented many of her original songs, strumming the guitar while sitting in front of the community room’s fireplace and without any

Chloe-Beth

microphones or amplification. But it was when she kicked into the more familiar cover songs, such as “Marie Laveau,” that ears really perked up. Chloe-Beth added little personal touches, too, such as making one new fan feel special by giving him her guitar pick.

Joe Purdy — An Arkansas native, Joe Purdy rapidly became this writer’s favorite ‘new-to-me’ performer. Solo, guitar, original folk songs — Purdy has all the makings of a

modern-day Woody Guthrie. Purdy is a self-proclaimed ‘hillbilly,’ performing much like Guthrie did, and also Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and others of that ilk. And personable,

Joe Purdy

not show-off-ey at all. Purdy played a daytime concert, and when at the Pastures of Plenty later that evening, he stopped and talked with or listened to absolutely 100 percent everybody who also had been enthralled with his concert. Many of his songs are on YouTube.com.

Randy Crouch — Egads, is there an instrument out there that Randy Crouch can’t play, and play well? Keyboards, guitar, fiddle, mandolin, ukulele, steel guitar, and so on it goes. A member of the Red Dirt Ramblers, maybe even a founding member, Crouch is definitely a long-serving, long-respected musician from Day 1 of the Red Dirt Music incarnation. He sang, that Saturday night of the festival, his songs “Mexican Holiday” and “Big Shot Rich Man,” both of which Jason Boland has recorded. He sang

Randy Crouch

others, too, and played many of those instruments he is so expert at.

Save the dates, July 10-14, 2019, local musicians, and check — check quite often after the first of the year — the Website, WoodyFest.com. Under the category “Participate” will be the opportunity to become an integral part of Woody Fest, to submit to perform there. There’s other ways to become involved, too, including the songwriting contest, the T-shirt designing contest held every year — and believe me, there are some great ones accepted for print each year — songwriting workshops, and just plain ol’ volunteering.

This writer got involved in this business of music decades ago by volunteering, first at the Border Folk Festival in El Paso, and then at the Kerrville Festivals in Kerrville. Now as photographer at Woody Fest, and many others throughout the year. Being a volunteer adds a dimension to the entire experience, brings insight into humanity, and opens doors to so much more music.

See you at Woody Fest?

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