Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Musical Fun for All

News to Know
Story and Photos
by Kelly Caldwell
Roger Hammett toured with the legendary Grandpa Jones. He is also a founding member of Lard Bucket Bluegrass.

Roger Hammett began his musical career at an early age...so young in fact he couldn't enter most of the venues he played in, unless he was with the band..

“I started beating on my mom's tupperware when I was young and my mom got tired of that real fast,” Hammett said “She bought my first drum set when I was 7.”

In 1972, he began his musical career and hasn't looked back.

“I was playing in bars when I was 11 or 12,” he said. “They would sneak me in the back and would tell me not to leave my drum kit.

“It was kind of like the Blues Brothers movie, they would put up chicken wire around the stage to keep us safe from the flying bottles.”

Hammett went on to play with Jerry Reed, Confederate Railroad, Vern Gosdin, and Grandpa Jones.

“One of the coolest things that ever happened to me was when I was at the country music awards, and Doc Watson heard me playing banjo,” Hammet said. “He said I reminded him of how his son that had died played and I got to play with him for a show because of that.”
Through the years, Hammett has made many friends in the music industry and July 3rd, some of them will visit Wedowee for the 10th year of Wedowee Music Fest.

“It hasn't been consecutive because we took a year off last year, but we have had a great time bringing this to Wedowee for 10 years,” Hammett said.

The music fest and street dance began behind the Randolph County Courthouse in 2000, but quickly outgrew the location.

Hammett plays several musical instruments including the drums and banjo. He also is a vocalist.He toured with Randolph Countian Vern Gosdin for a year.

“When Chuck Rice opened Wedowee Citgo, he approached us about moving the street dance there,” Hammett said. “In one year we went from a crowd of 500 people to a crowd of 3,000.”

The music fest returns to the site once known as Wedowee Citgo the Sunday of Fourth of July weekend for 2011 and the fun will definitely continue.

“We took last year off for a variety of reasons,” Hammett said. “My father passed away and we didn't really have an adequate place to have it because the gas station was closed.”
KJ's Exxon opened in the location this winter and plans were made early on to return with
the music fest.

“Haley Grant has been instrumental in making this happen,” Hammett said. “She has been working hard right along with us to make things work.”

The return of Wedowee Music Fest will feature old favorites as well as a new group of familiar favorites.

“The headliner for the event is the Lard Bucket Bluegrass band,” Hammett said. “We have played together over the years at various times but this is something different.”
Members of the band include Jess Ford, Roger Ledford, Robert Cunningham, Ryan Robertson and Hammett.

“I had worked with Vern Gosdin for years,” Cunningham said. “Day after day I continue to think about him...one of his first endeavors was in bluegrass. And Lard Bucket is some what of tribute to him.”

Most people wonder how the group got its name and Cunningham said its all about keeping the music simple.

“I wanted to name the band something simple and old-fashioned,” he said. “Back in the day, you sat around the microphone and recorded in one take. That is kinda what we are doing here. We want it to be solid, real music.

“Kinda like Southern Cooking... It can be tasty but it doesn't have to be healthy.”
Wedowee Music Fest will begin at 6 p.m. with the WSM Picking House Crew featuring Perry Wilson.

“We will have four straight hours of music with a professional stage on lighting,” Hammett said.

A gospel group with Vernelle Billingsly and Stormin' Norman O'hara will be the second group to perform.

“They are local and put on a heck of show,” Hammett said.

The New River Band from Franklin, Ga. will entertain the crowd next.

“They are a country dance band and it's the first time they will play in Wedowee,” Hammett said.

The Lard Bucket Bluegrass Band with “Singing Judge” Ryan Robertson will be the final act of the night.

“Ryan has been playing in this area for years and has a fantastic following,” Hammett said.
The night will close with a traditional fireworks show.

“I will be sitting in with the bands throughout the night,” Hammett said. “And, my wife, Melissa, might be coaxed on the stage for a song or two.”

The event is free to the public and is located at KJ's Exxon on Highway 431 South of Wedowee.


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