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CHAPTER 4 Fulfillment The Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, and similar programs which Lunsford arranged, became his leading and consuming interest for the rest of his life. The festival was not just a program that he organized by writing a few letters and then managed as master of ceremonies. He worked at the festival the year round, always on the lookout for additional authentic talent. He scoured the mountains of Western North Carolina in a successsion of battered Nashes and Hudsons, driving absent-mindedly, perhaps with his mind on more important things, until stories of his driving mishaps became as well-known as his singing. One performer claimed Bascom mowed down all the mailboxes for a quarter of a mile on a country road. Lunsford approached mountain musicians in a dignified way, assuming their own sense of dignity and their understanding of the value of their musical talents and repertories. He claimed, "The key to whatever success I've had has been in recognizing the value of the fine traditions of mountain people." One contact would usually lead to another. As Lunsford put it, "They'll say you ought to go see so and so. He knows so and so. Go see him. He's the funniest guy you ever saw." 50 he would clatter off to look up the suggested person to find out if he had something to offer the festival. If he was not yet ready for the festival, Lunsford might make suggestions for improvement, or he might help him get a better musical instrument. "I've lived this thing," he said of the festival, "I've met myself coming back." "Knowing the proper approach has helped me a whole lot," he commented. "Knowing how the other man thinks about things and knowing what to depend on is important. In a festival you get as much good in as you can and keep as much bad out as you can. We keep it as genuine as we can. I find a fellow from the country that sings a song we want. We invite him to come and sing it. We may let him also sing something he wants to sing. We mayor may not like it, but that's all right." "In the very beginning," he wrote later, "ballad singers, fiddlers, mountain dancers, old and young, came from the Valley of the Cheoah, Laurel River, Bear Wallow, Watauga River, 50co Gap, Oconalufty River, 5andymush, Rabbitham and South Turkey Creek, or some 20 other mountain counties or communities where the old ballads have been sung at their best for years, where group dancing based on older figures movements, and childhood games and singing games, all spirited and moving, were never talked out by a sophisticated 51 society as had been done elsewhere." He felt that the festival ought to be like a smorgasbord with something for everyone. He made sure that there was Variety-fiddlers, pickers, harmonica players, singers, string bands, buck dancers, dancing groups and so on. But he had tested their quality before they came. He told of reading the Bible about separating the wheat from the chaff, "and that's what I've been trying to do with the festival. There ain't a performer here that won't entertain yoU."l WaIter Parham described Lunsford as "one of the most intelligent talent hunters that's ever been in my time. He had a wonderful , wonderful memory. He could sing ballads I've never heard myself. He was a go-getter when it came to folk music, and when he got it he knew what to do with it."2 Other performers at past festivals admired Lunsford's skillin programming the different performers. He refused to print a program or to give a starting time for the program. "Along about sundown" was his time for starting, and that is as exact as he would get. He confessed that he liked slogans that stuck in people's minds, such as his for the starting time. But he had another reason for this Impreciseness . Because he always liked to give young and Inexperienced talent a chance, he would put them on first while the crowd was settling Into the auditorium, rather than when the festival was fully under way. Also, he frequently put persons on early who were not quite what he wanted In his prime time, but whom he still wanted to perform. Because he had no exact starting time, performers could not later accuse him...


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