Notes from the Road – Southeast Regional Folk Alliance (SERFA) Day 1

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Notes from the Road – Southeast Regional Folk Alliance (SERFA) Day 1


          Well, on to the next Folk Alliance Conference, this time in Mountain View, Arkansas at the Ozark Folk Center, a State Park facility dedicated to the preservation of the folk arts.  It is a terrific facility, if not ideally located to encourage maximum attendance being in the farthest northwest corner of the region, and I’m really looking forward to it. 


          My day started at 6 am EST, which is actually 5 am where I was headed.  With my daughter, Jessi’s, considerable help I had everything prepared and packed the night before, so I rolled out of bed, showered and headed for the airport.  Miraculously my travel from Orlando through Dallas connecting to Little Rock, AR was uneventful – was able to get my guitar on board without hassle (thanks American Airlines), my flights were on time, my baggage came through and my rental car was ready and waiting.  I even ran into Cheryl Paige and husband Leon in the airport at Little Rock (they were waiting for a shuttle that runs once a day up to the center, but I got a good deal on a car and preferred the independence.  So, by a little after 2 pm (Central) I was winding my way northwest out of Little Rock toward Mountain View.


          Though the day was grey and overcast, what a beautiful drive.  Once out of Little Rock I traveled through farmlands and small towns climbing up into the Ozarks.  Its cool here (low 50’s) and the leaves are in full change.  Folks in Arkansas are not aggressive drivers so in those parts where there was any traffic it was a low key affair.


          My room mate for the trip is Jacksonville’s Larry Mangum who arrived a day earlier.  He had left a phone message asking that I acquire some liquid refreshment of the adult variety before I got to Mountain View, which is a small little place and has no liquor stores.  I should have taken care of that before leaving Little Rock.  I passed 62,000 churches of every conceivable denomination, at times three or four next door to each other in a row (ok, maybe only 50,000, but A LOT) and not one liquor store of any description.  No beer or wine in the supermarkets either, I checked.  I thought of stopping at one of the Baptist churches to talk to the groundskeeper (they always know where to get locally manufactured whiskey), but just thought I’d better press on.  I have a little sippin’ tonic with me and I’ll have to share it sparingly.


The drive took about 2 ½ hours and the last part through the mountains was particularly winding and climbing.  However, I enjoy the mountain roads and the scenery.  Saw a couple of deer, a red fox and a big hawk soaring the thermals over a big lake impoundment near Greer.  Really pretty.  But I was getting tired (traveling does that you know) and anxious to get to the center in time to join everyone for supper, so I pushed on through without dawdling to admire the landscape much.


Upon arrival I got checked in, registered, found Larry and the room, tossed my stuff out of the car and hustled over to the restaurant for supper.  I was in hyper mode and really had to work at winding down as all I could think of was things I needed to do.  I wolfed down my buffet meal while said my hellos to all the familiar faces - Jack and Judy Williams, Ronny Cox, Ray Lewis, Kelly and Donna Mulholland, Jaime Michaels, Lauren Lapointe, Denise Williams, Gloria Holloway, Daniel and Ellen Boling, Kari Estrin, John Stoecker, Bill and Kate Isles and on and on and on.  My apologies to the many I didn’t list specifically.  Then I hustled over to the main conference area to put my materials on the exhibit table, spread out the bags of Cracker Crunch (what I’m calling my Chex mix now) and then whirled back to the room to change before the evening showcases.  Whew!!!


I finally managed to settle into relax mode (after a phone call with Ron Litschauer about the mastering progress on Welcome Home and a call home to my bride).  I went up to hear the first of the official showcases (mine slot is on Saturday) and enjoyed nice sets from Lauren Lapointe (Savannah, Ga.), Chico Schwall (Oregon) and my buddy Larry Mangum, who did a particularly good set including his tribute to Gamble Rogers, I Knew the Last Troubadour.  Then I ducked out for a little rest (coffee) and practice before my private showcases for the evening.


My first showcase was a songwriters’ round in the New Mexico room hosted by Daniel and Ellen Boling.  They really went all out setting up the room with chairs, lighting and décor.  I was honored to be in the round with Jack Williams and Ronnie Cox, two of the best on the circuit.  Jack is an unparalleled writer, singer and, particularly, guitar player.  Ronnie, though better known as a actor (Deliverance, Beverly Hills Cop, Murder at 1600 and, most recently, Imagine That) is a tremendous touring folk musician who has earned a lot of attention in the past few years for his musicianship.  We had a wonderful 1 hour round swapping tunes for a full room.  I thoroughly enjoyed it and had looked forward to it as one of the highlights of this conference.  I wasn’t disappointed!


Following us came Kelly and Donna Mulholland, Daniel Boling and Jamie Michaels.  I was able to stay for only part of their set as I had a show to do in our Florida showcase room at 12:30 a.m., so at the appropriate time I slipped out.  The Florida Room is being hosted by Ray Lewis from Jacksonville.  I was following Larry Mangum and enjoyed hearing some new tunes from Larry.  When it came my time Roy Schneider (Naples FL) had joined us in the room.  I had missed Roy’s official showcase earlier in the evening so after a couple of tunes I invited him to step in for a couple.  Wow, great stuff!  Roy was a finalist in the Kerrville New Folk showcase this year and I can see why.  What a treat to get to hear some of his material!  Then I took back over and finished out the set at 1:00 am. 


Now, a day that starts at 5 am and ends at 1 am is a long day, I don’t care who you are.  So I headed back to the room (where Larry was already trying to get to sleep), had a small snort of that fine amber liquid I’d brought along and read a few stories in “Forgotten Tales of Florida” just released by my friend Bob Paterson in St. Augustine.  By 1:45 it was lights out in more ways than one!!  More tomorrow.



"It's not how far you've come, it's what you've done with the miles"

Doug Spears

36 Interlaken Road

Orlando, Florida 32804

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