Two of my favorite folks in the bluegrass music field are Eddie and Martha Adcock.
Eddie and I both share the honor of having worked with Bill Monroe and we were together at the International Bluegrass Music Museum in Owensboro, Ky. earlier this fall as we were honored for our contributions to the music.
Eddie and Martha Adcock and Tom Gray
The Bluegrass Hall of Famer also helped one of the most influential acts in music history – the Country Gentlemen.
He also led the II Generation and toured with a superpicker ensemble known as The Masters in the 1990s.
The banjo stylist and guitarist hit the national news in recent years as he became the first banjo player in history to undergo brain surgery live on camera with banjo in hand in 2008.
The whole process was to help him regain his ability to play after developing an essential tremor – an involuntary trembling in the head or hands.
Though subsequent surgeries have been required with the latest this past summer, he is doing well, performing and has a wonderful new album featuring Eddie and Martha, Twograss entitled – “Many A Mile” for Patuxent Music.
Joining them is another Country Gentlemen and Seldom Scene alum – bassist Tom Gray. Former II Generation bandmate Gene Johnson of Diamond Rio lends his tenor and lead vocals and mandolin playing to the project.
Also making special appearances were former Talk of the Town bandmate Missy Raines and Country Gentlemen Pete Kuykendall and banjoist and engineer Wes Easter.
I was overjoyed to be able to sit in the audience in Owensboro, Ky. and watch Eddie, Martha, Tom and Gene perform one of the most enjoyable sets of music I have heard in years.
The new CD includes many of the songs they featured: Many a Mile, Down Where the Still Waters Flow, New Freedom Bell, He Was a Friend of Mine, Two Little Boys, Amelia Earhart’s Last Flight, Mary Dear, Nightwalk, I Am Weary, Let Me Rest, Matterhorn, Darling Little Joe, Helen, Bringing Mary Home and This Morning at Nine.
I asked Eddie if he had a favorite among the collection.
“Emotionally, one of my favorites to sing, through the years, has been ‘Down Where The Still waters Flow’ – it’s great for harmony singing, and harmony stirs me emotionally as much as the words and there’s “New Freedom Bell,” he said. “I love Martha’s singing on all of them on this CD.”
Martha also mentioned the significance of “New Freedom Bell.”
“Aside from most of the CD’s songs’ concerning love, loss, loneliness and death – which are timeless themes, especially in bluegrass music – I care a great deal for “New Freedom Bell,” she said. “The song was written by Louise Osborne, the ‘Osborne Sister,’ to commemorate our airlift to aid Britain in World War II, and to celebrate what some would call the triumph of good over evil. The song just carries a lot of emotion and I rearranged it with successively higher modulations in the choruses to emphasize that.”
Probably one of the pivotal songs historically in the project is the one that almost everyone in bluegrass knows.
“‘Bringing Mary Home’” is special because it was such a hit,” Eddie said. “The Country Gentlemen had several hits, but ‘Bringing Mary Home’ was the biggest we ever had. It should have reached number one in Billboard except for what you might call politics. The music business used to be more flagrantly crooked, and the sales for that single of ours were number one worthy, but that spot was given to a country artist who had actually sold far less. You have to remember that in the ‘50s bluegrass was looked upon as marginal and unworthy of serious attention by the mainstream country music business.”
On the new project they feature songs from the Country Gentlemen. Eddie said as long as Charlie Waller was living, he didn’t feel it was appropriate but now he wanted to return to some of the material he has loved through his life.
“Well, the ‘classic’ Country Gentlemen are a big part of bluegrass history,” Martha said. “They were iconoclasts and innovators, and they’re installed in the IBMA Hall of Fame, the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Hall of Fame, and several others collectively and individually. Eddie Adcock and Tom Gray are the surviving half of that band. And while those classic songs and instrumentals have continued to be performed by the band, the Gents are now a part-time band for Randy Waller, Charlie’s son; and since Eddie has always been invested in it on a deep level, it just seemed the natural thing to do, and the time seemed right.
“While Charlie, the last original member, was alive and still had the band, both Eddie and I felt that the songs belonged with the band since they were so closely identified with it,” she said. “Now, we just want to enjoy performing them ourselves and help them live on. What a wonderful body of material the Country Gentlemen created.”
Martha and Eddie have one of the prettiest harmony blends in the music especially when supported by Gene or Tom. This collection reflects their hearts and their love of the music as they continue to travel and entertain.
“I’m enjoying (traveling and performing) at least as much, even at 73,” Eddie said. “ I’m certainly happy that I’m able to continue doing it, because I’ve always enjoyed it. It’s what makes me tick. If I have to sit at home a while, I’m really anxious to get back out there.”
Martha added that while their bodies are not as hardy as they once were, that the road and stage are in their blood.
“We enjoy touring and seeing friends and fans across the country and around the world,” she said. “As for Eddie, he always says, ‘my two favorite times are when I get home and when I leave home again.’ Of the two of us, he’s the one who can’t ever imagine not touring. He’s the only guy I know who was willing to have three deadly-dangerous brain surgeries in order to be able to keep on pickin’!”
If you get the chance to see Eddie and Martha Adcock live, don’t miss it, but until they come your way, order a copy of “Many A Mile” either through the mail for $17.50 (including postage and handling) to Martha Adcock, at P.O. Box 219, Lebanon TN 37088 or on the Internet at www.pxrec.com.