In my own personal belief system, I believe WPAQ radio sation in MtAiry is the most important thing in the state of North Carolina. I mean it when I say it. I'd never met dj Tim Frye, though we'd talked on the phone a good bit when I had the store, and I saw his band The Carolina Travelers he plays mandolin and vocals in a couple years ago. Today I made it a point to go by WPAQ to see the place primarily, meet Tim if he might be there. I'd been putting the station on every once in awhile to see if it was him, but a preacher had that half hour.
I wanted to go to the museum in MtAiry on Main St. to see the Smithsonian show, New Harmonies, pictures and instruments and push-button recordings by various people. The museum itself was a surprise to find such excellent remaking an old building into something remarkable. I think I was struck most by the architecture more than any one department inside. The whole museum was very well presented, and some actually interesting exhibits. I probably liked the best a space where several taxidermied animals were standing around. An 8pointer running, one foot touching the ground. I marveled at how somebody managed to carry all that weight, even if the bulk of the deer is hollow, on one small rod coming up out of a firm foundation in the floor to run up the leg of the deer on the inside and connect to a serious structure inside to keep make it stand, and not fall. It's weight was far out of balance from that spot on the floor. All I could see was about a half an inch of the rod where it entered the floor. So often stuffed animals look dead and stuffed, but these looked living. The fox, possum, bobcat, muskrat, and some others stand around in their little pretend forest like in a petting zoo.
The Smithsonian show was indeed interesting, pictures galore of Woodie Guthrie, Bessie Smith, Sun House, Muddy Waters, Bill Monroe, and the only one from here, Tommy Jarrell. They did a good presentation of Jarrell and the Round Peak area of musicians. I felt at home. I have a large b&w photograph of Tommy Jarrell with his fiddle on my wall. It was something that leaped on me when I saw it. I was in Elkin at the arts council place and saw a bin of matted photographs and prints. All of them were nice, then the b&w Jarrell appeared and my first thought was, mine. It was a bit much for an "impulse" purchase, but it was a one chance only thing. It's by a MtAiry man named Robert Meritt. It's number 4 of 400 prints made. The women at the desk in the museum had an Our State magazine with an article about the show. It had about a half page picture of Tommy Jarrell that is this particular image.
It's a good exhibit, one of those walk-through things that didn't take up much space, but they managed a lot in that space. All of it was done in high museum quality, beautifully presented. I had to check my disappointment that it was so small, it is what it is. And everything was interesting to look at. They had an old turntable device that made made the grooves in some kind of record type disk to later be printed on records at the factory or wherever they do it. I was thinking of Ralph Stanley and Carter recording their first songs, all their first songs on Rich-R-Tone label. Ralph said the man carried all his recording equipment in the trunk of a big car. When I looked at the turntable, I thought of the Stanley Brothers, Molly and Tenbrooks. Humble beginnings, and it was advanced technology not very long ago. Ralph Stanley was a grown man, and he's still living. I saw too that Fred Cockerham lived by Camp Creek, hence the band's name the Camp Creek Boys, Fred on fiddle and banjo, and Kyle Creed of fiddle and banjo. One of the finest old-time bands there is. Like the old feller said, they laid it to it.
I don't know my way around MtAiry, so I found a place to park in the vicinity and walked. I do better on foot than driving around and around from redlight to redlight. They're long in MtAiry, too. I'm so worn out from trying to keep myself from jumping out of my skin waiting for it to turn green that by the time it does turn green I'm about asleep from exhaustion. Sitting there staring at a red circle made of little red lights, pixels. Then to the next one, sit and watch the red circle waiting for the green one to come on. It's like waiting for water to boil. I want to walk away from it and forget it, but I can't, the motor's running, I'm in traffic, cars everywhere going all directions. I wanted to park first thing and save the driving for getting out of there. You know, when MtAiry traffic on a Tuesday afternoon gets to you, it's time to stay at home. Which I already knew, but mainly I wanted to take the Catfish out for a drive on the road, feel it, see how it handles, to spend some time with it like a friend I only see for a little bit every few days. Like having a long conversation to talk about the things we haven't had a chance to talk but in short spells. Already, I feel it, the car and I are friends. We've bonded. I find when I drive it I drive so it won't scare Jr, like he's in the passenger seat and we're out on a sunny day drive. It means I want to take care of the car because it's special and will outlive me.
We had a good time together today. The New Harmonies show was the turn around point, something I can call a reason to drive to MtAiry and back. It's about an hour drive, nice country to drive through, Low Gap, Round Peak. I never think of MtAiry as down the mountain until I drive there on 89 and wring and twist down the mountain, thinking I didn't remember it was so far down the mountain. Driving along that road I think of the Round Peak musicians, the legends and the younger ones coming on. Jr once said every other house in Low Gap had a musicianer in it.
I talked with the two women at the desk where you go into the New Harmonies show for quite a bit. Another came along and we talked about old-time music like it was the latest thing since punk rock. I asked how to get to the WPAQ radio station. One of them wrote excellent directions on the back of an envelope. I looked at the rest of the museum enough to see what it was and set about getting the daily exercise walking to the car down this street and that. They have MtAiry perked up, clean like Southern Living clean. It looks good.
Out of town into semi country and there on the hill the brick building that is WPAQ. To me, it's a kind of mountain music mecca. I wanted to meet Tim if he might be there, see the place, be inside it, see it. That was all I wanted. Tim was there. He was on the air. We spoke a little bit during the songs. I told him I believe this station is the most important thing in the state of North Carolina. It's made a great contribution to mountain music. It is mountain music. I didn't go into all that, but I went about my way, not there to take up anybody's time, just to be there, to touch the place. That was all. I told Tim I model my show after WPAQ, meaning really it's my inpiration. It's the real deal. Or Philip Roth's way of putting it, Thereal McCoy. It was like the time in an art museum in Zurich, Switzerland, I saw a white marble sculpture by an artist I have a great deal of respect for, Jean Arp. It was called, Cloud. For my particular taste, he's something like the apex, among a few others like Brancusi and Giacometti. I had to make contact. I touched it with the tip of my finger for half a second. And alarms didn't go off. I got away with it.