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Friday, November 4, 2011


          kermit pickin at the hillbilly show 2011

          kermit a-layin it to it

     kermit jamming with joe irwin

                    kermit lip-syncs george jones

     kermit playing bass with the rise and shine band

This afternoon I walked by Kermit's barber shop to go see my friend Chris Davis's shop on the corner across from Farmer's Hardware where Northwestern Bank used to be many years ago. Chris had a shop in there before the last business that was in there, Ike Forrester's accounting office. She never fails to have a beautiful and imaginative shop. Kermit was standing looking at the paper, no one in the shop but him. The money was in my pocket, needed a haircut, didn't want to do it at home, hadn't seen Kermit in awhile, no waiting. I turned around in front of the Alleghany museum and went back to Kermit's, in the door, and in the chair. It's like hitting the red light green at the intersection there at the courthouse, approaching it from 18 South, Whitehead St. Going right on through it green happens maybe, at most, once a year. Since I've had the radio show, the store, and knew Jr so well, by now Kermit knows me well enough to talk with me. Before I entered his music world, we didn't know each other and neither Kermit nor I are any good at talking with people we don't know. 

Kermit played bass with Jr Maxwell's band The Green Mountain Boys for awhile. He's played bluegrass bass for a lot of years. He's played at the Jubilee with the Rise and Shine Band so many years he's probably never thought about how many. He has been putting photographs on his walls of musicians from the past and Sparta from the past, until his 2 walls are covered. They are interesting historically and for memory to look at. Kermit is one of the ones in the community smart enough to stay out of politics and ideas of position. He is a musician on weekends and cuts hair during the week. There have been quite a lot of barber musicians in the mountains. Basil Landreth, a barber here for a number of years played guitar and had jams in the barber shop. BF Shelton, a barber in I think Corbin, Kentucky, not far from Cumberland Gap, played banjo and sang a couple of songs at the Bristol Sessions in 1927. Darling Cora and Oh Molly Dear are his two songs that turn up in anthologies of mountain music from early recordings. I've learned to appreciate eastern Kentucky banjo pickin. It's a sound all their own. They don't sound alike, but they have a sound in common. 

Kermit and I like to talk about Jr, bring up a memory of him. We both had a great deal of respect for Jr. I like to talk with people who were in Jr's life. Bring him back a little bit by remembering him. I told Kermit a quotation I'd written down that Jr said 3 years ago, "Well, shit a damn monkey." Kermit fell out laughing. He said, "That's an original. I've never heard that one before." I'm suddenly laughing at myself for hesitating to write that, anticipating an assault by the politically correct police. Today in the coffee shop I was assaulted for saying Shit Happens. I thought, What is this? Church? I'm not on tv. No mothers with toddlers were nearby. It's not like I opened the door to hell with curses. I'm getting pretty tired of the political correctness. I like to say something anti-PC from time to time to keep their indignation alert. I didn't even think of editing shit happens. Maybe it would be more politically correct to say, "Helms happens." It's cute, makes PC people laugh, but I'm not going to. That's another I-can't-believe-this-is-Sparta, the rage for political correctness. If refusal to obey makes me a cranky old turd, that's what I am. 

I was glad to get my head shorn today. Glad to visit with Kermit today. Kermit is good people. Going from the PC Ward to Kermits was like going home, going to see Kermit who is of these mountains full-blooded. It was like driving down my road coming home after driving on an interstate. Kermit knows everybody I know, so when I visit with Kermit, I feel like I'm in touch with everybody I know here of these mountains. Sitting in the barber chair talking about some local musicians from the past, like Huston Caudill and some others, brought my feet back to the ground. Kermit is in the Hillbilly Show every year. He lip-syncs two George Jones songs each time. The audience loves him. He plays guitar with country music and bass with bluegrass. I like getting my hair cut by a bluegrass musician. In the Central Blue Ridge gives it a certain mythic quality. Makes it a little bit more than just getting a haircut. 


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