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This year’s HoustonFest music festival in Galax’s Felts Park will feature two distinctive sounds from the beloved “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” film soundtrack.
In 2001, both Ralph Stanley and The Whites were hand-selected from among bluegrass music’s finest to participate in the soundtrack and appear in the film. Both artists took home Grammy awards when the soundtrack won Album of the Year.
HoustonFest also is one of Stanley’s final performances, as he embarks on a farewell tour this year.
Along with all the industry accolades, Stanley and The Whites made numerous appearances together, including their involvement in the 18-city “Down from the Mountain Tour” and a stop at David Letterman’s “Late Show.”
HoustonFest, a two-day festival set for May 2-3, is dedicated to the musical and service legacy of Houston Caldwell, who tragically died in a motorcycle accident April 30, 2010.
At age 18, Houston was an accomplished banjo player, a volunteer firefighter, member of the U.S. Army Reserve and highly respected in both the music world and the community. HoustonFest is organized and presented by the Galax Volunteer Fire Department and community volunteers. Proceeds benefit the fire department and The Houston Caldwell Youth Scholarship Program.
Houston’s parents recall the encouragement he received from Stanley, a fellow banjo player. That gives even deeper meaning to the bluegrass legend’s appearance at the event.
“Dr. Ralph Stanley is an American and an international musical icon and The Whites have entertained literally millions of listeners at thousands of appearances. Both have inspired so many through the years,” said festival coordinator Debbie Robinson.
Stanley’s performance on May 2, part of his Man of Constant Sorrow Tour: The Doctor’s Farewell, “will be one of the last chances to see the genuine living legend of American music and his longtime band The Clinch Mountain Boys... and the last chance to see him perform in Galax,” Robinson said.
At 86 years old, Stanley is making one final, farewell tour around the U.S. before he returns to his beloved hills of Virginia.
The title “Dr.” comes from the fact that Stanley holds an honorary doctorate in music from Lincoln Memorial University and has worn that title since it was awarded in 1976.
“Still in superb voice, the revered country and bluegrass singer’s voice is rooted in a darker time, when pain was the common coin of life and the world offered sinful humanity no hope of refuge,” said a news release about the tour. “Preserved in the tradition of remote Appalachia, this concise lonely sound is the foundation of Stanley’s unique music style.”
Accompanying the multiple Grammy winner and Grand Ole Opry star will be his band, the fabled Clinch Mountain Boys. The tour coincides with Stanley’s 67th year of performing and will be a celebration of his life, the mountain music he’s made famous and his legacy that will endure through the course of time, said co-manager Josh Trivett.
Additional highlights of the festival include The Banjo Jubilation, featuring three of the Steve Martin Excellence in Banjo Award recipients (Jens Kruger, Sammy Shelor and Mark Johnson) in a rare performance together on Saturday night.
The always popular “Camp Houston” area will showcase performances by outstanding young musicians and will feature activities for youth of all ages. Jam sessions, workshops artist exhibits and demonstrations will be held, and a variety of food will be available.
Advance tickets are available for $15 per day (children 12 and under admitted free); or $25 for two-day ticket. Tickets at the gate will be $25 per day.
Tickets may be purchased at the Galax Visitor Center, Barr’s Fiddle Shop, Roy’s Diamond Center, Cox Realty and all Grayson National Bank locations, as well as online at www.HoustonFestGalax.com or by phone at (276) 236-9908.
Gates open at noon on May 2 and at 9 a.m. on May 3.
A full schedule will be posted online www.HoustonFestGalax.com/.
HoustonFest is supported by numerous contributions from local and regional businesses and sponsored by Vaughan-Bassett Furniture Company, CenturyLink, Classic Country WBRF-FM 98 radio station and sister stations WPAQ and WWWJ.
For more information, email HoustonFestGalax@embarqmail.com.