The Morris Family Old Time Music Festival 1969-1973
The Morris Family Old Time Music Festival was the brainchild of the Morris Brothers, John and David from Ivydale, West Virginia — at that time (pre-interstate) it was just a little over an hour’s driving time up the Elk River from Charleston. David was fresh out of the service and Vietnam and wanted to make his mark, make up for lost time. He was pals with many other musicians of the time who would later become well-known. For example, I remember well the night in 1972 (or was it 1973?) seven of us climbed into my 1966 Plymouth Fury to see them play with John Prine at the Capitol City Jamboree (it was a neighborhood movie theatre called The Custer in the 40’s – 60’s, later a porno house called The Lyric and now an office building) on Charleston’s west side. While David nearly became nationally known, too much of everything took its toll.
And during it’s five year run, the Ivydale Fest was marvelous. In 1972 local filmmaker Bob Gates shot in 16mm a 30 minute documentary of the festival. While Bob is working of transferring it to DVD, here is a site that you can watch the entire film:
It was our “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” with black meeting white, old & young, straight & hippie.
The poster says it all: “No Country Western, Bluegrass or Electric Instruments allowed.”
Three of the performers would later form The Red Clay Ramblers.
I attended three of them and can catch a few fleeting glimpses of my bearded, ponytailed self in Bob’s very fine piece of cinema verite.
And assisting in the making of the film were individuals who would later become well-known for their involement with West Virginia arts: John Stone, Mike Meador and Bill Hogan.
From The Ramblers’ website:
From 1969 to 1973 brothers John and David Morris held old time music festivals at their homeplace in Ivydale, West Virginia. This film captures the 1972 festival with its music, dancing and mud; and documents, as part of the festival, some of the most important traditional Appalachian mountain musicians of these times. Tommy Thompson, Bill Hicks and Eric Olson played in memory of Bobbie Thompson, who performed at Ivydale in 1971, but died in February, 1972. See Bill’s story “The Sleeper.” The fall after this fest, Bill and Tommy went on to start the Red Clay Ramblers with Jim Watson.
Enjoy the film by Robert Gates
“Morris Family Old Time Music Festival”
Charleston, WV 25361
30 minutes, black and white, VHS from the original 16 mm film
Institutional copies $150, individual copies for personal use $25 ppd. Special Collectors edition add $5, priority mail add $5
In the film …
Dave & John Morris
Jean & Lee Schilling