Over the course of my time in the music arena, I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of the legends. Until a couple weeks ago, the highlight of my list was the great Faron Young. That was before I heard the musical talent of Eddie Adcock.
I went down to the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View Arkansas without a clue as to what to expect. I hadn’t done my research on thumb picking. What I did know was that Buddy Case can play a guitar like nobody’s business. Or so I thought. It was Buddy that drew me to OFC, it was Eddie Adcock who left me with a lasting impression of true bluegrass finger style.
Eddie Adcock was born in VA. There’s his first positive. I was first introduced to ‘traditional’ music in the back hills (and I’m talking Walton’s Mountain area) of the Blue Ridge. I could relate to where this man got his roots. Like most traditionalists, Eddie absorbed the seasonings of his talent by listening to the Grand Ole Opry, Wheeling Jamboree and the Old Dominion Barn Dance on the radio. He hung around the Scottsville's Victory Theater where the likes of the Carter Family and Hank Williams performed.
Having taught himself to play stringed instruments on the family farm near Charlottesville VA, practicing until his fingers bled, he’s played with some of the greats such as Mac Wiseman and Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys. His break came when he joined The Country Gentlemen in 1959. The Country Gentlemen were a progressive band integrating the then popular folk music into the traditional bluegrass, attracting a younger audience.
As I sat in that auditorium I felt the awe from the other musicians on the stage with him. His playing, despite recent health issues, was amazing. Eddie’s wife, Martha, first noticed the tremors affecting his playing. Eddie was diagnosed with an ‘essential tremor’, an involuntary trembling in the head or hands that afflicts 10 million Americans. In 2008, he underwent surgery at Vanderbilt Medical Center in Nashville to correct the problem. As you’ll see from the YouTube video Here (courtesy of ABC News), Eddie was awake AND playing the banjo during the surgery to help the surgeons put the electrodes in the proper place.
Eddie says it still isn’t perfect. Something isn’t connecting right again but he’s still playing. Eddie Adcock can not NOT play. It’s who he is. He suggests beginning musicians get the basics down and then develop their own style. "Even if they play as well as someone like Earl Scruggs, they'll never be Earl Scruggs," he says. "Nothing's wrong with someone helping you get started. Then back off and let God give you your music." (quote from bluegrass-museum.org)
If you ever have the opportunity to hear this man play – GO! And if you are lucky enough to jam with him, know that you are in the presence of greatness and learn from the master.