“It’s Merle Travis weekend,” I overheard from the breakfast table next to mine. “They have a contest out at the Folk Center today.”
And there I was. The night before, while listening to Comer “Moon” Mullins play from the stage in the music auditorium at the Ozark Folk Center, I had my first real “What am I doing here?” moment. Listening to Moon, Ben Hall, and Eddie and Martha Adcock, and thinking about the people who had played from that stage over the years, it was a little overwhelming to think that I’d walk out there with Sara, sit in that same spot and play.
In case you don’t know, Sara is my main go-to guitar. We’d been together for several years before Debbie and I met.
However, many of the goals for the trip had been accomplished before ever setting foot on the auditorium stage. I experienced and participated in the musical fellowship in Mountain View. I met other folks who play and enjoy thumbstyle guitar music, and I made several new friends. I moved a little deeper into the community of thumbpicking guitar.
That, for me, is what the National Thumbpicking Guitar Contest is all about. It’s a good reason to get people together who love and play this style of music, who share an appreciation for the great pickers who have gone before. Contestants get to support one another and hear each other perform. The contest helps form and maintain the community.
Making finals was the competitive goal, and after achieving that, being able to bring home the third place trophy was gravy. I was honored to sit on the same stage and compete with some really fine pickers. They were all fabulous players and fabulous people. I can’t think of anyplace I would have rather been.
Below, I’ve included video clips of Randy Buckner from Springfield, Mo., who finished second, and Shannon Stine from Rossville, Mo., who took home top honors for the second straight year.
Randy is a top-notch picker who was blessed to have met and spent time with Merle Travis as a young man. When he sets out to play a Travis tune, he gets about as close as anyone to getting the Travis sound. Here’s a video of him from last year’s Home of the Legends contest playing I’ll See You in My Dreams.
Shannon took home the first place prize for the second consecutive year at Mountain View. She’s a student of Randy’s, so he must be doing a pretty good job. In the video below, she’s playing the classic Travis tune Nine Pound Hammer. Unfortunately, the video is a still image with audio, so you can only hear and not see how clean and smooth she plays.