For about five years, we got to feed the performing artists for the Bitlmore Concert Series each summer. The first year was a banner one with nearly all female artists we had literally grown up loving like The Indigo Girls, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Alison Krauss.  Over the years the lineup ranged wildly, but some of the most memorable were Mavis Staples, Loretta Lynn, Tom Jones and Bruce Hornsby.  And we did get to meet a few of them. Lots of them did actually come and eat with their bands and crews and were approachable and kind and generous with their compliments. Several did stay on their buses before the shows and we only got to see them on stage. So as we drove out those nights, exhausted, our ears ringing,  we would fantasize about them eating our food, taken to them on paper plates by assistants, marveling aloud about such delicious fare and wondering whether they could hire the cooks to go on tour with the band. No one ever called.

But the last summer we got to work these concerts, Doc Watson was on the list of performers. With fond memories of  Merlefest and a love for his music, we were very excited.  Unfortunately, that particular concert fell on the same day as a big wedding, so one of us would go to the concert and one us to the wedding. Tara won the coin toss.  And that evening as the sun set, under the west facing Vanderbilt pagoda, an  icon of an entire genre of music, the man who brought real folks to the folk movement,  a self-taught  musical virtuoso, sat surrounded by his band and ate our food. Wow.

At least Tara was there for that.  And she took away from it a very clear and telling memory of him and a piece of chocolate pie. He evidently liked it so much and was so complimentary and effusive, that she wrapped him the remainder of the pie for the road. Expecting only a perfunctory but polite thank you or maybe a boyish giggle at the promise of even more chocolate after the show, she was supremely surprised and heartened at what happened instead. With a genuinely bestowed bear hug and a grin from ear to ear, Mr. Doc Watson himself said to Tara, “My sweetheart sure will like this. She’ll be so excited to eat something so good. Thank you so much.”

What a man.

-Photo Credit: Jack Vartoogian/FrontRowPhotos