Ramblin’ Rhodes: Southern Gospel music in focus for Jeff & Sheri Easter’s festival

Southern gospel music star Ivan Parker returns to the area this weekend to perform at Jeff &Sheri Easter’s ninth annual Homecoming Festival.


Parker, known for his many appearances on Bill Gaither’s Homecoming syndicated TV specials, takes the stage at 7 p.m. Friday, May 12, at The Lewis Family Home Place, 1935 Lewis Family Road, east of Lincolnton, Ga.

The Lewis Tradition featuring Georgia Music Hall of Famers Janis Lewis Phillips and her son, Lewis Phillips, also performs on Friday night.

Other festival headliners include the Triumphant Quartet and the Little Roy &Lizzy Long Show beginning 7 p.m. Thursday, May 11, and the Primitive Quartet and also Karen Peck &New River beginning 6 p.m. Saturday, May 12.

Festival hosts Jeff and Sheri Easter, also known for the Gaither TV specials filmed in several countries, will perform all three days.

Tickets are $20 daily for the festival taking place Thursday, May 11, through Saturday, May 13. Children 12 and younger get in free with a paying adult. Visit jeffandsherieaster.com for more details or call (706) 359-1997.

A few years ago, North Carolinian Parker told me about how one of his best known recordings, Midnight Cry, came about through a chance encounter in south Georgia with a gospel group called The Accords.

Greg and Chuck Day were in that group,” Parker related. “Greg approached me during the evening and said, ‘I’m a songwriter. Here’s a cassette tape. I’d like for you to listen to some of my songs.’

“I got to listening to that tape one day, and Greg had checked the ones he wanted me to hear. I listened to the checked songs, and then I let the tape play and the last song on the cassette was Midnight Cry.

“I called Greg up and asked him, ‘Why didn’t you check Midnight Cry?’ He said, ‘I didn’t figure you were interested in that one.’ I said, ‘That’s the only one I’m interested in.’ ”

Parker estimates since he recorded it with the group Gold City 1987, that he has sung it more than 5,000 times.


DARIUS RUCKER ON Celebrity UNDERCOVER BOSS: Country music star Darius Rucker, who rose to international prominence with the band Hootie &The Blowfish, goes incognito for the Celebrity Undercover Boss TV series.

The segment, which airs on the CBS network at 8 p.m. Friday, May 12, follows Rucker in heavy disguise watching street performers in Austin, Texas, and working as a music show road assistant and an open mic disc jockey.

Local music fans know Rucker especially from his annual appearances at the Rock Fore! Dough fundraising concerts for The First Tee held Masters Week.


SHOWING OFF THE NEW TENT: The annual bluegrass and country music festival hosted by Little Roy Lewis and his singing partner, Lizzy Long, was a huge success last weekend at Elijah Clark State Park in spite of the Thursday night downpour and weekend showers.

Norman Adams, who has organized many major bluegrass festivals in Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina for several decades, was showing off his new gigantic, white tent rented from a company in Asheville, N.C.

An estimated 1,000 music fans from several states were seated under the tent on Thursday night watching Grand Ole Opry star Connie Smith with larger crowds expected Friday night to see bluegrass legend Rhonda Vincent and Saturday night to see The Oak Ridge Boys.

Among the visitors were guitarist Joe Schwach and two of his friends who had arrived in the U.S. from Switzerland the day before the festival started.

The festival co-hosts were showing off their new CD, Going Home, packed full of original songs as well as a couple of standards. Lewis, at 75, proved each day there still are few entertainers in gospel or bluegrass music who can match his performing level energy and amazing ability to play multiple instruments including the banjo, guitar and autoharp.

There are lots of great music happenings this weekend:

The Malpass Brothers: Traditional country music duo Christopher and Taylor Malpass of Goldsboro, N.C., are back to perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 13, at the Jabez S. Hardin Performing Arts Center in Evans. Tickets are $35 at augusta amusements.com or by calling (706) 726-0366.

11th annual Aiken Bluegrass Festival: May 12-13, Aiken (S.C.) County Fairgrounds, 1566 Columbia Highway North. Don’t miss Henry Wynn Jr., the reigning Greater Augusta Arts Council Artist of the Year, opening the festival with Doug &The Henrys at 5 p.m. Friday, May 12. Visit aikenbluegrassfestival.org.

Jeff & Sheri Easter Homecoming Festival

WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday, May 11, with The Triumphant Quartet and Little Roy Lewis & Lizzy Long Show; 7 p.m. Friday, May 12, with Ivan Parker and The Lewis Tradition; 6 p.m. Saturday, May 13, with The Primitive Quartet and also Karen Peck & New River. Jeff & Sheri perform with their band all three days.

WHERE: Lewis Family Home Place, 1935 Lewis Family Road (off Lincolnton-Washington Highway), east of Lincolnton, Ga.

COST: $20 daily, children 12 and younger get in free with a paying adult; bring your lawn chairs or blankets for seating. Visit jeffandsherieaster.com.