Those of you who have tickets to see country and bluegrass superstar Ricky Skaggs on Friday night, Sept. 14, at the Imperial Theatre will get to see him play a historic musical instrument.
It is the 1922 F5 Gibson mandolin that Darrell “Pee Wee” Lambert played on the classic 1949-1950 Columbia Records recordings of The Stanley Brothers (Ralph and Carter).
Lambert was an original member of the Stanleys’ Clinch Mountain Boys band and sang high baritone and played the mandolin.
The story goes that at one show in the early 1960s the neck of Lambert’s mandolin broke, and he tossed it in a trash can. It was rescued by musician Frank Wakefield and restored by Steve Gilchrist and was passed down through several owners.
“Just over a year and half ago, I bought that same mandolin that I grew up hearing Pee Wee play on the Stanleys’ recordings,” Skaggs said in a phone interview.
“The first person I wanted to show it to was Pee Wee’s wife, Hazel, who lives in Ohio,” Skaggs said. “So I took it to her home.”
Lambert died in 1965 at 40 years old and his wife had not seen that mandolin in about 50 years.
“Hazel then told me a story I never had heard,” Skaggs said. “She said that in 1971 when I joined Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys band (with future country star Keith Whitley at the same time), my mother called Hazel asking if she could buy the mandolin that Pee Wee played with the Stanley brothers.
“Hazel said my mother knew how much that mandolin meant to me and wanted badly for her son to have it. My mother died in 2000 and never had told me that story. I broke down and cried when I heard it from Hazel. I figure my mother has been in heaven the whole time praying for me to have that special mandolin.”
Besides coming into ownership of the Lambert mandolin, Skaggs has had other great things happening in his life.
He marked his 30th anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry cast last May. In August, he also marked his 31st wedding anniversary with his wife, Sharon White Skaggs, also a member of the Opry’s father-daughters act known as The Whites.
“It’s been our love of the Lord and our desire to serve him and honor him with our marriage,” Skaggs said of a main reason his marriage has lasted three decades.
“Both of us had come from bad marriages in the past, and we didn’t want that to happen again for us,” he said. “And we knew that Sharon’s parents, Buck and Pat, and my mom and dad had God in the centerpiece of their marriages lasting so long.”
I asked Skaggs if there is anybody he would like to record with that he hasn’t yet.
“I said a long time ago that I would love to record with Stevie Wonder but that may never happen, and I’d love to record with Paul McCartney but that probably never will happen.”
But then again, who knows?
It just might, considering all the famous entertainers Skaggs has played with in the past including Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees on Skaggs’ brand new CD Music To My Ears.
Skaggs and his band, Kentucky Thunder, kick off the Morris Museum of Art Budweiser Southern Soul & Song series at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Tickets are $13, $19 and $24 from (706) 722-8341 or imperialtheatre.com.
HAL DAVID AND ARCHIE JORDAN: The death of lyricist Hal David on Sept. 1 at 91 in Los Angeles brought to mind his collaborations with Augusta native Archie Jordan, who now lives in Metter, Ga., where he has his own recording studio.
Jordan wrote the music and David the lyrics for two of Ronnie Milsap’s No. 1 hit singles: It Was Almost Like A Song and Santa Barbara.
According to Jordan, he recorded a melody on a tape and mailed it to David. David then called Jordan outside Nashville, Tenn., and read him the lyrics that he’d put to Jordan’s melody.
The words started, “Once in every life, someone comes along. When you came to me, it was almost like a song.”
Jordan told me, “I knew we were onto something good and when I heard the line ‘but it’s too sad to write,’ I just fell out.”
OKA’CHAFFA INDIAN FESTIVAL: What could turn out to be one of Augusta’s greatest annual outdoor festivals will be the weekend of Nov. 10-11 at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park.
The Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy at the park has partnered with part-Cherokee Chipa Wolfe of Rolling Thunder Enterprises in Jasper, Ga., to put on the authentic celebration for Native American Heritage Month.
Wolfe will be there coordinating the festival, riding his buffalo, Thunder, and taking part in Native American dances.
There also will be swamp life expert Okefenokee Joe, Americana and Indian food, Native American games, a birds of prey show, music, arts, crafts, storytelling and more.
Admission will be $12 for adults each day, $6 for ages 6 to 12 and free for ages 5 and younger. Veterans with appropriate ID will be admitted free on Sunday, Nov. 11, which also is Veterans’ Day.
For details, contact Clay Burckhalter at (706) 828-2109 or visit naturalsciencesacademy.org.