Legendary Grand Ole Opry star Jimmy C. Newman, 85, rarely performs outside of Nashville, Tenn., but he is making an exception for his longtime friend Little Roy Lewis.
The Louisiana native will take the stage of the Little Roy & Lizzy Music Festival at 4 and 10 p.m. with his Cajun Country band on Saturday, May 4, at Elijah Clark State Park, 10 miles east of Lincolnton, Ga.
Newman is one of the very few Opry members who have achieved being a member for 50 years or more, having joined the cast in 1956.
He charted 33 songs on the Billboard magazine country music charts from 1954-70, beginning with his Dot Records smash hit single Cry, Cry, Darling, a song he co-wrote.
When The Lewis Family bluegrass-gospel group of Lincolnton held its festival at Elijah Clark for 22 years, Newman was a regular and popular guest artist.
The festival was discontinued in 2009 for several reasons.
According to banjo player and festival host Little Roy Lewis, Newman eagerly offered to return to Elijah Clark when he learned that Lewis and his performing partner, Lizzy Long, also of Lincolnton, planned to start up their own festival at the same location.
Lewis gives much of the credit for the festival being revived to Long, who worked for many months obtaining financial support from Lincolnton and Lincoln County government and tourism officials.
When the original festival ended in 2009, the area took a huge economic hit.
Festival attendees always have come from many East Coast states and from Western ones as well, spending money with local restaurants, motels, gasoline stations, etc.
The visitors also become traveling ambassadors, spreading the good word about how enjoyable this part of this country can be.
The performers at the festival will be:
• Thursday, May 2: Marty Raybon (former lead vocalist of the star country band Shenandoah) & Full Circle; Gaither Homecoming TV stars Jeff & Sheri Easter, The Crowe Brothers and The Marksmen.
• Friday, May 3: Rhonda Vincent and The Rage; Darin & Brooke Aldridge, Curtis Blackwell & The Dixie Bluegrass Boys with special guest Oliver Rice; Lonesome Will Mullins & The Virginia Playboys, and the Golden Valley Crusaders.
• Saturday, May 4: Jimmy C. Newman & Cajun Country; The Hoyles (Reunion Show) and the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band.
The Little Roy & Lizzy Show will perform all three days.
FAREWELL TO GEORGE JONES: The funeral for Grand Ole opry star George Jones is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday, May 2, in the Opry house in Nashville, Tenn., where he last performed in October 2010. Jones died April 26 in Nashville at age 81.
He was on stage at the Opry in September 2011 to celebrate his 80th birthday with other singers performing his songs.
Performances included Alan Jackson singing He Stopped Loving Her Today by himself and Golden Ring with Lee Ann Womack. Jamey Johnson sang Who’s Gonna Fill Their Shoes and The Oak Ridge Boys sang Same Ole Me.
Also performing in that tribute show were Joe Diffie and the Augusta-area’s own Eric Lee Beddingfield.
Jones’ widow, Nancy, said in a statement, “Thanks to George’s friends, fans and loved ones for the outpouring of love at this terrible time. I love you all.”
Although he was internationally known for his tumultuous, six-year marriage to Tammy Wynette, Jones was married to his fourth wife, Nancy, for 30 years.
One of my favorite of Jones’ songs is Walk Through This World With Me.
The lyrics go: “Walk through this world with me. Go where I go. Share all my dreams with me. I searched for you so. And now that I’ve found you, new horizons I see. Come take my hand, and walk through this world with me.”
All I can add is that millions of country, rock, jazz, blues and gospel music fans for half a decade have been mighty lucky to walk through the world of great country music with George Jones and his incredible musical legacy.
FESTIVAL HEADS UP:
• Jeff & Sheri Easter Annual Homecoming Gospel Festival: Thursday-Saturday, May 9-11, Lewis Family Home Place, 1935 Lewis Family Road, Lincolnton, Ga., with Karen Peck & New River, The Little Roy & Lizzy Show, Lewis Tradition, The Hoppers, Jason Crabb and Lynda Randle. Visit jeffandsherieaster.com.
• Aiken Bluegrass Festival: Friday-Saturday, May 10-11, Highfields in Aiken; with Keller Williams, Keller & The Keels, Larry Keel & Natural Bridge, The Travelin’ McCourys, Hackensaw Boys, Della Mae, BlueBilly Grit and Doug & The Henrys. Visit aikenbluegrassfestival.org.
• 20th annual Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival: Saturday, May 18, Stagecoach Road outside Thomson; with Buddy Miller, Jim Lauderdale, Tab Benoit, Eric Lindell and the Sunliners featuring Anson Funderburgh, The Randall Bramblett Band, The Revelers and Crosstie Walkers. Visit blindwillie.com.