Madison County Opinion...

MARCH 5, 2003

By Frank Gillespie
The Madison County Journal
March 5, 2003

Frankly Speaking
Bluegrass music, a snapshot of Southern culture
I am reaching the age where the past is more important to me than the future. Even embracing modern life and technology keeps bringing back old memories.
I just purchased a new photo scanner that can scan images directly from negatives. With this advanced machine, I have started reviewing my half century collection of photo negatives, and as I check each file, memories come flooding in.
Some of the old ways I found in my negatives are staging a comeback. Have you noticed the resurgence of bluegrass music in the last few years?
Allison Krauss and Union Station draw huge crowds. Ricky Skaggs and the Whites are breaking records. New age bluegrass is emerging with Nickel Creek, and second generation acts such as the Reno Brothers are hitting the road.
When I first became interested in newspapers, around, 1970, I wrangled an assignment from The Athens Banner Herald to cover a blue grass festival at Shoal Creek Country Music Park near Lavonia. I have just found the negatives from that event.
Shoal Creek Country Music Park consisted of a grandstand build on a bluff above the creek. Seating consisted of rows of oak planks supported on concrete blocks on the hillside overlooking the stage. Crude buildings containing food vendors, bathrooms, and sales booths for the bands surrounded the bleachers
The festival itself lasted two weeks with local and regional bands performing for the first 10 days. The final weekend featured national bluegrass acts.
What fascinated me most about the festival was the casualness of the audience and performers. It was not uncommon to be sitting in the audience watching a favorite band perform only to notice that the fellow sitting beside you was Mack Wiseman, or Lester Flat. Line up for a hot dog and as likely as not, the man in front of you would be Bill Monroe.
Many of the performers I met at Shoal Creek are now gone. Others are still performing. Little Roy and the Lewis Family are regular visitors to the Madison County Fair. Doc Watson still performs on occasion and others appear from time to time on revival TV programs. But with more and more new acts appearing, Bluegrass Music is now stronger than ever.
Wouldn’t it be nice if someone could revive the friendly, outdoor bluegrass festivals similar to those staged at Shoal Creek 30 years ago?
If we had a similar facility in Madison County, it would likely draw large crowds, renew our Southern culture and even boost our county’s economy.
Bluegrass music is a part of our Southern Heritage. It was derived from mountain music, which itself descended from Celtic bagpipe and fiddle songs.
A revival of the Bluegrass Music Festivals would go a long way toward preserving our Southern way of life.
Frank Gillispie is founder of The Madison County Journal. His web page can be accessed at His e-mail address is

By Zach Mitcham
The Madison County Journal
March 5, 2003

From the Editor's Desk
Being a Georgia fan amid the scandal
The Florida fan next to me offered a handshake as he hurried out of the raucous Stegman Coliseum Tuesday night.
I am not the type to storm a court. I am not a yeller. I clap some. But when the Florida fan offered the handshake, I had to lower my clenched fists of triumph from above my head to wish him well as he left.
I was like 10,000 others Tuesday night who forgot, momentarily, about all of the scandal surrounding the program as Georgia beat arch-rival Florida in dramatic fashion.
I’ve gone to many Georgia basketball games over the years, including all 13 home games this year. Following Bulldog basketball is one of my favorite winter pastimes. This year’s team is one of the best I’ve seen. They all play with grit. And Jarvis Hayes is truly clutch, truly special.
The scandal now overshadows much that is positive, much that those guys have accomplished. And that’s unfortunate.
But I’m not a fan of blind faith. And while I was elated over the win, I’m realistic about the dark days ahead for Georgia basketball.
True, Tony Cole does not fit a textbook profile of a whistle blower. He has shown a pattern of turning sour on those who have helped him. His vindictiveness is the motive behind his allegations. The fact that the questionable Western Union receipt still exists leads me to wonder if Cole planned all along to turn on Jim Harrick if things didn’t go his way, cashing in with a ticket of incrimination.
But there is a receipt, which is incriminating. And Cole’s assertion that he received A’s in classes despite doing nothing to earn them has a ring of truth. It’s not a stretch to believe that Cole is an apathetic and absent student.
Meanwhile, Harrick is digging a hole with his denials, which lack specificity. He has also gone on the attack, and not just at Cole. He has accused an Atlanta Constitution reporter of fabricating a quote from him in which he explained that the money for the questionable $300 transaction to Cole was from the Dale Brown Foundation, which Brown denies. The AJC refutes Harrick’s claim that the quote was fabricated.
In a matter unrelated to the current scandal, Harrick said the University of Rhode Island never contacted him about a sexual harassment suit against him that was settled for $45,000. The URI athletic director refutes this claim, saying there was a 10-minute phone discussion with Harrick of the matter.
Harrick is creating a situation in which it’s no longer his word versus Cole’s, but his word versus the AJC, his word versus the University of Rhode Island. To believe Harrick, will we be required to believe that more and more people are lying?
Oftentimes the cover-up of an impropriety can actually overshadow the alleged wrongdoing. I believe that may become the case here.
And, no, there’s not a pleasant end in sight.
Who knows how this will pan out, but I anticipate Harrick stepping down in coming months as the scandal rages on. I expect stiff sanctions will be levied against the basketball program. I anticipate the university having a tough time hiring a winning coach to replace him. (Look at the trouble probation-stricken Alabama recently had in hiring a coach for its storied football program.)
The team may be solid next year if the core players return. But I expect the program will drop off dramatically over the next few seasons.
Georgia basketball will remain a great pastime for me and many others.
But I fear the exultation I felt Tuesday night will come in small doses in coming years and those handshakes with dejected Florida basketball fans may be even rarer.
But, man, I’d love to be proven wrong.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.

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