Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Leonard Thomas – Born to Perform

Len Salt Fork Bash 2

When a piano’s not available, a keyboard will do.

When Leonard Thomas enters a room with a piano, you want to pull out the piano bench and have him tickle the ivories as he bursts into song.

While Len was born in Cambridge in 1927 and now lives there, he has traveled extensively using his musical talents not only at the piano or with his vibrant voice, but also in composing and directing. This man overflows with musical talent.

Len Note from Fred Waring

Fred Waring showed his appreciation to Len in this keepsake note.

He credits his success to the wonderful upbringing he received from his parents and siblings. Their support and encouragement make him feel lucky to have such a special family. He learned the importance of hard work from being a paperboy and soda jerk to conductor and performer.

The first time he sang in public happened at the First Christian Church when he was twenty-four months old. He entertained the crowd downstairs by singing “Bow Wow Blues” to the amazement of all. Len still calls this church home.

Len going places

Even as a youngster, Lenny had plans for going places.

When Lenny was only three years old, he went to visit with the family. A niece was just starting to take piano lessons and he asked her to show him what she was learning. She first  played the notes with her right hand, and Lenny played them back by ear. Next she played the left hand. Again Lenny played them back by ear. He asked her how you put them together and she said she had never done that yet. So Lenny said, “Do it like this.” and played them both.

By the time he was four, his parents thought he should have piano lessons, but they couldn’t afford it. Lenny went to see a lady across the street who gave piano lessons and told her he would like to take lessons but didn’t have any money to pay her.

She asked him if he would mow her yard for fifty cents a week. Lenny asked her how much the lessons would be. “Fifty cents a week.” It worked perfectly.

Len Fred, Ann and Len

Fred Waring and Len’s one-room school teacher, Anna Priaulx, visit with Len after a concert.

Lenny attended Rock Hill School, a one-room school near Center.  This provided a great learning atmosphere for him as he learned from all the classes. Everything fascinated him under the guidance of a very special teacher, Anna Priaulx.

By the age of ten, this young boy could play nearly all the classicals from great composers from memory.  He didn’t however forget the songs that were popular during that era.

Len Trio (2)

At Cambridge High School in 1947, Len played for this trio of  Carol, Barbara and Donna, who he said could harmonize as well as the Andrew Sisters.

At Cambridge High School, his musical talent has never been forgotten. His choice of a band instrument became a sousaphone, but he also sang in many groups as well as served as accompanist. No wonder he was voted the boy most likely to succeed as well as the most talented.

Len Muskingum Sr

Len graduated from Muskingum College and after retirement came back to assist with their music program.

Leonard graduated from Muskingum College with a B.S. in Music Education, but he never intended to use it. He wanted a career in performing so headed to Boston University, where he studied with great success.

But when he got home from Boston, his mother told him there was a letter waiting for him. It was his draft call from the Army. Len got lucky again as he was assigned to a base with a band. Now he could use his sousaphone experience from high school to participate in the Army band.

With this band, he headed to Germany, where they spent their time performing, participating in parades and singing at the chapel and in a barbershop quartet. Why he even had his own apartment and gave piano lessons.

Upon his return home, the hand of God guided him to the minister of the Central Presbyterian Church in Zanesville. There he had his first real job as choral director for five choirs among other assignment.

Along came someone from the court system and suggested that Len become a probation officer since he worked so well with young people. Now he had two jobs, so decided to buy his first car – a black ’57 Sunliner convertible.

Len with Steinbach

He still plays the piano he purchased in New York City in 1964, when he lived in a townhouse on the 19th floor.

Three years later, Len again decided to further his education and headed back to Boston to pursue his doctorate. Since all the schools were closed for the summer, he contacted an Army buddy in New York City and moved there for a while to a Central Park Townhouse.

Enjoying city life, Len began looking for a teaching job in the area.  He found one in Brooklyn at McKinley Jr. High School. Here he directed their choirs and led them in performing outstanding concerts. For eleven and a half years, this was his life.

Len Pennsylvanians

An attractive program design highlights Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians.

Well, except for summers!  Those last six summers he attended Fred Waring’s Workshops, where he learned more about performing. One of the students asked Len to play for their audition. It was Len that landed the job to play with the Pennsylvanians with his keyboard talent.

Len Young Pennsylvanians

Teaching young people is something he has always enjoyed. Here he is conductor for the Young Pennsylvanians.

For many years, Leonard performed with Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians. During the 40s and early 50s, Waring produced a string of hits, selling millions of records. Breezin’ Along with the Breeze was his signature tune. Waring’s often called The Man Who Taught America to Sing. Len Thomas was one of those he helped along the way.

Len and Fred at last performance

Pennsylvanians perform for the final time with Len and Fred Waring, only twelve days before Waring’ passed away.

When Fred Waring died in 1984, Len was asked to work as editor and arranger for Shawnee Press, which was founded by Fred Waring. Shawnee Press has been instrumental in providing quality musical arrangements to high schools, colleges, and orchestras.

Len Shawnee Press Business card

Len’s business card with Shawnee Press carried Waring’s logo at the top.

After working for Shawnee Press for seventeen years, it was sold and moved to another state. At the same time, Len had an offer to purchase his beautiful home in Pennsylvania. His heart and mind said it was time to return home.

Len Distinguished Service Award at Muskingum

Len received the Distinguished Service Award at Muskingum University.

When he returned, Muskingum College requested that he direct their concert choir. Frequently, he gave piano lessons, where he explained to students that playing the piano isn’t just done with the fingers, but with the wrists, arms and elbows. Your entire body feels the music.

Len at Salt Fork Festival Chorus

He still loves to perform and assists with many community musical events, such as the Salt Fork Festival Chorus.

The community feels lucky to have him return to the Cambridge area. Now he plays in the Muskingum Jazz Group, for numerous groups including the Cambridge Singers, and provides background music for many banquets, parties, funerals and weddings.  Let’s face it, Len loves to perform.

Preservation Dixieland All Stars

Preservation Dixieland All Stars will be performing at the Salt Fork Festival BASH. Members include: Jerry Weaver, Len Thomas, Don Kason, and Dave Jacobs.

Today at the age of 86, he has no problem remembering all those songs from years gone by. No matter what song is requested, Len’s fingers respond perfect. “The Lord’s been good to me,” smiled Len, as he’s fulfilled all his dreams.

His twilight years have been both enjoyable and fulfilling. Now it the time when he can give back to the community where he grew up. “When you spend time helping others, you find the happiness you seek.”

 

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Wheeling Jamboree Celebrates 85th Anniversary – The Country Music Show with Tradition Like No Other

 

Capitol Theatre

Capitol Theatre in downtown Wheeling, WV will host the 85th Wheeling Jamboree Anniversary.

Wheeling Jamboree lives on! The Historic 85th Anniversary of the Wheeling Jamboree will be held on April 7, 2018 at The Capitol Theatre in downtown Wheeling. Many of the stars will be familiar, and some new, but the country atmosphere will still fill the theater.

The jamboree originated in 1933 on the first Wheeling radio station, a 50,000 watt clear channel station – WWVA. One of its early announcers was Howard Donahoe, who later came to Cambridge to start WILE in 1948.

Mel Tillis

The late Mel Tillis was beloved by country music fans everywhere.

The working people of the Ohio Valley and the Northeast US have their roots in country music so the words in the songs ring true to their lives. That’s why the Jamboree became a popular Saturday evening entertainment.

A unique diversity also appears in Wheeling. The Jamboree and the Wheeling Symphony both take place in Capitol Theatre. So no matter what your musical taste, it can easily be satisfied in Wheeling.

JohnnyCashOnStageatJamboree1968_Enhanced

Johnny Cash made an appearance at the Jamboree early in his career.

William Wallace”Bill” Jones and the Sparkling Four was the first hillbilly act on the radio. They took requests over the telephone. Jones received many requests for yodeling songs and you may have heard him called Silver Yodelin’ Bill Jones.

Due to the popularity of the Jamboree music shows, it was decided to add a live audience to the Jamboree on Saturday nights. The first stage performance of the World’s Original WWVA Jamboree took place at the Capitol Theatre later in 1933 with all local talent, in front of an audience of over 3,000 fans. Then for decades, they broadcast from a different spot each Saturday evening.

Dolly_Parton_Jamboree_3_1976

Dolly Parton performed at Wheeling Jamboree in 1976.

During WWII, the Jamboree returned to the studio due to the war effort, then began stage performances after the war at Wheeling’s Virginia Theater. One of the most popular Jamboree stars at that time was honky-tonk vocalist, Hawkshaw Hawkins. Add to that the Sunshine Boys and “Yodelin’ Ranger” Hank Snow and people began looking forward to another evening of the Jamboree. If you were a top artist, you did the Jamboree.

Men would bring their cow bells with them as each bell had a unique sound. That way their family back home would know they were in attendance. Today, you’ll still hear the sound of cow bells over the radio on Jamboree nights on WBPS in Cambridge and WWOV in Wheeling.

JamboreeVirginiaTheater1946Color

The cast of the 1945 Wheeling Jamboree gathered on stage.

During the late 1940s, my parents took me on perhaps my first gypsy road trip to Virginia Theater to see the Wheeling Jamboree. Two names stick in my mind from that long ago show – Hawkshaw Hawkins with Dog House Boogie, and Grandpa Jones, who later starred in Hee Haw. At the time, this was quite the adventure from the hills of Indian Camp.

When the Virginia Theater was demolished after 16 years of hosting the Jamboree, their new home became the Rex Theater for four years. Then it was moved to Wheeling Island Exhibition Hall in 1966.

Brad young (259x194)

Brad Paisley began playing at the Jamboree when he was ten years old.

Over the years, the Jamboree provided the perfect place for young local talent to get their start. Brad Paisley, from nearby Glen Dale, sang on the Jamboree at the age of 10 and played with their band weekly for eight years before moving on to Nashville.

Ronnie Milsap

Ronnie Milsap will be one of the performers at the 85th Anniversary.

The 85th Anniversary will be celebrated with well known country stars including Country Music Hall of Fame Members Ronnie Milsap and Charley McCoy. Add to that Wheeling native Tim O’Brien along with Darnell Milller, Rachel Whitcomb and more surprises. Emcee for the evening will be long-time country music personality, Keith Bilbrey.

Craig Wayne Boyd Jamboree

Craig Wayne Boyd was a winner on The Voice, but appeared at the Jamboree long before winning.

Today the Wheeling Jamboree broadcasts on WWOV to the air waves of the greater Wheeling area. Dave Heath, president of Wheeling Jamboree, Inc. and WWOV, has been instrumental in keeping this musical program alive.

Capitol Interior Post Renovation

The interior of the Capitol Theatre has recently had a grand renovation.

Whether you know the Jamboree as the Original WWVA Jamboree, Jamboree USA or The Wheeling Jamboree it remains the 2nd oldest Country Music Radio Broadcast Stage Show in history, behind the Grand Old Opry. Celebrate their 85th Anniversary on April 7 at 7:00 at the Capitol Theatre.

Ticket prices range from $20-$65 and can be purchased online at www.capitoltheatrewheeling.com .You’ve got me thinkin’ that a trip to the Jamboree would be the perfect way to spend an evening.

Capitol Theatre in Wheeling, WV can easily be reached off I-70 at Exit 1A. Take Route 40 straight downtown. The Theatre is on the right hand side at 1015 Main Street.

Ted Lewis’ Grand Refrain – “Is Everybody Happy?”

Ted Lewis Museum

The Ted Lewis Museum was renovated last year for its 40th Anniversary.

For those interested in old entertainers and movies, Ted Lewis Museum in Circleville, Ohio will arouse your curiosity. Ted’s first professional singing job happened in 1906 in between movies at the Circleville Electric Nickelodeon. His salary – $4 a week. But that was just the beginning.

Ted Theater with Joyce

Joyce Keller, president of the museum, stands in front of a replica of the first theater where Ted  performed.

Born Theodore Friedman in Circleville, Ohio, his younger years were spent helping his parents in Friedman’s Bazaar, an emporium which supplied women of Pickaway County with the latest fashions. Ted spent his time sweeping inside and outside the store, as well as making deliveries. It wasn’t something he enjoyed.

His earliest musical instrument experience came at the age of nine when he played piccolo in the Circleville Cadet Band. His fingers weren’t long enough yet to play the clarinet. But Ted mowed lawns during the summer to save money to buy an E-flat clarinet he knew he wanted to play.

However, Ted became fascinated with syncopation and began taking lessons after school with Cricket Smith, a black barber. Jazz ran in Ted’s blood, which had him dismissed from the Cadet Band. The band teacher later apologized when Ted became famous.

Ted Early Days

In 1911, Ted would return home from tours when he ran out of money, which was often.

As a teenager, he played his clarinet to help draw a crowd for Dr. Cooper’s Medicine Man Show and sold balloons and cotton candy. He’d carry circus banners in parades and even followed them out of town. This caused his parents much embarrassment and they tried to send him to business college in Columbus, but to no avail.

Ted Apartment 2

The books, bookcase and photos of life long friends, Ted and Sophie Tucker, are from his New York City apartment. Even the gold wallpaper has been replicated.

Ted kept busy following his dream of becoming an entertainer. He paired up with Jack Lewis under the billing Lewis and Friedman. One day in South Carolina, he saw the billing said Lewis & Lewis. The manager said that fit on the marquee better. After that he was always known as Ted Lewis, even though he never legally changed his name.

Ted Top Hat 2

His battered top hat, cane, and clarinet are on prominent display.

In 1916, at the age of 26, Ted formed his first band – Ted Lewis Nut Band. They were very popular in the New York City area and performed at Rector’s Restaurant, a high class venue. While there, he won an old top hat in a dice game from a cab driver called Mississippi. That top hat, his clarinet, cane and the question: “Is everybody happy?” were always part of his act.

Ted Lewis 001

Ted Lewis always wore his old battered hat at every performance.

Ted Phonograph

This old hand-crank Victrola played “Blues My Naughty Sweetie Gives to Me”.

His theme song, “When My Baby Smiles at Me” and hits such as “Tiger Rag” and “On the Sunny Side of the Street” earned him the title, “King of Jazz”. In 1926, his Columbia recording of “Tiger Rag” sold more than five million copies. He was their highest paid artist in the 1920s. This popular performer presented his act to nine United States Presidents and even did a command performance for King George V of England.

Ted Me and My Shadow

A video in a peanut cart plays “Me and My Shadow”.

During one performance, Ted noticed the doorman, Eddie Chester, mimicking him from the wings and asked him to join him on stage. Thus was born his signature routine, “Me and My Shadow”.

Ted Is Everybody Happy

Ted starred in a movie about his life. Beautiful women played a large part in his acts.

Ted Lewis Museum opened in 1977 across the street from where Ted was born. Here you’ll be able to see classic memorabilia and watch videos of Ted Lewis performing. He told his wife that when he died he wanted everything to come back to Circleville, “The Capital of the World”.

Ted 80th 2

Pictured at Ted’s 80th birthday party are Circleville Mayor Gordon, brother Milton Friedman, Ted, and Columbus Mayor Sensenbrenner.

This showman never forgot his hometown. Ted and his wife, Adah, devoted themselves to making Circleville a better place to live. They supported Berger Hospital, the local schools, and even made possible a 13-acre Ted Lewis Park complete with playground equipment, ball fields, and a swimming pool at that time. Ted entertained the troops during WWII and was a leader in selling war bonds.

Ted and friends

Ted’s friends included Benny Goodman, Sophie Tucker, George Jessel, and Eddie Cantor.

The museum on Main Street only opens on Friday and Saturday from 1-5. After your visit you’ll be ready to put on some tap shoes while grabbing a top hat and cane.

Ted Lewis Museum is located at 133 W Main Street in Circleville, Ohio. Follow US 22 for a scenic ride.

 

 

 

 

 

“Civil War Songs and the Stories They Tell” with Steve and Lisa Ball

Stee and Lisa Ball

Steve and Lisa Ball  perform Civil War songs at Crossroads Library.

Music plays an important role in the ranks of the military. They have used music to signal their troops for hundreds of years. Often music served as a boost to morale of the soldiers after a hard day of battle.

Be entertained by tales of the Civil War put to music as Steve and Lisa Ball present an entertaining and informative program “Civil War Songs and Stories They Tell”. This musical way of teaching history of the Civil War from 1861-65 is shared around the country about a hundred times each year. The songs come alive with their wonderful vocal and instrumental skills.

Steve Ball guitar

An 1855 Martin is one of Steve’s favorite guitars.

Martin guitars of the Civil War era, from Steve’s private collection, are used in their presentation. All the Martins are in their original coffin cases. Steve’s only the caretaker for these guitars as they will hopefully be passed on from generation to generation. He frequently calls Lisa ‘his band’ as she joins with her upright bass and voice.

Steve’s interest in the Civil War began as a teen, when he learned his Great-Great-Grandfather, William Tyler Butts, was a Union private from Athens, Ohio. He was part of the 73rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment out of Chillicothe. Steve is a member of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War and wears his SUV medal on his uniform.

He’s spent the last twenty years studying the music of the Civil War era and the development of the first American folk songs. A long list of accomplishments could follow his name. They also have a Stephen Foster program telling the history of many of those popular folk songs.

During their program, the variety is astounding. There are not only patriotic pieces, but also silly marches and songs of lost love. You’ll be drawn to their music and stories even if you aren’t a Civil War buff.

Lisa's cello

Lisa plays bass and vocalizes with Steve.

Their performances happen at reenactments, indoor presentations, Civil War roundtables, and even the Ohio Statehouse. Being a Civil War buff , he researches everything so it’s authentic. Steve is living his dream.

Learn more about the history of the Civil War and come away with a better understanding of life during that time as Steve and Lisa Ball tell the story through song.

Many of the songs have a unique history, such as “Darling Nellie Gray”, a song written by Benjamin Hanby, who operated an Underground Railroad in Rush, Ohio. It told about his girlfriend, Nellie Gray, who wanted to escape to Canada. You can learn more about this song by visiting the Hanby House in Westerville, Ohio.

Steve and Lisa

Steve and Lisa add much background information on songs to their performances.

Another song “Aura Lea”, was written by Willie Fosdick (lyrics) and George Poulton (music) in Cincinnati, Ohio. Willie’s wife was Aura Lee, the woman with the golden hair. In 1955, Elvis Presley used the tune of “Aura Lee” and added new lyrics to become his theme song, “Love Me Tender”.

A popular Southern song was “Goober Peas”. Burle Ives liked the folk song. The Balls  had everyone singing along.

Peas, peas, peas, peas, eating Goober peas

Goodness how delicious, eating Goober peas..

Steve Ball CD

Listen to Civil War songs anytime with their popular CDs.

Next time you hear that Steve and Lisa Ball are performing in your area, be certain to drop by and hear their story of the Civil War in song, or perhaps you’ll hear his story of the music and life of Stephen Foster. Either way, you’re sure to enjoy their stories and music.

 

Algonquin Mill Fall Festival Features Crafts, Food and Entertainment

Algonquin Mill 2

This old mill is the reason for the Algonquin Mill Fall Festival.

Take nine tons of cabbage and ferment it into sauerkraut. Grind buckwheat and wheat into flour. Saw boards at an old fashioned sawmill. Embroidery a quilt. These activities from days gone by are just a sampling of what happens at the Algonquin Mill Festival near Carrollton on October 13-15.

The festival began in 1971 to pay off the loan the historical society took to purchase Algonquin Mill on 3.8 acres. They wanted this historic spot to be preserved to help people understand life in the 1800s. It’s been a popular annual event ever since with 16,000 – 20,000 people attending the three day event.

Algonquin 1853 Bridge

This 1853 bridge built by Wrought Iron Bridge Co. of Canton was still in use in the 1960s.

The original old mill built in the early 1800s is their reason for being. The first two mills on this spot were driven by water from nearby McGuire Creek. Today’s mill, built in 1826, was originally operated by water. In 1890 it was converted to steam power. At its peak, the mill produced 25 barrels a day, grinding corn, oats, wheat and buckwheat.

Algonquin Mill

John Miday, miller, and Bill Baughman make sure the corn mill is working properly.

The mill was closed in 1939 and the steam engine went off to fight in WWII. Today they use a one hundred year old steam engine to power the gristmill and grind cornmeal and flour.

Algonquin School 2

This one-room school is the oldest building on the property with typical pot-bellied stove.

The complex contains many other buildings as well and many of them are original. The log buildings have all been brought on site from nearby locations. The one-room school happens to be the oldest of those buildings. During the festival a schoolmarm will be teaching class.

Algonquin Volunteers

Volunteers from all over the area enjoy a tasty pot-luck lunch every Thursday.

They make enough money at the three day festival to support the Algonquin Mill Complex for the entire year. Their volunteers are amazing and very active as they arrive every Thursday all year long to work on projects at the complex. Many said they planned their work schedule so they could have Thursday off.

Whole families get involved in helping here. Volunteers come from all around and even though there is a large number, David McMahon, president of the Carroll County Historical Society, said they could use twice as many.

Algonquin Cookie House

One of the original buildings is now the Cookie House with the Cheese House close by.

Old fashioned foods are a highlight of the festival. Pancakes, sauerkraut, apple butter, homemade jams, cider, and maple syrup are made and served. Or you can buy some to take home and enjoy. The mill also grounds fresh cornmeal along with buckwheat, spelt and wheat flour.

Algonquin Sauerkraut

Dave George takes his job seriously as the man in charge of the sauerkraut operation.

Dave happens to be in charge of the sauerkraut and that’s no small task. When you start out with nine tons of cabbage, it takes a careful eye to make certain it ferments properly in large containers. Then it will be put in jars to be sold at the festival. Word has it that they are usually sold out of sauerkraut by noon on Sunday!

Algonquin Art

This is just a small sampling of the art on display in the past.

The barn at Whispering Winds Farm held square dances in years gone by, but today that’s where you’ll find an Art & Photography Show. This juried show displays original pieces created between 2014 and 2017 with no previous entries allowed. Every year it’s a whole new show, sharing one-of-a-kind items.

Algonquin Crafters 2

Women embroidery a quilt and work on many crafts in the Civil War era Gothic farmhouse.

You’ll discover time honored crafts such as rugweaving, spinning and quilting in the Civil War era farmhouse. The walls are covered with aprons, quilts, scarves and rugs they have made to sell. These ladies begin working on next year’s crafts the Thursday after the festival ends to refill the walls.

Algonquin Threshing Machine

Dave McMahon, president of Carroll County Historical Society, explains the antique Case threshing machine in their Farm Museum.

Throughout the grounds demonstrations exist for chair caning, wood carving, candle dipping, broom making and blacksmith trades. An old sawmill attracts people of all ages and is one of the most popular demonstrations.

Algonquin Mill Barn

This is the last original work of Mail Pouch Barn painter, Harley Warrick. There are two other Mail Pouch Barns Warrick painted at the complex.

Don’t forget, all day long old-time entertainment takes place. There’ll be cloggers, banjo and fiddle players and gospel groups performing. Local high school bands and choirs also enjoy participating. If you want, you could sit there all day and be entertained.

Algonquin Stagecoach Inn

On the hillside behind this old stagecoach inn, Perry J. Vasbinder Arboretum has been established with over 400 different plantings.

If you should happen to want to visit Algonquin Mill at a time other than the festival, Thursdays are the perfect time as volunteers are always there to answer questions. Of course, you can walk around the grounds 365 days a year and learn about the complex from literature available on the wall of their information center, but buildings will be locked.

This festival is the perfect place to step back in time and enjoy all those old fashioned tastes, crafts, and entertainment. Entry per vehicle is $8.00 so load up the van and have a day of fun and learning. You’ll be glad you stopped by.

The Algonquin Mill Complex is located south of Carrollton along OH 322, which is east of I-77. There are several bends to make on this scenic adventure no matter what direction you are coming from, so it’s best to place their address in your GPS system. Find them at 4296 Scio Road SW. 

 

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Ohio River Ferryboat Festival – 200th Anniversary Fly-Sistersville Ferry

Fly Ferry

The Fly-Sistersville Ferry provides a relaxing way to cross the Ohio River.

Floating by ferry on the Ohio River brings pictures to mind of days gone by. Drive your car onto the ferry, or walk on – either way you’re sure to enjoy a ride to the other side. No bridges exist close by.

Fly Sistersville Vendors

Vendors line the streets on the Sisterville side of the river.

During the Ohio River Ferryboat Festival on July 28-30, crowds fill both sides of the Ohio River at Fly, Ohio and Sistersville, West Virginia. For only a dollar, you can walk on the boat, float across and check out the activities on the other side. Or you can drive on board for five dollars. The ride across takes about eight minutes.

This ferry began many years ago in 1817 so this happens to be the 200th Anniversary of a ferryboat crossing at what everyone calls the “Long Reach”. This is one of those rare places on the Ohio River where there’s a twenty mile stretch of river without any bends.

Fly Kiwanis

The Kiwanis was one of many ferries used on the Ohio River.

In those early days the Ohio River wasn’t nearly as deep as it is today. At that time horses pulled the ferry, which was basically a wooden platform, across the Ohio while guided by a rope. If it was an easy load, only one horse was needed, but larger loads of stagecoaches and animals might require two horses. Thus our present term of one, two, or four horsepower.

Today the Sisterville-Fly Ferry is the only ferry still operating on the Ohio-West Virginia border. Now it’s only open from the first of May until the end of September from Thursday thru Sunday. Bo is the only operator but he enjoys his retirement years as captain of the ferry.

Fly-Bo

Bo always serves as pilot on the only ferry on the Ohio-WV border.

They got lucky at finding their latest captain, as Bo is a former member of the United States Coast Guard. After the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Ohio River must seem fairly calm. He especially enjoys letting children come up in his cabin and let’s them “drive” the ferry for a little while.

Fly Ferry close up

Take a peaceful ride on the Ohio River during the Ohio Ferryboat Festival.

During last year’s festival over a thousand people walked onto the ferry for crossing and nearly seventy-five cars. The ferry can hold eight cars or trucks at a time if they’re parked bumper to bumper. Motorcycles find it a great shortcut and once in a while even a tractor trailer gets on board.

Fly Sistersville Wrestling 2

Wrestling provides entertainment on the Sisterville side.

While the ferryboat is the main reason for the festival, there are many other activities on both sides of the river. Each town does their own promotions and plans their own entertainment. But they visit back and forth. The mayor of Sistersville often rides across on the ferry to Fly.

Fly Dick Pavlov

Dick Pavlov with his banjo traveled to Fly last year to join in the entertainment.

Fly Price Sisters

The Price Sisters, Leanna and Lauren, of Bluegrass fame from nearby Sardis draw large crowds of friends and fans.

On the Fly side, many groups perform throughout the day with everything from Bluegrass music to Steel Drums and accordion. A couple special highlights are the Clark Family of Ohio Opry and local girls, the Price Sisters, who are Bluegrass stars.

Fly George Washington

George Washington & Co. describes life during Washington’s trip on the Ohio River.

George Washington & Co explain the story of George Washington’s camp at the edge of what is today Fly, Ohio. He camped there during a survey trip back in 1770. They dress in costumes of the 1770s and tell of riding down the Ohio River in two canoes with two Indian guides. It took a couple weeks to paddle from Fort Pitt to Mount Pleasant.

Fly children

It’s a great day for families to acquaint their children with the Ohio River stories.

Join Fly and Sistersville for the 200th Anniversary of the ferry this July. Not only will you enjoy a ride on the ferry, but you’ll find delightful vendors and entertainment on both sides of the Ohio River

It’s definitely the only Ferry to Fly.

Fly, Ohio is located in southern Ohio along Route 7. From Wheeling, it’s about 47 miles south on Route 7. The fastest route would be off I-77 and take Route 7 North at Exit 1. It’s a scenic route anyway you travel!

Rich Simcox: A Life of Musical Adventures

Rich Choir Director

Rich SImcox considers music his vocation and avocation.

I fell into a lot of lucky spots.” That’s how Rich Simcox describes his musical career. “ It’s not always what you know, but who you know that matters most.” But his great musical talent certainly enabled those connections.

Rich Pickin' 001 (2)

The “pickers and grinners” met  in the summer on Uncle Joe’s porch. They entertained the entire neighborhood.

Rich grew up surrounded by music. His mother’s family were “pickers and grinners”, while his father’s family reached out to classical and Dixieland. Rich wanted to emulate his dad.

Dick Simcox, Rich’s dad, directed school music programs in Bucyrus during Rich’s youth. In fourth grade, Rich started playing the trumpet, which remains his favorite instrument.

His dad knew teaching music to be a vocation of long hours and short vacations. He told his two sons and daughter, “I don’t care what you do, as long as you don’t go into music.” They all chose music.

Dick Simcox 001 (2)

His dad, Dick Simcox, gave him musical inspiration.

The Simcox family history shows their deep Cambridge roots. Rich was born there, his dad grew up there. Grandpa Simcox performed vaudeville at the Strand and Liberty theaters. Great-grandpa Simcox had a harness shop by the courthouse. It seemed only natural for Rich to drift back this direction.

He admits to being a gypsy at heart so he has been on many musical adventures. That all started when he became a member of the Air Force Band, one of his favorite musical journeys. Most of the time they worked out of Scott Air Force Base in Missouri. The 45 piece band played for parades, school concerts, community events, and military funerals.

Muskingum College Jazz Group

When attending Muskingum College, he played in many campus bands.

In the 70s, his dad moved to Tri-Valley High School and in his spare time formed “The Dick Simcox Big Band”. Rich at the time was attending Muskingum College so became part of his dad’s band. When his dad passed in 1979, Rich decided he would keep the band performing as long as possible. One thing he wanted to do was always keep his dad’s name as the name of the band.

While his biggest inspiration remained with his dad, he also listened carefully to Al Hirt and Doc Severinsen. Rich said he always hoped to emulate the tunefulness and tone quality of Bobby Hackett, coronet player.

Rich Simcox Jazz Band 001 (2)

The Dick Simcox Big Band provided music around the Tri-State area.

Locally, Rich taught music at several high schools as well as Muskingum College. Many remember him coming to their homes for private lessons. He has led many musical groups in the area over the years, including: Barbershop Chorus, Sweet Adelines, and Land ‘O Lakes Chorus.

His involvement with music in the area extends to many organizations and listing them all would take an entire page. To name a few, he has played trumpet or french horn in Cambridge City Band, Coshocton Lake Park Band, Southeastern Ohio Symphony Orchestra and Zanesville City Band. He’s directed musicals at Living Word and Cambridge Performing Arts Center.

Rich Dick Simcox Band 001

Here the band plays at the Cambridge Concert Association at the Scottish Rite Auditorium. That’s Rick sitting in the wheel chair.

While directing has been one of his strong points, participating as an actor gave him great pleasure at CPAC. He played lead roles in popular musicals such as “The Music Man”, “Carousel” and “The Flower Drum Song”. His talent in so many varied musical arenas led him to say, “Music is my vocation and avocation.”

This outstanding musician played trumpet on cruise ships and has kept the “Dick Simcox Big Band” alive with performances throughout the area. Rich reflects, “I’ve done more than I ever thought I would.”

Rich in Church Choir

Singing in the church choir has given Rich pleasure for nearly forty years.

Directing the choir at First Christian Church in Cambridge since 1978 still gives him great pleasure. The church music lifts his soul as they make a joyful noise to the Lord. In his spare time, he also enjoys camping and fishing.

Rich Church Choir

He frequently directs the choir with some challenging music.

It’s a tragedy to Rich that schools are doing away with music programs. There’s a big correlation between participation in musical activities and excellence in other areas of study. He feels that the reason this area has so many talented musicians today comes from great music teachers, such as Howdy Max, John Matheny, Max Trier, Diane Box, and Todd Bates.

Rich perhaps gave the best description of his role in music. He’s a musical engineer, who organizes whatever needs done or put together. But admitted he couldn’t do it without networking with all his connections.

According to those who know him well, Rich’s specialty is motivation. “He can get more out of most people than they think they can produce.” Music has been a lifelong adventure for Rich.

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