1997, Wilkesboro, North Carolina
Some of my greatest heroes were playing at MerleFest. Tony Rice, David Grisman, Gillian Welch, Emmylou Harris, Doc Watson, Peter Rowan and two of my favorites, Norman and Nancy Blake.
When they weren’t playing the big stage, these acts would be scattered all over the festival grounds, giving small concerts and workshops. One day I went to see Norman and Nancy play in a small tent for about 30 people. After the set, I saw Nancy standing outside the tent so I went to say hello.
I told her I lived in Portland, Oregon and I knew people would love it if they all came to play. I would even help them find places to play. Nancy smiled, saying that she and Norman hardly ever made it over the mountains. I figured she meant The Rockies, that maybe they were afraid of flying. She pointed off ambiguously toward the southern mountains and said she was referring to the mountains out back of their house, not The Rockies.
Norman finished his set and came out of the tent. I asked him if we could take a picture together, and Nancy snapped it. He stood even with my shoulders, and he reminded me of Bilbo Baggins.