Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My Daddy: A Remarkable Man and Musician with the Emert Brothers, Bird's Creek Boys, and Last, but not Least...The Pine Chapel String Band

I miss my daddy every day. Yes, I'm a 66 year old woman who continues to refer to my father as "my daddy." He was the first man I ever loved. He made fantastic mayonnaise sandwiches and pan fried potatoes. He did not know how to fix my baby fine cottony hair back when I was a little girl, so when Mom was in the hospital and he was the one who dressed my sister, brother, and me for Easter Sunday, he twirled my wispy hair around his finger and bobbie pinned the little ball on top of my head. I remember that as if it was yesterday.

I remember as a little girl that he had the biggest hands and I could warm my little hand in his palm. If both my hands were cold, he would nestle them between his palms. Funny how certain memories stay with a person forever. I can remember falling asleep with my head on his knee while we watched Gillette's Friday Night at the Fights on our black and white Philco television set.

When I think of my daddy, I think of music. He was an accomplished musician and could play any musical instrument, but his instrument of choice was the guitar. From the time I was a little bitty girl, my favorite times were sitting listening to him play that old timey music I loved so much. I love it to this day. When he retired from the Air Force and moved his family to Knoxville, Tennessee, he and his brother, Otha, teamed up to become the Emert Brothers. Uncle Otha was an equally accomplished musician and they had entertained their fellow soldiers back during WWII as they fought for their country in Europe.

The Emert Brothers grew in popularity regionally and became a fixture at the Museum of Appalachia in Norris, Tennessee. They performed there for 16 years until the death of Uncle Otha. They performed at Wolftrap Festival near Washington D.C. where Daddy jammed with the likes of Doc Watson, and at the Florida State Fair in Tampa and at the World's Fair back in 1982 in Knoxville. They were good...really good.

After Uncle Otha passed away, Daddy had trouble finding a suitable partner. He was very particular and by then he had almost exclusively become a tenor guitarist. He played with his cousin Ralph and a few others, but it wasn't until George Emert, his nephew by way of his brother Victor came into the picture that Daddy found that spark again. George and his wonderful wife, Billie lived out West in Washington State. So in 2004, my mom and daddy sold their condo and moved out to be closer to George so Daddy could play his music. They formed the band, The Bird's Creek Boys, and before too long, they were playing to sold out venues. Everyone loved their music.

But The Bird's Creek Boys became no more when my mom and Daddy moved to my little North Georgia town to be closer to me and to my Daddy's beloved Smoky Mountains. I had a feeling back in 2008 when they got off the plane that Daddy wasn't well, but I didn't say much. I'm involved in little theater and had the great privilege to direct my mom and Daddy in the very popular play, "Smoke on the Mountain." Daddy was the lead guitarist and was so at home with the music. My mom played a rebellious church lady who just about stole the show.

Daddy was diagnosed with kidney cancer and although he had surgery and was cancer free for a time, it came back with a vengeance. I knew he was ill. He did find a new family partner in my oldest son, Heath. They called themselves The Pine Chapel String Band, and Heath has the distinction of performing with his grandfather in Daddy's final public performance at the Delmor Days Festival in Alabama. I cherish that memory and keep it close to my heart.

The thing is, I didn't realize how far reaching and influential my daddy's music is, especially the many years he and his brother were the Emert Brothers. Not too long ago, a gentleman called me from Illinois. It seems he had been trying to track down someone who had heard of the Emert Brothers to see if he could buy some new copies of their cassette tapes. He found me, and Daddy had kept several copies of the cassettes, so I sent him double copies of each with a CD of the songs The Bird's Creek Boys had recorded. I advised the gentleman to have the tapes converted to cds.

Today, I received a letter from this fan of my Daddy and his music and I want to share it with you.

All's well that ends well. Immediately after I received these at the end of the driveway, I popped the cd into my car on the way to town with my wife. The second song was "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain." I looked over and my wife is trying to be brave, but was losing the battle not to cry. That is good music that can get an emotional reaction like that.

Hearing these is like seeing an old friend you never thought you would see again. Thank you again. What remarkable boys these Emert Brothers must have been.

Best regards

This made me tear up. Yes, I miss my daddy every day. The music that he loved to play and perform is timeless. Yes, he was a remarkable man and I loved him so much. 

1 comment:

Dakota said...

I loved this post. My mother plays the bass and has a band in this area... I spent a lot of time singing with her as a child and follow her around these days when she's gigging in town. She's teaching my youngest how to play drums.

I could swear that I've heard of the Emert Brothers, but nothing comes to mind as to why!