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‘Dukes of Hazzard’ star brings Americana Music Festival just west of Fauquier

Ben Jones (aka “Cooter” from “The Dukes of Hazzard”) is a driving force behind the upcoming Rappahannock Americana Music Festival. Pictured here with a cabin in Washington, Va. that dates back to the 1740’s. The festival will be held Saturday, May 17. Photo by Adam Goings
Ben Jones, famous for his role as Cooter on the hit 1970s TV show “Dukes of Hazzard,” is bringing classic Americana music to a setting just west of Fauquier.

The first Rappahannock Americana Music Festival will take place tomorrow, May 17 in scenic Little Washington. The festival kicks off at noon at Avon Hall with an afternoon concert lasting until 6 p.m. There will be “guitar pickin’” and dinner served at the Stonyman Gourmet Courtyard from 6 to 8 p.m. followed by an indoor concert at the Theatre at Washington, VA from 8 to 10 p.m.

“The setting of it is about perfect for an Americana music festival,” said Jones. “This is a great music tradition right here in these mountains.”

He described how the afternoon stage will be set up in front of the scenic pond at Avon Hall and the audience will sit along the adjacent hillside.

“This county is unique,” he said, explaining why he chose to have the festival in Rappahannock. “There’s nowhere else like it. There are 7,000 people here. There are no stoplights, there are no fast food joints, there’s no huge developments or strip malls. It just doesn’t exist and no body really wants that.”

Jones and his wife, Alma Viator, have owned their quaint property in Little Washington for more than 15 years. He said that of all the places that he and Viator travel, his Washington home is his favorite place to be.

Jones and Viator are seasoned event planners, hosting “Dukes of Hazzard” events that brought out more than 100,000 people in Nashville. Jones said that this festival will be different, more laid back.

“This is the first show like this that we’ve done,” he said. “Alma and I have done big Dukes of Hazzard events, but this is an entirely different setting and sensibility. It’s a different kind of show with a different kind of music.”

For Jones, Americana music is different because it is “made from the ground up, not from the top down.” He said that it does include a lot of different genres, but the common theme is a realness and a grittiness that doesn’t exist in today’s commercial music.

“Americana music means a lot of different things to different people,” he said. “It’s roots music, it’s folk music, string music. It has all of those influences in it. It’s inclusive of a lot of different kinds of music. It’s music that’s been influenced by blues grass, old time, Cajun, blues, jazz. All those things are in there.”

Jones is clearly passionate about the Americana genre. He said that he joined the Americana Music Association this year in order to support the movement. To Jones, the country music that the record labels are currently putting out is nothing like the country that he grew up with. He believes that the rustic handcrafted Americana bands are more in tune with the country and folk traditions that he admires.

“It gives you the freedom of musical expression that isn’t a formula like what you hear on the radio that the music industry comes out with,” he said.

Jones has been playing music with his band formerly known as “Cooter’s Garage Band” for about 15 years. For this gig, though he’s trying out another name.

“For this particular event, we’re gonna try some different kinds of things and I thought it be fun to try a different name,” he said. “My old nick name, before I was Cooter, was Buster. So, we’re gonna be Buster and the Dirty Dawgs.”

Jones fronts the band as the singer and plans on trying some bluesy tunes for the festival, and even some old Bob Dylan numbers.

Jones and Viator hope that people interested in hearing the music will travel from surrounding counties for the festival, and maybe even gain national recognition for the superb standard of acts. Jones said that the event is equipped to serve about a maximum occupancy of 1,000.

The town and the county were both supportive of the festival, since it will undoubtedly bring in tourist money to local vendors and merchants.

Jones said that he would like to see the festival happen every year. He would even like to see the organization role passed on to someone else with a passion for Americana in the future.

The line up:
Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. at The Theatre and Avon Hall I Washington, Va.

Afternoon concert from noon to 6 p.m. at Avon Hall
Irene Kelley
Craver, Hicks, Watson and Newberry
Big Buster and the Dirty Dawgs
Gold Top County Ramblers
Jeffrey Scott
Ben Mason
Manabu and John

Pickin’ and Dinner at the Stonyman Gourmet Courtyard from 8 to 10 p.m.

Indoor Concert at the Theatre at Washington, VA from 8 to 10 p.m.
David Olney with Sergio Webb
Robin and Linda Williams and their Fine Group

Tickets for the afternoon or evening concerts cost $25 each or $40 for both.
Children under age 12 get in free.
Tickets can be purchased at http://www.rappahannockamericana.com

The artists:

Big Buster and the Dirty Dawgs
Ben Jones’ bluegrass band, formerly known as Cooter’s Garage Band, will be performing some more bluesy numbers for this event under a new name. Jones grew up with the nickname “Buster” and wanted to pay homage to his roots. Jones has had a colorful career, appearing in hundreds of TV shows, movies and stage productions. He has done it all from singing at the Grand Old Opry, to serving tow terms as a US Congressman for the state of Georgia.

David Olney with Sergio Webb
Olney is a Nashville-based touring and recording artist and will be accompanied by multi-instrumentalist, Webb. Olney has recorded more than 20 albums of Americana music. He is known for his energetic live performances. Visit davidolney.com for more.

Robin and Linda Williams and their Fine Group
The Williams’ have earned a huge body of fans over the years for their stirring live performances. Big names like Emmylou Harris, Tom T. Hall, George Hamilton IV and more have covered their original songs. The group has made appearances on the Grand Old Opry, Austin City Limits, A Prairie Home Companion and more. Visit http://www.robinandlinda.com for more.

Irene Kelly
Kelly is a Nashville-based recording artist who has performed all over the world. Her new album, “Pennsylvania Coal” is her first true bluegrass album and was produced by Grammy Award-winner Mark Fain. It features artists Rhonda Vincent, Claire Lynch, Jerry Salley and more. She has performed at the Country Music Awards Festival, the Americans Music Festival, the Grand Old Opry and more. Visit irenekelley.com for more.

Craver, Hicks, Watson and Newberry
Mike Craver, Bill Hicks, Jim Watson and Joe Newberry founded the Red Clay Ramblers in 1972. They toured throughout the U.S., Canada, Europe, Scandinavia and Africa for a decade. In 2012 they released an album under their new group name, “You’ve Been a Friend to Me.” They perform fiddle and dance tunes from their early repertoire and new originals from the 2012 album.

Gold Top County Ramblers
Members Adam Rogers, Jesse Rogers, Tucker Rogers, Forest Marquisee, Joe Whitesides and William Walter play acoustic bluegrass. They take music from all kinds of genres and perform it with a bluegrass twist. They are Sperryvillie natives.

Jeffrey Scott
Culpeper native, Scott, is a singer and guitarist. His mother and his blues icon uncle, John Jackson, influence his music. Scott mastered guitar playing Piedmont Blues, the oldest form of the blues with Colonial African American string band influences. He has performed across the country and for live radio shows.

Lorraine Duisit, Robert “Smiggy” Smith and Wendi Sirat collaborate to make music based on global tradition and inspired by life in Appalachia. Their music blends three part harmonies with strings, smooth rhythms, and groovy bass lines. Visit http://www.mandele.com for more.

Ben Mason
Mason is a singer and pianist that has performed in the DC area since the 1960s. He opened for Billy Ray Cyrus for Rolling Thunder on the Mall in DC for a crowd of 80,000 and will return at the end of this month to perform again. He has released three CDs and is currently working on his fourth. Visit http://www.benmasonsongs.com for more.

Manabu and John
Manabu Nagase and John “Smokehouse” Hallberg are both multi-instrumentalists that specialize in bluegrass, old time, jazz, rock, blues and classical. Nagase plays violin, mandolin, guitar, keyboard, bass, trumpet and saxophone. Hallberg plays percussion, drums and the mountain dulcimer.

For more information, visit http://www.rappahannockamericana.com.


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