Perry's Prattle

Published: Monday, September 24, 2012 at 02:36 PM.

Last week’s “prattle” reported the death of Dr.Charles William (Bill) Foster of Florence, Alabama who, in addition to his blue grass music, was the head of the History and English Department at the University of North Alabama.

Bill Foster’s death came on Sept. 7, 2012 at the age of 73, the same day that Rollin (Oscar) Sullivan of the Lonzo and Oscar fame died in Madison, Tenn. at the age of 93. Sullivan’s entertainment career was covered last week.

The Wells family became acquainted with Bill Foster, and The Foster Family String Band, on our 1979 visit to the The McClain Family Festival in Berea, Kentucky, We attended that annual event for five years, knowing that we could look forward to seeing the Foster Family, who not only were talented musicians and entertainers, but friendly and easy to socialize  with.

We became “first name’ friends, which made it easy for us to hire the group to come to Chipley’s  Railroad Centennial Celebration for a Sunday afternoon concert in the Centennial Opry House, the name applied to the recently vacated First Baptist Church in downtown Chipley. We had the Lonzo and Oscar Show, The McLain Family Band from Berea, Kentucky, The Academy Singers of Washington College Academy of Greenville, Tennessee and The Wiregrass Sacred Harp Singers, headed by 84-year-old Dewey Williams of Ozark, Ala.

Your writer, who along with Hester, served as chairman of the entire Centennial Celebration. Our responsibility was securing talent for the big weekend of May 22 and 23. We were successful in bringing in a ladies “Sweet Adelines” and a “Men’s Barbershop Quartet,” both from Panama City. The gigantic celebration on Saturday was concluded after sundown at the football field with a free concerts by The Rader Family from Ocean Opry at Panama City Beach, Jeannie Pruitt from the Grand Ole Opry and Jerry Clower of Yazoo, Miss.

We were well familiar with Bill Foster’s ability to bring in his natural comedy talent as an Appalachian Region native. When introducing the band, Bill would first present  his wife, Anne, who abandoned a promising career as a classic musician to follow the traditional sounds of bluegrass. Then he would add “and these are our two ‘foster children,’,Melissa and Will.” With that the band would jump right into a fast moving bluegrass song “Catfish John,” “ Delta Dawn,” “Peach Picking Time In Georgia” or “Ode To The Little Brown Shack Out Back.”

At the Chipley Sunday afternoon concert, Bill Foster greeted the enthusiastic capacity crowd in the converted Opry House with a strum on the  banjo, then explained:  “Well, since we are from Alabama and I have a Banjo on my knee, why not proceed with the old folk tune ‘Oh, Susanna!’”



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