Festival Square Will Honor Kentucky County’s Rich Musical Heritage and an Unforgettable Festival
From 1988 through 2002, Labor Day Weekend in the tri-state would have been incomplete without spending Saturday at the Everly Brothers Homecoming Festival in Central City, Kentucky.
REMEMBERING THE EVERLY BROTHERS HOMECOMING FESTIVAL
Like magic, the Central City Elementary School baseball field would convert into an outdoor concert venue that would rival the best of them. It was an all-day event with live music from early afternoon into the wee hours of the night. I remember getting home no later than 1 AM every single year we were involved.
And the line-ups were amazing. Of course, the Everly Brothers would perform, as would fellow Muhlenberg County icon John Prine. Those legends were on hand just about every year; I think there may have been a year when Prine wasn't available. But they would be joined by some of the biggest names in the music industry. Over the years, Tammy Wynette, Keith Urban, Travis Tritt, Diamond Rio, John Berry, Bo Diddley, Billy Ray Cyrus, Trace Adkins, the Kentucky Headhunters, Ricky Van Shelton, Neal McCoy, and many more.
HERE COMES FESTIVAL SQUARE
In May, ground was broken for a planned public space at the corner of First and Broad in downtown Central City. Opening in the fall, Festival Square will feature bronze statues of the Everly Brothers and John Prine, several park benches and tables for public use, guitar stanchions at each of the square's entrances, and signage that will tell the story of the Everly Brothers Homecoming Festival and its impact on Muhlenberg County.
I can't believe it's been 20 years since the last festival, but I'll never forget any of them, nor will I forget meeting Prine and the Everlys. One thing I do regret is never having time to tell Don and Phil Everly my "Wake Up Little Susie" story; outside of their performances, they were never there very long.
THE EVERLY BROTHERS, 'WAKE UP LITTLE SUSIE', AND MY MOM
Way back in the mid-1950s, the Everly Brothers came to Owensboro to visit their cousin who was a patient on the same hospital floor where my mother was a young nurse. She heard them playing music for their cousin and wandered into the room to listen. This was just before their careers blew up and they became instant superstars.
Mom had a chance to speak with them and somehow got around to telling them the story about how she and my dad went to the drive-in (it had happened very recently--like a couple of days prior--or she might not have brought it up) and fell asleep and didn't wake up until almost 4 AM. I guess back then there was no one to come along and say, "Hey, the movie's over; get out."
The next thing you know, the Everlys have an iconic smash with "Wake Up Little Susie" in which the couple at the drive-in wake up at 4 AM. By the way, my mother's name was Sue.
We have always believed the brothers shared that story with Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, the legendary songwriters who penned that and so many other huge Everly hits.
THOSE CONVERSATIONS WITH JOHN PRINE
It's one of my favorite family stories and I wish I'd gotten to share it with the STARS of the story, but it wasn't to be. But during a couple of those festivals, I DID get to talk to John Prine and for a longer bit of time than I thought would have been allowed. He'd just be sitting back stage chilling and messing around with his guitar. He was just a tremendously nice person and I'll never forget those conversations, which were mainly about music.
I can't wait to head down to Central City once Festival Square and those monuments are finished and relive the Everlys story, those John Prine conversations, and some great festival memories all over again.