Looking ahead, looking back

Pineville is hosting the 88th annual Kentucky Mountain Laurel Festival this month, and a new generation of Festival enthusiasts is looking forward to Scotty McCreery’s concert.

McCreery is an American country music singer, native North Carolinian, and one of today’s brightest young stars. After winning the tenth season of American Idol in 2011, he has established himself as a versatile songwriter, talented guitarist, and in-demand entertainer.

He follows in the tradition of previous Festival headliners, and his newest album (Seasons Change) has already produced a smash hit single in “Five More Minutes.”

McCreery is comfortable with traditional country music, Christmas favorites, and in writing new songs for a new generation. His concert will fit well with this year’s theme, “Generations of Tradition.”

Looking back, in the spirit of the Festival’s theme, it was 1961 that a brilliant American folk music trio entertained as the headline attraction for the official opening of the event in Pine Mountain’s Laurel Cove Amphitheatre. The name of the group was The Limeliters. They were introduced that evening by a young Pineville native, Edward (Eddie) Wilson.

Wilson suggested from the stage that the Limeliters were destined to be “as good or better than the Kingston Trio.” The Kingston Trio was then leading the contemporary folk music movement in this country. Whether Eddie Wilson had a magic ball, his suggestion proved to be true.

The Limeliters started working together in 1959. They were an immediate success. Their career lasted until 1965 and during those few years, the trio recorded at least 25 albums and appeared in more than 300 concerts all across the United States.

For the generation that remembers the folk music movement, Limeliters’ songs included “There’s A Meetin’ Here Tonight,” “City of New Orleans,” “A Dollar Down,” Wabash Cannonball,” and many others that were featured in their public appearances and on records.

Incidentally, they were the musical representatives for Coca Cola. Their rendition of the jingle, “Things go better with Coke,” became a national hit.

And the young man who introduced them at Laurel Cove has been prominent in the generations since then as one the Festival’s outstanding leaders and prominent supporters. Edward Wilson is serving this year as an honorary director of the organization. Earlier he served two two-year terms as President, was elected to the Mountain Laurel Festival Hall of Fame, and he received the Outstanding Service Award in 2014 and the Norman Chrisman Award as Outstanding Director in 2015.

Further proof, if needed, of the value of dedicated volunteer leadership and evidence of a theme that is well represented in this 88th edition of the Festival.

William H. Baker, a Claiborne County, Tennessee, native and former resident of Middlesboro, may be contacted at wbaker@limestone.edu