Hot Rize, the parent band of Red Knuckles, was appearing in a long-awaited and eagerly anticipated concert in Charlottesville. The sponsor was The Prism Coffeehouse, presided over by Fred Boyce. As with any bluegrass act, the emcee for the evening was Bill Vernon.
Bill was a dear friend, who spent Christmas day with us, charming the sox off Big Kitty's Gran Ruth and anyone else who came by. He was, in his own words, the perfect guest. We loved having him around and we still miss him terribly. He was a great friend.
When it came time for Hot Rize to take a break and Red Knuckles to take the stage, Bill announced there would be an intermission, so folks flocked to the lobby to stock up on CDs, tee shirts and fly swatters. At the end of the break, Bill would need to conduct the door prize drawing. There was a door propped up in the back and there was a lot of joking going around backstage about who'd win the door.
Bill went onstage to make the announcements regarding the upcoming shows and what not, and that's when he announced it was time for the door prize. He was occupied with that, when to his left appeared Slade and Waldo Otto (Charles Sawtelle and Nick Forster, respectively), carrying the aforementioned door!
The audience broke up and Bill, momentarily taken aback, looked up only to find the two trouping to the microphone. Always quick with the wisecracks, he resumed the quips about the door as a prize with the two muttering things like, "Well, we thought this was what you wanted...we can take it back..."
The audience had been thoroughly enthralled with Hot Rize, but if that was any indication, the segment when Red and the boys got to perform was guaranteed to be a hit. The laughter never stopped from the minute the door came out until Red, Wendell Mercantile, Waldo and Slade took their final bows. (And the music was stellar, to be sure!)
Big Kitty and I were sitting with one of Bill's many fans, a lady named Clara who husband didn't like bluegrass. Clara started grinning the minute the show started and she didn't stop smiling until later that week (so she said)! So much of the fun of that performance was watching her enjoying the show!
The sad side note to this story is that is was the last tour for Charles Sawtelle/Slade, the guitar player and one prince of a man. He had been diagnosed with leukemia and went on to become a part of the angel band not long afterward. Thanks to his preference for black apparel and our tuxedo kitty's musical purr, we added onto his name in memory of two late, great guitar players: Charlie Byrd Sawtelle.
And that, my friends, was a true tale. The door prize that momentarily left Bill Vernon speechless.