Roby Huffman Remembered At Benefit Show

Guest Article by: Laura Tate Ridge

for photo slideshows of the event click here

Image634951277880514299As I made my way into the humble town of Selma, N.C., cars were lined up and down every street within two or three blocks of the Rudy Theater on Sunday afternoon. It was evident that Roby Huffman was and is still loved by many. I walked into the theater immediately greeted by one of the hardest working Emcee’s in North Carolina, Annette Grady.

Annette pulled this show together with the help of Cousin Brossy and each of the fine bands that offered their amazing talent to display their love and honor for Roby.

With talent such as The Boys from Carolina, Samantha Casey and Bluegrass Jam, Al Batten and the Bluegrass Reunion, Carolina Grass and the Malpass Brothers, the theater was almost packed full. Many special guests graced the stage with their passion and drive to honor Roby. The first act was the Boys From Carolina. I got there just in time to hear the last few songs and capture a few shots of them and shortly after a few equipment changes; Samantha Casey and Bluegrass Jam took the stage. I remember seeing Samantha Casey perform as a very young fiddler for the first time at the Kinston Winter Bluegrass Festival. Her band includes: Jeff Huffman, Roby’s son, on guitar; Daniel Casey, Samantha’s Dad, on banjo; special guest Jan Johansson on mandolin; Dell Tims on bass; and special guest Clyde Mattocks on dobro. Samantha has been heavily influenced by Roby like the other members of her band. Special guests took the stage: Johnny Ridge joined Samantha for a twin fiddle tune called “Faded Love” and Samantha’s 10 year old brother, Adam, joined for an instrumental in which he played bass. Following their performance was The Godfather of Bluegrass, Al Batten and the Bluegrass Reunion. As stated in my previous article about Roby, he and Al were very close, best buddies. Al and Daddy (Johnny Ridge-fiddle) took turns telling stories and sharing their thoughts about their old pal. Special guest Nathan Aldridge,son of mandolin player, Mike Aldridge, made his way to the microphone to saw off a Bill Monroe classic “Footprints In The Snow”, having an almost fiddle duo with Daddy (Johnny Ridge). Before the last song, they brought out my darling, Kendall “Sugarfoot” Sykes, and had the crowd join in to sing her “Happy Birthday” before she belted out the ‘Hey’s’ and ‘Ho’s’ of “Black Eyed Suzie” with her Pappy (Johnny Ridge) shaking the stage with his right foot, keeping time.

One very special part of the show was when Roby’s daughters, Debra Loyd & Susan Painter and daughter in law, Terri Loyd Huffman, sang a Roby original, “There’s A Light Shining High On The Mountain” and a Louvin Brothers classic, “Steal Away and Pray”; with The Bluegrass Reunion including Roby’s son, Jeff Huffman, backing them up. I couldn’t imagine what it took for those brave souls to get up on that stage and sing/play songs that their beloved Daddy once sang and played. Admiration swept over me as a chill ran down my left arm.

Closing out the show were the Malpass Brothers from Goldsboro, N.C. They stepped forward with their fancy suit coats, slicked back hair, electric instruments and took a hold of each and every heart in the theater. As I stand to the side of the stage with my daughter, Kendall and son, Caden, Johnny “Pappy” Ridge towers behind us and we take in every bit of that show with admiration. With special guest and long time friend of the band, special guest, Clyde Mattocks on dobro, their father, Chris Malpass, on bass and Dennis Daniels on drums, the band delivered a stellar performance to the crowd including classic country hits like Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and Lefty Frizzell’s “If You’ve Got The Money Honey, I’ve Got The Time”. Taylor put away his electric guitar and picked up a mandolin and Chris changed into one of the most beautiful white coats I’ve ever seen. That coat belonged to Roby. Chris said, “I am a collector of many things, like records for instance, and I admired Roby so much I had

told him once how much I admired him and would love to have something of his. So, one day Roby invited me to his home. He asked his wife, Judy, to go to the closet to get the white coat. I already knew about that coat because he was wearing it in the 60’s! He gave me that coat and I keep it in a special place now.” The brothers stepped to the microphone and Chris delivered a song that he wrote called “Roby”. Immediately my first reaction was “where are the Kleenex?!” Words cannot explain what I felt sitting there crouched in front of the stage, watching as tears filled eyes and folks began to applaud with joy. There was not a dry eye in the theater by the time they finished the song.

I was so intrigued with the song they wrote and I knew I had to ask Chris how he came up with the tune. When I asked him, he said “We had played in Concord and were on the road headed back home. I woke up from my sleep and this song came to me immediately. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be good or not but it’s what I felt.”

I also spoke to Taylor about what an impact Roby had in his life. Taylor stated that he began playing mandolin and singing tenor at the age of 10 and even though their music was different, they used electric instruments, and not the typical traditional bluegrass style, both Roby Huffman and Al Batten accepted he and his brother, Chris, almost as “step children”. Taylor said “I remember our very first show was at the Wayne County Fairgrounds with Roby Huffman and Al Batten in 2000 and that is my most memorable show. Roby always said ‘Do what you do and you’ll be fine’.” Taylor and Chris both state that Roby was a major influence in their lives and always will be.

In closing, I would just like to say how proud and grateful I am of every single person who made an effort to show the Huffman family their support and love during this trying time. Roby will live on in our hearts, minds and music.

Other Posts About Roby Huffman

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

AWESOME performances!!!Yep..no dry eyes at the show!!! Looks like a GRAMMY should b their next award....Committed fan of The Malpass Brothers...