Yesterday I was able to go to a homegrown festival for work. The creator, Shirley Adams, had called me the week before to promote it in the paper and I thought her story was so amazing, I wanted to go. I decided to film her interview because I wanted to get everything verbatim, but I ended up with such great clips that I decided to use them.
Here is the transcript from her full interview:
“Hello, I’m Shirley Kelsey Adams, I married Robert Adams 1954 when I was 18 and he was 20. We had almost 57 years together. He died 5 years ago on the 23rd… And after he died, I was left with all this, and I said, ‘I know what I’m going to do with that.’
My family had started playing music since 1968, they all played different instruments. My girls, I thought, had really good harmony, and as well as did Dad and Garry.
[The festival] wasn’t meant to make money. I’d like to have enough to put back in it. But, it’s been an experience. It’s been hard work. We were working here until, I don’t know, about the time the thing started, probably. I don’t know what to tell you other than it’s been a wonderful life. My husband was special. Bob was a teacher, he taught chemistry and physics. And most of it I’ve probably told you, I’m good at repeating myself. But uh, I was a daughter of Clarence and Genevieve Smith Kelsey. And they lived in Mount Carmel for good while. Dad taught out there at the school, and so every time that he and Bob would get together they had more fun talking science, and about that time maybe about going to the moon, you know, everything.
When we lived at Normal IL, that’s when my son started playing the banjo. Dad never played the banjo, and so he had to teach himself. And so I called a guy at Clinton, Illinois that had a radio station and a TV station and I said, ‘I’ve got a son here who really plays the banjo, and he wasn’t very old.’ He said, ‘Bring him down.’ He played about three notes and he said, ‘Son, you’re good,’ and put Garry and his dad on the first TV show. The was the start. [The show was called] ‘Corn Belt Country Style’ for Bunny Bread. I gave someone a commercial there. So we played at Channel 3 at Champaign with Marvin Lee, and I understand he is still around.
Then my children, they all got married and everything, and Garry, we took him to an audition. It was for Opry. And we were, the whole family, were chosen as a replacement for some group was not going to be working there, we didn’t think, then they changed their minds so the whole family missed out on being with him. But they took him into Opryland USA and he played in the country music show there, the big one, for, oh my gosh, til they closed the doors. And he was the only one that had sideburns because they didn’t allow them back them, but for him they allowed it. And I haven’t looked, but I’ll bet you he still got those sideburns, I just haven’t had a chance to hardly see him, he got in late last night.
And this is the chance for all of the kids to be together. It’s hard work and sometimes maybe they resent me even starting it, you know.
This place had an old farmhouse and they tore down this year. And with so much rain, we couldn’t plant anything, a few flowers, but we couldn’t get what we need. So it’s a work in progress. We have work to do on the pavilion up here… Barb, herself and an old gentleman named Thomas, he’s not as old as I am, I think. He and his wife were a backbone for us, he went to school in Sumner where Bob’s first teaching job was at. And he come over and helped and hammered and sawed, and did everything we asked of him and more. They even cooked last year, had the most delicious chili, they told me. And this year, I said, ‘No, you guys have done enough, let’s see if we can get one of these wagons.’ So this is the first year we’ve had them, and for awhile I thought they didn’t want… they were always booked. And they were actually asking to come. I was so tickled! …
Well, [the attendance] averages about 80, not counting all the bands. That’s not too bad, I guess. I would love to have more, I would love to charge more because I could put it back in this. It’s a not-for-profit although I’ve never gone to find out how you get that. But it would behoove me… I’d like to see the bands paid. And I can’t do that yet. They all work for free, and that is special.
[Q. Why did you start the competition?] Well, when I was young, they had a competition in what was the uptown theatre, a talent show, and I was in it, I sang. And I’ll have to tell you, that when I was that age, Mother would turn the radio up real high and it was country music, and I hated it. She’d make me wake up to that country music. Bob was a stickler of country. So he had performed and I’d performed and we were walking around outside waiting for the decision, and he says, ‘You’re not going to win.’ He was right, but he got kicked out by a bunch of dancers, I think is what did it. We often laughed about that. He didn’t mean it mean, I really don’t think, he’s probably just telling the truth. But I always thought I was a pretty good singer. And I had a lot of sinus problem and its a little hard for me to… old notes, I don’t sound like a soprano anymore. …
[At this point, my camera ran out of storage so it took me a few minutes to make room to finish the interview. Here are her ending remarks.]
Hello, I am Shirley Kelsey Adams, I have lived around here almost all my life. This place we have here is an 80 acre farm. It was my husband’s, “Bob” Robert W., grandmother’s place and it came down, the land was inherited and on down. His bother bought it from all the relatives then when he passed away it became his folks, then Bob’s and mine. And so when Bob died I wanted to have something to remember him by for the kids, for me, and we’ve had five years now today and it’s been worth it. I’ve had such fine entertainment like you’re hearing in the background. And I always try to pay the first place and I took it out of my own pocket. I’ve never asked for money from anybody, but that’s not saying I wouldn’t accept it because everything that I get is going to go back into this for other people as well as my family.
Thank you. It was so nice to have your girls come up here, and be interviewed. My gosh, I feel like a queen here!”