MerleFest 1999 opened with two days of cold wind, heavy rain and mud. As rain poured down in sheets, Hootie and the Blowfish, completely unfazed by the weather, set the tone on Thursday evening, giving bluegrass interpretations to their hit songs. The band was joined throughout by Sam Bush on the fiddle and Chris Thile on mandolin. At one point Doc and Richard shared the stage. While Doc sang, lead singer Darius Rucker stepped to the background and danced with his four-year-old daughter. The rains gave way to glorious Carolina blue skies and warm, comfortable weather on Saturday and Sunday.
On the Traditional Stage, Charles Frazier read from his bestselling novel “Cold Mountain.” Frazier said the book was inspired by listening to “My Home Is Across the Blue Ridge Mountains” sung on the Creekside Stage during an earlier MerleFest. Saturday night, North Carolina native Earl Scruggs, considered the father of bluegrass banjo picking, told the story of the five-string banjo and talked of musicians taking the instrument in new directions.
Joining Doc and Earl on the Watson Stage were Béla Fleck, John McEuen, Pete Wernick, Jens Kruger, Tom Adams and Tony Trischka. Doc joked that he was overwhelmed by banjo pickers. Rounding out the sound were Stuart Duncan on fiddle and T. Michael Coleman on bass. After a rousing standing ovation from a packed audience, the musicians encored with the Scruggs tune “Foggy Mountain Breakdown.”