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MerleFest Reflections 2000

2000

 
Willie Nelson

On Thursday evening of MerleFest 2000, Willie Nelson sang non-stop, song after song, during freezing temperatures, giving a most memorable performance. He wowed the Watson Stage crowd by playing hits that spanned his career. The large crowd’s enthusiasm earned him three encores. Sam Bush accompanied Willie and added a little bluegrass flavor. This was the last year that Grammy Award-winning artist John Hartford would perform at MerleFest; he died on June 4, 2001, after a long battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. It also was the year that Old Crow Medicine Show appeared in the lineup. Many MerleFest fans were already familiar with the group; a few years previously, they made an unscheduled appearance at the fountain, performing as fans tossed change into an open guitar case. The group dubbed this area “The Fountain Stage” and even made their own cardboard sign indicating such. Others in the 2000 lineup included Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings, Ralph Stanley and The Clinch Mountain Boys, Peter Rowan and the Free Mexican Airforce, Nickel Creek, Claire Lynch, and Frosty Morn, the band established by Merle Watson. A special MerleFest all-star jam included Alison Brown, Laurie Lewis, Rhonda Vincent, Missy Raines, Claire Lynch and Sally Van Meter. Tift Merritt, who won the 2000 Chris Austin Songwriting Contest-country category, noted, “Winning the contest was the first time I was noticed outside of Chapel Hill. I had such a good time and made so many friends here.”

 
Gillian Welch with David Rawlings
 
Tift Merritt