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Hot Tuna at Merlefest, 2006. Left to right, Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen and Barry Mitterhof.

MerleFest is an annual Americana music festival held in Wilkesboro, North Carolina at Wilkes Community College at the end of April. The festival is hosted by legendary guitar player Doc Watson and is named for his son, Eddy Merle Watson, who died in a farming accident in 1985. The four-day-long festival was founded in 1988 and now attracts more than 85,000 participants, making it the largest folk music festival in the United States. Its annual economic impact on northwestern NC exceeds $14 million and the festival has contributed nearly $7,300,000 to Wilkes Community College.

MerleFest offers a generation and genre crossing mix of traditional and contemporary roots music, bringing together the very best of Bluegrass, contemporary acoustic, blues, folk, old-time music, Cajun, jazz, and singer-songwriter musics. Artists can often be enjoyed in on-stage jam sessions featuring unusual combinations of musicians, such as Bob Weir, formerly of the Grateful Dead guesting with Sam Bush and Gillian Welch with the Waybacks in 2006. Other artists who have performed on MerleFest's twelve stages over the first 19 years have included Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Earl Scruggs, The Kruger Brothers, John Prine, Alison Krauss and Union Station, Donna the Buffalo, Natalie MacMaster, Vassar Clements, Hot Tuna, David Grisman, Ricky Skaggs, Emmylou Harris, Jerry Douglas, Del McCoury, Junior Brown, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Elvis Costello, Howard Armstrong, Sharon Gilchrist, The Avett Brothers, Tony Rice, Old Crow Medicine Show, and the everybodyfields.

Some performers willing to step outside their traditional musical "comfort zone" is what the festival staff consider one of the things that add the "plus" to the trademark description as being "traditional-plus". Whether it's playing with other musicians or performing solo outside their usual genre, with Dolly Parton and Marty Stuart as examples of Nashville artists who have been successful at Merlefest, it's what makes the festival special, says director B Townes.[1]

References

  1. ^ Ruby, Dan (accessed 10 March, 2008)Festival Preview

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