In 2009 I was writing an article on an adventure for Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine,
to go along with all my photos and recordings (see the links at the bottom). Here is the part about Allen Shelton...
I met Byron Berline in 1969 while we were both in the Army at Ft. Polk, LA.
In May, we traveled to Baton Rouge, spending the day at Capital
City Sound Studios where Luke Thompson had set up a recording session with
Byron, the Stone Mtn. Boys, Travis Stewart, and another banjo great, Allen Shelton.
Byron Berline, Allen, Luke Thompson, Travis Stewart
Later that day I had another unforgettable experience. I remember being
at someone's house, maybe Luke's, sitting alone with Allen and
his banjo. Allen was in a chair and I was on the floor. I sat there in
awe, firing requests at Allen, and he played every one for me with his
Cheshire Cat smile. There I was, some guy he'd just met. Oh, to have had
my tape recorder then!
In the evening we went to the Old South Jamboree in Walker where they
Allen, Byron, Mitch Land, Tootie Williams (hidden), Lonnie Craft
After the show, the fun really started when some of the guys decided to
jam in the bathroom backstage. Thanks to my big Akai reel-to-reel
recorder with its terrible-quality microphones I was able to capture the
session. It's one of my favorite personal recordings...
Back to 2009. With the help of my friendly fellow members of BanjoHangout on the web,
as well as from Curtis McPeake, I was able to contact Allen's son Todd,
who told me not only did Allen enjoy the music and pictures, but so did
his grandchildren! All were very happy to have me share everything on the web.
As I was writing the second draft of this story in the Fall of 2009, I
found out that Allen had been stricken with leukemia. I contacted Todd
and his wife Nancy, who kept me up-to-date and allowed me to send the
news to the bluegrass community via email and posts on several web
Sadly, Allen lost his battle on November 21, 2009 at the age of
73. I was honored that some of my photos were used in web and print
tributes, including the thoughtful piece by Murphy Henry in the January
2010 issue of Bluegrass Unlimited.
The family also informed me that a CD of my
recording and my photos were used at the funeral home. I feel blessed
that I was able to give back a small gift in return for that unforgettable
memory I received so many years ago.