robert

Set the dial on your time machine to the 30s and 40s for some vintage bluegrass and folk music, and then speed up the dial a bit with a trip to the rocking 50s, 60s and Twenty-Tens as plenty of great music fills the airwaves in the days and weeks to come.

Music enthusiasts will have the great opportunity this coming Sunday night and again on Oct. 12 to sample some of the great musical entertainment that our local bluegrass, blues, rock and folk artists have at their fingertips.

The Time Traveler and the crew at the Historic DeSoto Foundation/DeSoto County Museum will be hosting, along with the Krewe of Hernando and DeSoto Arts Council, the “Cabin Fever Bluegrass Benefit Concert” this Sunday evening, Sept. 8 beginning at 6 p.m. and lasting until about 9:30 p.m.

The famous Kolodner Quartet from Maryland will be the headliners along with a duo of great local artists, Brian Blake and Tony Manard, two well-known acts to Memphians, Mississippians and Mid-Southerners alike. Sonny Daniels’ world-famous barbecue, hot dogs, ice cream and other cool, delectable treats will be in store. Daniels, who is also a world class woodcarver will carve collectible writing pens from 152-year-old timbers taken from the cabin during its restoration. The one-of-a-kind ink pens will be available for $35 a piece. A portion of the proceeds from barbecue plates and the ink pens will be donated to help repair the fragile, dilapidated cabin so that it can be utilized well into the future.

Again, this Sunday the gates open at 6 p.m. Front row seating is $15 and general admission seating is $12. The event is a benefit, meaning all tax-deductible ticket proceeds will go toward the historic cabin’s renovation.

Music lovers are also in for a treat next month as well. On Oct. 12, the 6th annual Front Porch Jubilee will take center stage at the historic Clifton Gin with musical acts that include the legendary Travis Wammack, the great Kenny Brown, Duane Burnside, Cosmic Hate Destroyers, Lightning Malcolm and R.L. Boyce, Lately David and Johnny and Maryanne Pickett among others. The fun on Oct. 12 starts at 12:30 p.m. and goes late into the night. The Krewe of Hernando, Chatham, Gilder, Howell and Pittman Law Firm and Dr. John Allen Ferguson with Animal Medical Center are among the sponsors of that event.

The Front Porch Jubilee event is a benefit for another venue in dire need of preserving, the historic Von Theater.

The Von Theater was built in 1940 and is located on the corner of West Center Street and East Street. As did many theaters of that era, it had a ‘colored balcony’ in the days of segregation. It was renamed Bon Theater in the mid-1960’s by country-western singer Eddie Bond.

After closing it became a medical clinic operated by Methodist Healthcare. That has since closed and in August 2009, there was talk about refurbishing the theater to become a community performing arts center. While those plans are still taking shape, a long-range agreement has been reached to eventually return the Von to its glory days.

The building is currently owned by local developer and preservationist Jim Seay.

Pieces of the building’s storied past can be found in the nooks and crannies of the upstairs attic and in the labyrinth of rooms, some of which have been converted into apartments.

The floor timbers were pressure-treated creosote. The walls were 12-inch thick brick construction. All seats were padded and a water-cooling system was erected on the roof.

School buses transported rural children to and from the movie house on Saturdays and Sundays, according to those who attended matinees as children.

During World War II, the Von Theater barely made expenses until Memphis officials appointed a censor to screen movies in Memphis.

Hernando had no such censor and soon crowds from Memphis began arriving in Hernando to watch shows that couldn’t be shown in Memphis.

The seating was increased to 500, a wide screen was installed, and the theater was sold several times during the next few years.

Bond was the last owner to operate the building as a movie theater. Bond changed the name of the theater from Von to Bon in the 1960s to reflect the new ownership but left the “D” off the marquee.

It’s current owner, Jim Seay, once revealed a little secret. Underneath the existing floors of the Bon Von Gifts store lie the original theatre seats.

Only the popcorn and Raisinettes are lacking to still enjoy a great show! Until then, join the Time Traveler for two great concerts — this coming Sunday night and Oct. 12. See you when the picking and fiddling starts!

ROBERT LEE LONG  is Curator of the DeSoto County Museum.

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