Stephen Bennett is a really good man!
So I had this idea recently that I would like to get a little more information from some of our favorite performers at Winfield. I thought about performers that wwe know, love, and respect, and at the top of my list was virtuoso Stephen Bennett. I sent him a list of my questions, and thankfully he was kind enough to answer my questions. Many, many thanks go out to Stephen for taking the time to answer my questions. I'd like to make a series out of this, so if you have other artists that you'd like me to contact, or additional questions you'd liked asked, please let me know. Here are Stephen's unedited responses:
1. How many years have you been a part of the Walnut Valley Music Festival?
I HAVE ATTENDED MOST YEARS SINCE 1983. THAT YEAR I CAME TO COMPETE AND PLACED SECOND IN THE FLATPICKING CONTEST AND NOT AT ALL IN THE FINGERPICKING. I RETURNED IN 84,85,87,88, AND I THINK ALSO IN 89. I MISSED 1990 BECAUSE MY SON WAS BORN THAT AUGUST. THEN BACK AGAIN IN 91 AND 92. I'M A LITTLE FUZZY ON THE NEXT FEW YEARS, BUT FOR SURE I WAS BACK IN 95, AND I THINK I HAVE PLAYED EVERY WINFIELD SINCE 96.
2. What or who brought you to Winfield that first time?
I STARTED TEACHING GUITAR FULL TIME IN 1982. THE OWNER OF THE SHOP I TAUGHT AT TOLD ME ABOUT WINFIELD, ALTHOUGH HE HAD NEVER BEEN. HE ENCOURAGED ME TO ENTER SOME LOCAL GUITAR CONTESTS, WHICH I DID QUITE WELL AT, AND SO THOUGHT WHY NOT, GO TRY THIS BIG CONTEST OUT IN KANSAS. SO I DROVE OUT TO SEE WHAT IT WAS ALL ABOUT AND HOW I WOULD FARE.
3. Please tell us a story about your first year at Winfield
WE (MY WIFE, MY FRIEND WHO WOULD ACCOMPANY ME IN THE CONTEST, AND I) ARRIVED LATE ON WEDNESDAY NIGHT, SET UP OUR TENT, AND WENT TO SLEEP. A FEW HOURS LATER A CAR PULLED IN VERY CLOSE TO OUR TENT. WHEN YOU ARE IN A TENT AND A CAR PULLS UP RIGHT NEXT TO YOU, IT CAN BE A LITTLE UNNERVING. I POKED MY HEAD OUT OF THE TENT IN THE MORNING AND SAW THAT IT WAS RAINING. THERE WAS A LITTLE PUP TENT SET UP NEXT TO THE CAR THAT HAD PULLED IN AND SOMEONE TOO TALL FOR THE TENT WAS ASLEEP WITH HIS HEAD OUT IN THE RAIN. ANOTHER PERSON WAS ASLEEP IN THE CAR, WHICH ALSO CONTAINED AN UPRIGHT BASS. IT WAS NOT A LARGE CAR, SO THIS PERSON WAS REALLY CRAMMED IN. THAT WAS PAT DONOHUE, WHO WOULD WIN THE FINGERPICKING CONTEST THURSDAY NIGHT, AND THE BASS PLAYER WITH HIS HEAD GETTING RAINED ON WAS DUANE WEBSTER. WE SPENT QUITE A FEW HOURS JAMMING LATE INTO THE NIGHT THAT YEAR AND I HAVE BEEN FRIENDS WITH THESE GUYS EVER SINCE. IN FACT, DUANE OFTEN COMES UP ON STAGE TO PLAY A FEW TUNES WITH ME. PAT AND I HAVE WOUND UP ON THE SAME STAGE AT THE FESTIVAL A FEW TIMES TOO.
4. When you're at the festival, when you’re not playing on stage how do you
spend your time at Winfield?
VISITING WITH FRIENDS (OF WHOM I HAVE ABOUT A BILLION AT THE FESTIVAL AFTER SO MANY YEARS), CHANGING STRINGS, JAMMING, GETTING READY FOR MY NEXT SHOW.
5. What’s your favorite personal Winfield memory or moment?
THERE ARE QUITE A NUMBER OF FAVORITE MOMENTS FOR ME. ONE WOULD BE MY FIRST YEAR. I GOT 2ND PLACE IN THE FLATPICKING CONTEST AND WHEN THE TROPHY AND PRIZE WERE PRESENTED THAT SATURDAY NIGHT, I GOT TO PLAY A TUNE. THE STANDS WERE COMPLETELY FULL, BECAUSE TONY RICE WAS SCHEDULED TO PLAY JUST AFTER THE AWARDS PRESENTATION. I PLAYED MINOR SWING AND GOT A STANDING OVATION. MAN, WHAT A FEELING!
OTHER FAVORITE MOMENTS: ANYTIME HOT RIZE OR RED KNUCKLES AND THE TRAILBLAZERS WOULD PLAY, THE CAMARADERIE OF 2001, INTRODUCING TOMMY EMMANUEL TO THE FESTIVAL IN 2000.
6. Any new music that you’re working on that we might be interested in learning about?
I AM ALWAYS WORKING ON NEW MUSIC. I HAVE A NEW CD OF ALL NEW TUNES WHICH WILL BE READY BY FESTIVAL TIME. IT MAY BE MY BEST WORK YET. I ALSO AM WELL INTO AN ALL VOCAL CD AND THAT WILL BE READY FOR THE FESTIVAL TOO.
7. Will you be at this year’s festival?
ABSOLUTELY!!! SEE YOU THERE.