As we are heading out to San Francisco this week to play a number of memorial events honoring Warren Hellman, I sit at my computer tonight and reflect on this financially, culturally and musically generous man.
Warren was the creator and financier of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. For more information on him – http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/20/business/warren-hellman-dies-at-77-ex-lehman-president-and-music-festival-founder.html
Over the many years of playing the festival with Robert Earl Keen (I can’t remember a year we didn’t play it – our absolute favorite), Warren became a fan and friend of the band. He always allowed us to close out the Rooster Stage at the festival and always took time to stop by to say hello, swap stories and thank us for performing. A few years back, he flew us out to his place in California to play a party at his “barn”. His band (pre-jimmy Dale Gilmore) the Wronglers were going to open for us. About an hour before they were set to go on, I was wandering around the barn behind the stage and found Warren in one of the stalls with his banjo. Very quickly into our conversation, he admitted he was REALLY nervous about playing that night. I told him that – #1 – everything would be okay and he just needed to have fun and let “the love come out” – the most important thing in a performance. #2 – Not worry about perfection – which will NEVER happen though we should always strive for it. Finally, I told him, “you’re audience tonight is all of your friends and family – they’ll love you no matter what.” He thanked me for the advice and comforting words and as I walked away (to let him warm-up for his set), it struck me that this uber successful man just asked ME for advice. His openness and humility for someone with his success and standing has always stayed with me and his all encompassing love for music will thankfully live on for years to come through the festival that he began and continues to finance even after his passing.