CENTRAL CITY, KENTUCKY, USA
BEG, STEAL or BORROW, but make sure to get there!
Heroes Phil and Don Everly decided, some ten years ago now, to help their home town out of financial troubles. The police department needed new radio equipment real badly and the budget was not sufficient. Don and Phil donated the money, but that was not all. A new era for Central City began in 1987 when Phil and Don agreed to do a benefit concert in Don's home town Central City. In fact Don was not born in Central City, but in Brownie, but it is so near to Central City that the claim is legal and acceptable. Phil was not born in Kentucky at all but in Chicago. Brownie does not exist any longer. It was demolished many years ago and nothing is left there except for bushes and memories.
Since the first benefit concert that the Everlys did things have changed for the better in Central City. By now the "Homecoming" festival has turned into a yearly event on Labour day and the week before that. The concerts attract thousands of music lovers from all over the world. Especially Everly and John Prine fans travel for many many hours to be there. Apart from every state in the USA, Everly fans from the following countries attended the concert(s) during the last 6 years: UK, The Netherlands, Germany, Canada, France, Poland and Japan.
There is an EVERLY BROTHERS FOUNDATION in Central City, and they have, together with the help of some 600 volunteers, to deal with the tremendous job when the town gets hectic and has to deal with a crowd that has been more then four times Central City's population.
During the first few years the festivals net proceeds were spent on the creation of a college scholarship. By the time the Everly Brothers Founda- tion had enough money to fund eight $ 1,000 scholarships each year, it started heading for other plans. An Everly (and other musicians) museum is planned as well as a centre where an audience can sit down and listen to live music.
If you reach Central City on the Western Kentucky Parkway only the blind can miss the large sign that marks the 83 acre piece of land that the foundation bought for this purpose.
The first donation to the museum is hidden in a "secret" garage somewhere in Central City, but Phil Everly's vintage 1960s black Cadillac went on display at a parking lot in Central City last year. A lot of people did not know it belonged to Phil.
The success of the Homecoming Concerts must have been a very welcome one for Central City and its population. It must have showed them that, in spite of serious depression, things can change for the better. Two new motels opened their doors for visitors during the last few years.
Visitors who plan to go to Central City for can expect to see the new, soon to be opened, $ 37 million Dollar medium security State prison.
Do you really need to know all this before you finally make up your mind about going to Central City? Of course not, but it helps. It certainly is useful to know a tiny bit of history about this little jewel in Western Kentucky. This city was first mentioned as Morehead's Horse Hill in 1870.
A guy called John Stroud, who tried to enlarge his property, bought the land from Morehead and called it Stroud City in 1873. Some years later Stroud City became known as Owensboro Junction. It was not until 1882 that the town got his present name CENTRAL CITY. I know that in Kentucky Magazine issue 55 my good pal Martin Alberts did a story on his (our) experiences during his visit in 1992. It is not my goal to outdo him in any way, but I must admit that I had this incredible urge to put my own, sometimes emotional, but most of all glorious experience in print. I honestly hope that the story of my odyssey may persuade you (as a true and dedicated Everly Brothers fan) of the need to go out there and see for yourself what this is all about. It is a breathtaking experience, and absolutely one you will never forget. I talked about recession, and I know that this is a hot item here in Europe as well as in the USA, and all around the world. But please save up your money, buy a ticket and fly to the USA. You will absolutely not regret it.
Central City welcomes you with open arms, and is delighted to have you there. They are constantly busy to prove to you no problem or desire is impossible for them to solve. They are proud of their city (as they should be).
They are happy to share their stories, their wit and their home with you, If... you are open to them too. Coming from a rather large and busy city where I hardly know who my neighbour is, where I have to fight for a parking space and where everyday struggle is a reality, I must admit that I was kind of paranoid when I first visited Central City. It felt like something out of the book/movie "The Stepford Wives" by Ira Levin. Why are all these people so nice and friendly? What do they want from me? What's in the air here? Or what do they put in the water supply to make people so friendly and inviting? By now I know better. They want nothing from me except to start learning to know me. I also now recognise and have learned to appreciate that famous Southern hospitality. Central City keeps you busy, so be prepared for a hectic week, although you can slow down a bit when you really want to. But I'll bet you do not even have the time to think about it. Time does fly. Particularly when you are in a perfect mood and when you are surrounded by so many fine people.
In an article like this is it impossible to mention names of all the people who are either involved with the organisation,or that touched me one way or the other. One always forget a few, and that might be hurtful to anyone accidentally omitted. So I decided not to go into prolonged lists. But I can not do this piece without mentioning just a few. First of all there is the wonderful, energetic Mrs. Diane Burch. She and her staff do a perfect job. If you, as a future traveller to Central City, have any problem, be sure to go to the City Hall and ask her for advice or help. This lady sure knows what her job is all about, and... she seems to enjoy what she is doing. If you attend the "Muhlenberg Everly Brothers Fan Club Night" you will without any doubt, run into that spectacular lady Marilyn Kirtley. She and her girls (yes, you too Suzy and Nancy) make you feel at home. Her Twilight Drive-in looks comfortable and cosy. The food was very good and the music was perfect, and do not forget that that is the night where you might run into the Everly penpal that you have never met before. It is very presumably that he or she is there as so many Everly Brothers fans from around the globe do meet there.
There unquestionably is one man I cannot afford not to mention. The extra- ordinarily friendly Mr. Ted Everly is not just Phil and Don's cousin, he is also a member of the Everly Brothers Foundation. He runs the Welborn/Everly car sale company on Everly Brothers Boulevard, and is the Rev. of the "Light House Baptist Church" in Central City.
He is the son of Leonard Everly and Mary Louise Ralph.His daddy was (together with) Charles Bennett (uncle Charley) and Isac Milford (uncle Ike) a member of the original Everly Brothers. All were the children of Issac Melford Everly and Mary Delilah Norris who produced a family of nine altogether. All of these kids must have been musical talents in their own right. Let's not forget that Aunt Hattie was the one who introduced the well known "drum beat" to the by now famous Muhlenberg Sound, and let's not forget that all Everly's play the guitar and so do Ted and his son David.
Ted Everly is everywhere. His main concern seems to be being your friend. He has a photographic memory when it comes to names. Be assured that once you have been introduced he knows your name. He is very charitable with his time, and is always willing to spend time with you or help you out if there are certain problems, even though he must have a chaotic schedule. As you get to know him better he likes to share some of his early memories with you, and... he is extremely proud and affectionate of his famous cousins. He also is a very honest and sincere man. He seems (to me) rather emotional too, and that is something I truly like in people.
When a few of us suggested we would love to do a tour through the area to visit all the Everly prominent places in the area, this amazing man, without reluctance promised, to drive us round and he took care of this in his very own relaxed and special way.
He took a group of approximately 15 of us in a bus (Everly fans in cars followed us) for a trip around what we call places of interest. If you remember the "Rock and Roll Odyssey" or the BBC Arena TV production called "Songs Of Innocence And Experience" you know precisely what I'm talking about. Yes, we went to the old (by now closed) mine shafts, we passed that tiny underpass where the Everly Brothers graffiti once was (Central City should consider getting a good replacement for that piece of graffiti). We went to Rose Hill Cemetery and paid a visit to Ike's grave. He showed us the land that the Foundation has bought. In fact he showed us everything that could have been important to all of us Everly freaks who came along for this wonderful excursion. In his own charming way he told us the stories he knew and remembered from back then. He showed us Brownie, his own house as well as some of the houses of his family members and... he did not want anything from us in return for all this. We made a collection and he did not want to take our money. When one of us suggested he should consider taking the money and use it for his church, only then he accepted it, but we really had to force it on him. Even if I never return to Central City again, Mr. Ted Everly is a guy I will not lightly forget.
And now you non USA readers who yet have not made the important step across the Atlantic, and you USA citizens, who think a couple of hours car drive (or plane travel) is just too much bother, let me tell you: you are wrong. It certainly is worth every mile and every dollar. I do not care if you have a phobia for planes, I do not care if you do not have the money. What happened to your credit cards?? I realise very well that I cannot "look into your wallet", neither can I order you to go. But... for the true and dedicated Everly fan Central City absolutely is what Graceland is to Elvis fans. There is a very important difference though. While Graceland is a rather commercial and a bit tacky experience (in my opinion), Central City is pure, honest, nice, sweet and most of all it is there for you. I truly hope this article may convince another dozen Everly fans of the cultural need to go there in for the next "Homecoming" which is as always scheduled again for Labour day weekend.
By: Peter Aarts