Kenny Stinson & Perfect Tym’n is a relatively little-known bluegrass band that comes from Frankfort, Kentucky. Composed of three family members and two additional sidemen, they present a picture of a hard-working, blue collar band who earn their fee every time they play. They were one of two featured bluegrass bands scheduled on Thursday at the Florida Bluegrass Classic, which I attended last weekend. But they ended up playing a larger role than expected.
Ernie Evans and his wife, Debi, are Evans Media Source, which is a primarily Florida company promoting music festivals and providing additional services (sound, event management, a radio program, music themed cruises, and more). They had moved a festival they owned from the famed speed trap of Waldo, Florida, some ninety miles south to the Florida Classic Park near Brooksville, which had previously been used primarily for dog shows. The Florida Bluegrass Classic, although it was an outgrowth of a previous festival, was essentially new. The site was unused to music festivals, although it had handled large groups of RV’ers for dog shows. This was the third year for the Florida Bluegrass Classic.
Recently, Ernie has been gradually moving from a traditional bluegrass concept to one that includes classic country music and is based on a five-day format rather than the traditional three- or four-day format featured by most festivals, while adding additional colors to the musical pallette. He encourages campers to begin arriving on Monday, offers a surprise music event on Tuesday night for ticket holders, has hired an activities director to organize and encourage activities during the week, holds a covered dish supper on Wednesday, and generally works to build an active and interactive community focused on music and fun. The new formula has helped build the size of his festivals, and is augmented by strong outreach to groups who are not necessarily music lovers, such as camping clubs, and the massive senior population that has migrated to Florida. He has also endeavored to lower the average age of his attendees by about a decade, as the traditional bluegrass audience is pretty gray.
Kenny Stinson & Perfect Tym’n were a perfect band to perform in Thursday’s lineup, which also featured the quite popular, and familiar to this festival’s audience, Nothin’ Fancy. Greg Bird, a karaoke country singer whose melodious baritone voice is familiar to attendees at Evans’ festivals, opened the festival singing and encouraging others to take a turn at the microphone. Stinson’s band took the stage, performing with high energy and great enthusiasm, and was rewarded with a strong positive response, even though they were unknown to even the audience’s more bluegrass-aware members. Here’s an example of their performance from that first set, singing “It’s Raining in LA,” a song made familiar by IIIrd Tyme Out.
In bluegrass, it’s a band’s responsibility to arrive backstage an hour before their performance begins. Shortly before 2 p.m. on Friday, emcee Jo Odom began looking at her watch. Then she told Ernie she was looking for a band that hadn’t arrived. Evans discovered that a rising young country/bluegrass singer would not be appearing as scheduled that afternoon or evening, claiming he thought his show was on Saturday. Odom said she thought Stinson might be available. Despite a tight schedule, the Stinson band agreed to sandwich in afternoon and evening sets, even though they knew the audience would be disappointed not to see the no-show performer. Evans immediately called Stinson, who had left the grounds 90 minutes before, after spending the night and jamming with local pickers. Stinson turned around and returned to the park, pulling up behind the stage as the preceding band was completing its encore.
The first afternoon set was scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. The emcee was desperately gesturing to the preceding band to stretch its time as the Stinson motorhome pulled up behind the stage. Ronda Stinson, hair still wet, noted they had just left the beach, as they laid down a powerful, lively, and exciting set, leapt off the stage after an encore, and sped the 30 miles south to their show in Zephyr Hills, a major Florida retirement area with many mobile homes and doublewide communities whose senior centers sponsor weekend entertainment. Meanwhile, Nothin’ Fancy was rescheduled to allow Stinson a little extra time and leaving them with responsibility to close the night. Stinson returned with just enough time to get back on stage, exhausted, but concluding with another high energy performance that proved entirely satisfying to the promoter, the band, and the audience.
There are several lessons to be learned here, not least of which is that a contract is a contract. But, more important, at least to Kenny Stinson & Perfect Tym’n, is that they have it — perfect timing that is. They proved their reliability and performed far beyond expectations, receiving accolades from novice and experienced audience members for their dynamism, personality, and musicality. While not a polished, smooth band, they were exciting and fun to watch. Ernie Evans said: “He is one of the best values a promoter will ever have.”