Let’s travel back to a time when the music was good and the not-so-delicate scent of body odor filled the air: Morristown, Ohio 1996.
Place the tape in the deck and press play.
Disclaimer: It’s been 21 years – I probably have a lot wrong here. However, if we’re being honest, my recollection ability probably wouldn’t have been much stronger that Monday morning 21 years ago. Hey, it’s Jamboree y’all.
Track One: Clint Black – State of Mind
“Ain’t it funny how a melody, can bring back a memory!” That’s country music poetry and cannot be more relevant for the souls who have experienced Jamboree in the Hills at any time in the last 41 years. Listening to this song from Clint Black, a 1995 performer, places me in the magical rolling hills of Belmont County. If you try hard enough, you can feel the squished mixture of hay, mud and beer from the previous night beneath your feet, the smell of sin-soaked tarp, the burn of a scalding hot peppers-and-cheese, the anxiety of not making it through the PortaJohn line in time, the joy of finding lost friends and meeting new ones (especially the ones of who have full coolers), and the late night and early morning cross-campground mating calls rocking you to sleep. Priceless.
This is just one story of millions. 1996, the 20th anniversary. I was 21.
Track Two: Sammy Kershaw – Queen of My Double Wide Trailer
The previous year, 1995, was nearly a wash-out. Huge storm systems visited the hills, bringing tornado warnings and performance delays. It also made places like our Valleyview Campground so muddy you didn’t know where the Natural Light ended and the puddles began. So we thought we were smart(er) in 1996, and had the genius idea of renting a 25 foot U-haul to live in to avoid that boggy mess. This “redneck roost” surely kept us dry, but 1996 was a hot one, so you can imagine the bouquet of lovely scents this oven produced over 5 days. We started unbearably cooking -our own bodies, that is- around six each morning. That didn’t give us enough time to sleep off the hangover, but it was just early enough to enjoy a beer with breakfast.
Track Three: Mary Chapin Carpenter – Down at the Twist and Shout
One way to escape the heat of the U-Haul, besides drinking 14 beers, was to go for a walk. In yet another moment of brilliance, my friend Rocheambeau and I went for a walk that Friday morning to get me a tattoo. I was in the mood for a West Virginia state outline. The walk to the Exxon was about 2 miles (or in Jamboree math, five beers), so by the time we arrived there was no hesitation on my part; the only problem was the tattoo artist, who in a rare moment of Jamboree sensibility, refused to ink me without an accurate rendering of the Mountain State to guide his hand. Despite the freehand drawing I produced on the back of a Charlie Daniels plastic koozie, he sent me back to the mayhem. Tattoo-less.
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Track Four: The Charlie Daniels Band – Long Haired Country Boy
Another way to avoid the U-Haul would be to simply not sleep at all. I chose that path after Hank Williams Jr. closed Friday night. After walking the coolers back to the camp, I gave up any chance of campground tent romance and make the ultimate sacrifice: I headed back in line to wait six hours for the “Redneck Run”.
There are moments in your life that seem more important than others. Times when you least expect any significance can turn you upside down and leave imprints that change you for better or worse forever. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m not from the “country”. In 1996 I drove a Mazda 626 GT Turbo, and even though I truly love the country music of the mid-90’s, the redneck run line was my Lion, Witch, and The Wardrobe moment. On the other side of that door my new friends helped me transcend from Dave Matthews and hacky sacks into a world where I chewed Mail Pouch Tobacco, judged hidden tattoos, learned the words to Tom T. Hall songs, and slept on and off on a bed of gravel and spittoon juice.
Track Five: Faith Hill – Wild One
Time for the run, an O.J. Simpson leap over an unfortunate fallen soldier and a dive with the tarp, spread like an eagle and pass out to wait for the second shift. Of course they don’t relieve me for another four hours and I endure the announcements of the day on the loud speaker. “Jennie Mae Johnson, your mother says she still loves you and sorry for pouring whiskey on you, please meet her at Blue B…..there are a set of keys here to an S-10 with a key chain that reads, ‘save a horse, ride a cowboy’, you can pick those up at the souvenir tent and it’s going to be a hot one today, always remember the signs of dehydration and know the medical tent opens at 11AM.”
Track Six: Blackhawk – Goodbye Says it All
Some say Sunday, but Saturday is the best. Especially in 1996, with Mary Chapin Carpenter, John Michael Montgomery, Brooks and Dunn and our favorite: Blackhawk. 1170 band kicks it off and the fun begins. My sojourn from the night before has landed us prime real estate: fourth row back from the stage, right center. We are so close we could smell Tanya Tucker’s hair if it didn’t already smell like 70,000 people who haven’t brushed their teeth since Tuesday. The spray-bottle-old-pervert-guys are like a sprinkled collection of Michaelangelos painting their masterpieces with lukewarm water on their muses, while the cooler dancers and the shirtless warriors unite in solidarity to Joe Diffie’s “John Deere Green”.
Damn, I wish I was going this year! There’s nothing like it. To those of you who are going and to the unfortunate souls who are not, please share your own Jambo memories here or on our Facebook thread and we will archive them for the ages.