Concert pays tribute to Rex Locklar

Published 10:45 pm Monday, April 14, 2014

Saturday was a bright, sunny April day and bluegrass was on the breeze. The campers where in place and Henderson Music Park and there was pickin’ in every nook and cranny. The old Henderson schoolhouse was threatening to come tumbling down but pickers and grinners still held court on the 20-foot log bench situated in the building’s shadows. Rex Locklar’s old white Dodge car was right in the path of where anyone would want to go.
Everything was just as it had been for 49 years.
Everything was in place. The only thing missing was “Old Rex,” the Father of Henderson Bluegrass.
Rex Locklar’s recent death left a void that will never be filled, said Gene Lazenby. “We’ve all got a lot of fond memories of Rex and of this place. But there’s a sadness here today as we come to remember Rex – as we come to this — his memorial service.”
Lazenby spoke to the large gathering of Locklar’s friends who sat in lawn chairs, on the tailgates of pickup trucks and on the long log bench. Many stood with heads lowered and several leaned against Old Rex’s Dodge automobile. All joined in the singing the words of “Come one, come all to the family reunion. It might be the last time we’ll meet.”
Lazenby voiced what many were probably thinking — that Saturday would be “the last time we’ll meet.”
Shelby Cargile said that Rex Locklar was the reason bluegrass “folks” had come each April and October for 49 years to the Henderson Bluegrass Festival.
“It’s all about Rex,” he said. “This is Rex’s Bluegrass Festival. It won’t be the same without him. It probably won’t ‘be,’ without him.”
Buddy Smith, the granddad of the “Rivertown Girls,” said Locklar would not want his friends to lament his death.
“We all would like for Rex to be here but God had a different plan for him,” Smith said. “Rex would say for us to go on and have a good time. He would say, ‘I can’t be there but we’ll all see each other again one day.’”
State Representative Alan Boothe read a House of Representative proclamation mourning the death of Locklar.
“The House of Representatives of the State of Alabama recognizes Rex Locklar as an icon in the realm of bluegrass music,” Boothe said. “Rex Locklar loved bluegrass music and he promoted it for a half century.  His legacy will endure.”
Boothe shared a story that illustrated the “character” of Old Rex.
“I was the auctioneer at a nearby auction and Rex came up and asked me to advertise his bluegrass festival,” Boothe said. “I told him that he would have to pay for advertising at the auction. He kind of bristled and left. In a little while he came back and handed me two tickets to the festival. He said they were for my friends. He hoped both of them could come.”
It was Locklar’s zany ways and his love of bluegrass that endeared him to people of all ages and from all walks of life.
Locklar was determined to keep bluegrass alive. He had a strong desire to pass his love of bluegrass down to them “that ain’t dry behind the ears yet.”
Lee Benton and his brother, Alex, have been attending the Henderson bluegrass festivals for only about five years.
“We had come over this way to get a part for our tractor and saw all these campers and heard the music,” Lee Benton said. “We came back that night and listened and we got the urge to play and we’ve been playing ever since.”
Benton laughingly said they learned a lot from what Old Rex called the old codgers and especially from the self-proclaimed old codger, “Old Rex” himself.
“Rex would cut up with you and have fun but he was serious about bluegrass,” Benton said. “The Henderson Music Park is not a fancy place but it’s such a comfortable place to be. It’s laid back and everyone here is family. You just grab a chair and go where the pickin’ is and that’s where you’d always find Rex. He would be right there.”
The monument that was dedicated to the memory of Locklar said just that: “Wherever bluegrass is being played, just close your eyes and you will see just plain ol’ country, just plain ol’ me.”
Richard Folsom said there’s no doubt that, when bluegrass is on the breeze, Old Rex’s friends will always pause for just a moment and remember, the Father of Henderson Bluegrass. “Just plain ol’ Rex that we all loved so much.”

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