On October 21, our dear friend and Sandrock recording artist Clyde Davenport turned 94 years old. Bobby Fulcher and I traveled to Clyde’s home in Monticello, Kentucy to celebrate this momentous occasion and spend some time with him, which we always love to do.
We found Clyde in fine form: this fiddling treasure of a man remains healthy and happy.
He was particularly exalted on this great day, simply because he had friends and family gathered round.
This birthday was particularly significant, as it was not entirely clear he would live to see it mere months earlier. Clyde suffered a heart attack this past July. Any possibility of survival required on operation. Doctors warned of a chance he might not survive this procedure. Just in case, he said his good-byes to his daughters. A single tear slipped from his eye.
After forty-five minutes, Clyde emerged, calmly triumphant. “Nothin’ to it,” he reported. Within an hour, we were laughing and sharing stories as he recovered in his room upstairs. The extent of our laughter and rising noise levels was the greatest concern the hospital nurses faced. That, alongside the fact that no one could verify the truth of anything he was saying. We assured them this was normal, not induced by any psycho-physiological change in demeanor—certainly not atypical for his curious, delightful, and eclectic personality. In fact, it was of great assurance to us. Clyde was behaving very much as himself.
Three months later, Bobby and I found Clyde as nonchalantly delightful and content as ever: always ready for a ruse, a chuckle and a tale.
Clyde makes mineral needles that detect gold and silver under ground. He was proud to share his artisanship with us. And, not one to accept a present without one in exchange, he gifted Bobby with three, teaching him how to use them with great ceremony. (I already have my own pair, which have gotten me in trouble with airport security twice-over.)
Clyde’s daughters had made a cake in his own image—holding his beloved fiddle, of course. His devoted wife, Lorene, was waiting in the kitchen by the spread prepared for the birthday Pa.
After making his wish and blowing out candles, Clyde was presented with birthday gifts. Though wary at first, he soon warmed up to the contents.
Bobby had brought him some rather large, carefully decorated potatoes in acknowledgment of Clyde’s tune “Great Taters in Sandy Land.” These taters were delivered with great ceremony.
Upon receipt of these particular taters, carefully chosen and well-traveled, Clyde simply replied: “I’ve seen bigger.”
I was safe with the gift of a warm flannel shirt for the winter.
We left Clyde safe and sound as ever. I do believe both Bobby and I enjoyed the visit every bit as much as dear Clyde. We in this region are lucky to have such a unique man still living. Clyde Davenport is infinitely rich in his character, life story, and musical tradition alike.
For more hilarious moments from Clyde’s 94th birthday party, visit this Flickr page.