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Museum celebrates legendary musical heritage

May 21st, 2008 | 0

Ask any local about Neal McCormick and they will tell you that Neal gave Hank Williams his first real job in the music business. They’ll say that Neal invented a four-sided steel guitar and that he was the first man to play an electrified instrument at The Grand Ol’ Opry.
All those things are true, but Neal McCormick was so much more than that. He gave a lot of local musicians their first jobs. He opened a hugely popular dance hall in Panama City and hosted a country music show on a Pensacola radio station for years. He broke through musical barriers against Native Americans, advocated for the various tribes and was eventually made a full chief. Even in his later years, McCormick continued to play and delight listeners. Along with brother Earl, Neal’s band regularly played in Mossy Head every Saturday night, always drawing a crowd.
He knew everyone who was anyone in Nashville, including Roy Acuff, Bill Monroe and others, and was the mentor of the man most consider to be the greatest country music star ever, Hank Williams.
Throughout Neal McCormick’s life, music was always the driving force. In honoring McCormick and his life, the  Heritage Museum of Walton County is presenting the third annual Neal McCormick Day & Bluegrass Festival on Saturday, May 31, at the Museum and the Lakeyard amphitheater in DeFuniak Springs.
The guest speaker will be Peggy O’Neal, who was Neal’s second wife and longtime recording partner. She will give a talk on McCormick’s life and times and his contributions to country music.
The music begins at 4 p.m. at the amphitheater. The WaCo Ramblers will open the show. The immensely popular Ramblers are from Walton County, hence the WaCo spelling, and appear throughout the Panhandle and all over the South playing bluegrass and “new-grass.”
The McCormicks are next with their polished gospel music sound. The McCormicks, which includes Neal’s second wife, Peggy O’Neal and son Tommy McCormick, play Southern Gospel music from the heart and draw fans all over northwest Florida.
Rounding out the show is another of Walton County’s favorite groups, Dread Clampitt. DeFuniak residents will remember seeing them at the Chautauqua Theater at the most recent Chautauqua Assembly. This south Walton band of bluegrass aficionados have their own unique sound and have appeared at MossyHeadz and at festivals throughout the tri-states and beyond.
Food and beverages will be available and there’ll be a blind auction to raise money for the Museum. Best of all, admission is free.

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