Leeann Atherton and Slim Richey

2004 Old Settler's Music Festival



Paul Johnston

Harmonica Workshop

2004 was a very good year for the Old Settler's Music Festival held on April 15-18, 2004 in Driftwood, Texas at the Salt Lick Pavilion next to the Salt Lick Restaurant. Old Settler's has become a nationally known music festival featuring the best in traditional bluegrass, roots and Americana music as well as cutting edge music that pushes the boundaries of traditional blue grass. Attendees of the festival have come to expect a very high caliber of music festival over the years. As usual, the festivians were not disappointed at the high quality presentation for the 17th year of this event. The 30 sponsors, vendors, staff and 400 volunteers deserve a few pats on the back and a thank you for creating another outstanding music festival.

Listen to music, eat, drink and be merry! That's about the bottom line to what's required to participate in the Old Settler's Music Festival. There are more things to see and do there than one could count on both hands and feet. Below is a summary chart of events and activities of the 2004 Old Settler's Music Festival.


Events and Activities Summary Chart - 2004 Old Settler's Music Festival

Five Stages

Kids Activities

Arts & Crafts

Food & Beverages



Youth Talent Competition








Sunday gospel show

Over two dozen bands

armadillo Races

face painting


monster slide

rock climbing wall

kids entertainment

fine handmade items

beer & wine

eclectic healthy group of food & drink vendors

Texas breakfast concessions

big music sales area


CDs & tapes

Camp Ben McCulloch

Musicians 18 years old and younger. Bands / vocal groups (maximum of five members per group) and solo acts are eligible.

Maximum of two songs (or 10 minutes).

Songs should be in the Americana roots music tradition -- bluegrass, country, blues, gospel or traditional.

Only acoustic instruments are permitted -- no amplifiers or electronics.

One can see from the above that Old Settler's is like a musical amusement park. All one has to do is just pick what they want to do and enjoy!

Saturday was the day of the festival that I attended. Arriving a little after 1 PM, I found the parking located directly adjacent to the festival full. Down the road about six tenths of a mile was a free overflow parking area. This saved five bucks as I was not having to pay for private parking. Volunteers manned this auxiliary parking area and pointed out where to park. This parking field was huge! After about 10 minutes, a shuttle bus came by and picked us up, made a swing through the camping area and then on to the festival site. My understanding was that there were three shuttle buses in constant motion throughout the festival. The shuttle system seemed to work just fine, another example of thorough planning by the festival committee.

Photography of the musical performers is my prime objective. As mentioned before, there is plenty of good talent to pick from. Everyone performing at the festival is very talented. I would select a talent and cruise on over to see if I could get in good position for photography. I was not trying to cover everything, just enjoy myself and photograph what I could.

The neat thing about the festival's present location is the number and types of stages available. The Hill Country Stage is a giant stage befitting any large concert venue with giant talent and giant crowds. The Discovery Stage is a small stage within a good size building. This year all of the musical workshops were held here which was an excellent idea. In the past, sometimes the musical talent would draw a crowd that was just too big for the building. Having the numerous workshops there solved that problem.

The Green Mountain Armadillo Stage is a small stage on one end of one building at the festival site. Depending on the sun, the performers are provided shade and the audience stand/sit in the small field in front of them. The Bluebonnet Stage is located in the most scenic area of the festival. This stage is a medium sized tented stage located in the flood plain of a small stream and water fall. Giant pecan trees populate a large green grassy area. If one wants to get out of the sun and truly enjoy a very beautiful area of the festival while relaxing, then this is the area you want to head for.

Finally, the campground stage is a small covered stage at Camp Ben McColluch that hosts musical talent scheduled to perform there for the benefit of the campers or provided a place for the campers to have a musical jam session.

Pat Green and Jeff Clark

Danny Santos

The first stage I attended was the Armadillo Stage and heard the sweet voice of Emily Graves followed by harmonica and guitar work of Pat Green and Jeff Clark. After that, I headed over to the nearby Bluebonnet Stage to catch Danny Santos who has a pleasant stage presence and puts on a good show. Danny has appeared before at the Old Settlers Music Festival.

After watching Danny for a while, I went back over to the Armadillo Stage to catch Slim Richey and the Dream Band. Slim bills himself as "the most dangerous guitar player in Texas". Slim specializes in playing classic jazz music. His band is very, very good! Who would have guessed that jazz would show up at Old Settler's, but it did. Slim was a performer at last year's festival. Slim's wife Francie White plays the upright bass. She too is very, very good! Django Porter accompanies the band with his gypsy guitar. Django too is very, very good! Ms. Leeann Atherton sang the jazz vocals. Leeann is such a wonderful singer. Slim and Leeann recently finished a jazz album together called "Limited Edition". A couple sets after the Dream Band performed, Leeann came back with her own band and performed rhythm and blues. Yep, she is a very versatile singer!

Sam, member of Leeann Atherton Band

Django Porter

Ms. Leeann Atherton

The last musical act on the Armadillo Stage was a group of three young shy musicians, a fiddle player, mandolin player and a guitar player. You guys were very good! Keep up the good work! I apologize for failing to record your names.

Other bands and performers enjoyed on Saturday were Peter Rowan, Vassar Clements, Two High String Band, Open Road with their one microphone old style of performing, Trish Murphy and Natalie MacMaster.

Peter Rowan

Two High String Band

Trish Murphy

Natalie MacMaster

Of all the acts seen by me, Natalie MacMaster was the absolute show stopper! She was all over the stage as she simultaneously played her Irish fiddle and danced a jig. High energy and soaring spirits barely capture the description of her clog hopping Irish fiddle style of playing.

Natalie is a first class performer!

Backstage at the Bluebonnet Stage, it was fun to watch the performers come and go. I had a nice chat with Peter Rowan about life as a performing musician. The festival provided food and drink for the entertainers and used electric golf carts to ferry their musical instruments to parking areas. In a past interview with festival worker bee Randy Collier, he wanted the performers to be well taken care of. He made sure that the backstage catering was first class so that the performers would want to come back to perform again. It looks like the festival is continuing this tradition.

Overall, most attendees would give Old Settlers Music Festival close to a perfect score on organization and execution of plan. Giving the festival a perfect score on the quality level of entertainment is an easy thing to do. Night time lighting of the porta potty areas and the auxiliary parking areas was good. The shuttle bus service to the auxiliary parking area was good upon exiting the festival near midnight.

Improvements needed would be the addition of hand washing stations throughout the festival area. One sink with running water was noticed a short distance west of the Armadillo Stage. This was much appreciated. However, the liquid soap container was emptied early on in the day. Maybe some bar soap could also be supplied here. Hand washing stations are not something one normally finds at festivals. The addition of hand washing stations is something that would be immediately appreciated by all and set the Old Settler's Music Festival completely apart from other music festivals.

Well, partner, there you have it, the 2004 Old Settler's Music Festival.


Copyright - 2004 - Paul Johnston