If you go:
What: Live on the Levee
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Haddad Riverfront Park
In the free and easy 1970s, a group of friends and acquaintances ended up on farmland in Putnam County, where they decided to enjoy a simple life of growing their own food, making music and eking out a living in the arts culture.
They could have starved. And maybe would have, if it hadn't been for their kind neighbors, who taught them how to grow food; and for local fans who really liked their music and hired them to play.
"We looked like the 'Grapes of Wrath,'" recalls Ron Sowell. "We were living in lean-tos and old refurbished farmhouses. Some had electricity, some didn't - and I don't think anybody had running water. We grew gardens. It was hippy summer camp."
"There were literally weeks in the winter time where the mud was so deep we couldn't drive in. We had to park and walk in with our backpacks. I developed so much respect for the country people. They just took us under their wings and taught us everything we needed to know to survive. Without the local people, we would have starved to death or frozen to death or whatever."
And yet Sowell recalls those early days as a "magical time."
The friends would gather for potluck dinners and to make music - and many of them were accomplished. Sowell and his then wife, Sandy, were a professional duo who planned just to stay just the summer.
In the summer of 1974, a group of them offered to play for Steve Hill's wife, who worked for the Yesteryear Toy Co. and was planning to man a booth at the Mountain State Art & Craft Fair in Ripley.
They threw together some material and glibly came up with a band name - after all, they'd just be using it for the few days of the festival.
And they were so popular the work started coming in, the biggest break being their "discovery" by the assistant commissioner of arts for the state of West Virginia, who hired them to play an arts showcase.
"And we got so many gigs from that - all of a sudden we were actually making a living," Sowell said. "We played every little town in West Virginia."