Commonwealth Journal

Local News

March 11, 2014

Fallen Bluegrass Music legend remembered

Rutherford will be honored with ceremony at Somerset Cemetery

(Continued)

Somerset —

After Rutherford’s grave was found, Neal contacted Ogle again and they began discussing placing a grave marker on Rutherford’s plot.  
“During our conversation, we tossed around the idea of having a ceremony at some point, maybe even of having performances of his music played during the ceremony, and I got pretty excited about the idea,” said Neal. 
Now, with Rutherford’s 116th birthday on March 22 fast approaching, the wheels are in motion for the ceremony that will celebrate Rutherford’s short life (Rutherford died at 53 years old). 
“This isn't going to be a sad, funeral-type of ceremony,” said Neal. “It's a celebration of his musical accomplishments, and we hope that, even if you didn't know Mr. Rutherford, if you're a fan of music, especially Bluegrass music, you'll take a little time to come help us honor him, and you'll get to enjoy some classic old time music in the process.”
According to information garnered by Neal and Ogle in their research, Rutherford was born on March 22, 1898, the son of Henry and Margaret Pyles Rutherford. Rutherford lived in Somerset, though he had roots in Wayne County. 
Rutherford learned to sing and play the fiddle early, catching Burnett’s attention when he was only 14 years old. Burnett, who needed a traveling companion, convinced Rutherford’s parents to let the teenager travel with him and play “old mountain” or “old time” music — now known as Bluegrass. Burnett became a mentor to Rutherford, so much so that Leonard even referred to Burnett and his
wife as "mama" and "papa." Eventually, Leonard's own parents died, and he continued staying with the Burnett family.
Burnett, who was shot in the face during a robbery in Wayne County, turned to music to support his family after the injury left partially blind and unable to work in the oil fields where he once had made his living. Although Neal and Ogle point out that some varying theories exist, they said many people believe Burnett is responsible for composing a song called “The Farewell Song,” now known as “Man of Constant Sorrow,” a folk song made popular in recent years through the movie “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

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