Contributed by Sandra Padgett
MENTONE, Ala. — Jim Connor, a Bluegrass Hall of Fame banjo player and songwriter, who is best known for his tune “Grandma’s Feather Bed” made popular by John Denver will perform on Saturday, March 16, in Mentone from 6-8 p.m.
His grandmother Florence Setzer was a major influence on his life and music. From the 1920s to the 1970s, she owned and ran Setzer’s Boarding House in the Woodlawn area of Birmingham which was frequented by many musicians. Jim visited often and enjoyed her nightly stories and traditional songs. Her songs were not the current ones on the radio, they were the ones passed from generation to generation.
When he went to Harvard, Jim was surprised that many New England people also knew and enjoyed those traditional songs. In 1964 at the Great Southern Folk Music Jamboree at the Alabama State Fair, Granny Florence at age 86, brought the house down as she sang her ballads of Appalachia accompanied by grandson Jim Connor on banjo and guitar.
Jim was a member of the Kingston Trio (1968-1973). Earlier he had formed a duo with Richard Lockmiller called R & J. They toured Europe and England with success; and recorded an album while in London. They also opened Barbra Streisand’s original New York Nightclub Show. During this time on the road, Jim wrote many letters to family and friends. Years later while cleaning out his banjo case he found a letter recalling the happy times with his eight cousins at Granny’s Boarding House. He wrote about the ‘feather bed’ they all slept upon and it inspired Jim’s song, “Grandma’s Feather Bed” which became one of John Denver’s greatest worldwide hits at the peak of Denver’s career in the 1970s onward.
Jim has played harmonica for Claire Lynch and for Linda Ronstadt on “Love Is A Rose” and has appeared in Specials with Dolly Parton, The Wayfarers, Judy Collins, and John Denver plus dozens more of Nashville and Hollywood Stars. He has multiple gold and platinum records for his songs and work with most of the above artists. In 2018, Jim was inducted into the Alabama Bluegrass Hall of Fame.
Jim attended Harvard College, West Alabama U., and Birmingham Southern. He and his wife Dr. Cynthia Connor, who is an associate professor at Jacksonville State University, love Mentone! In 1988 they were married at St Joseph Episcopal Church and their reception was at the original Mentone Springs Hotel.. Jim expresses the soul, heart and voice of our mountains.
Don’t miss this special event at temporary performance venue to the Mentone Art & Culture Center (formerly Kamama) 5951 AL Hwy 117, Mentone on Saturday March 16, 2019 from 6 - 8 pm. Admission is $10 (donation). For further information, call 256-674-3366.