“The Charlottesville Bicentennial Ballad”

Fun fact: Art Garfunkel backed the recording of a song commemorating Charlottesville in 1976. But how did that come to be?

First you have to know that Art Garfunkel lived in Cobham back in the 70s. Paul Simon’s musical partner had been hounded out of his prior home by the media, and had moved to Albemarle for some privacy. The estate of Beau Val was his new home—now Keswick Vineyards—and it worked out, in that the media left him alone.

The second thing to know is that 1976—the bicentennial—was a Big Deal in Charlottesville. That’s when the Rotunda was restored to Jefferson’s design from Stanford White’s redesign, Queen Elizabeth visited (for whom half of the municipal band accidentally played the national anthem, rather than “God Save the Queen”), and President Gerald Ford was the speaker at Monticello’s citizenship ceremony on Independence Day. History was in the air.

Album Cover

Local sign painter and banjo player Arthur Stubbs had written a song about Charlottesville that he wanted to record. Garfunkel—through what connection, I have no idea—served as the silent backer for the production, which was done at Carl Handy’s Monticello Records. The resulting record was “The Charlottesville Bicentennial Ballad,” the cover of which portrayed a soldier in a tri-corner hat, playing the banjo, standing in front of Monticello. Handy’s nephew, David, related this story on an Art Garfunkel fan website last year, where he explained that he’s been unable to find any evidence that anybody else has a copy of this record (though surely somebody must), and provided an accompanying letter from Garfunkel to Stubbs expressing his enthusiasm for the resulting recording.

Unfortunately, there’s no evidence that Garfunkel’s enthusiasm was matched by sales—years of pawing through the bins at Spencer’s, Plan 9, and Distraxshuns never turned up this little gem. So I don’t have an MP3 to present here, although I am hoping that a reader will be familiar with this—perhaps somebody old enough to have done the same pawing at Back Alley Disc or Band Box.

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