born // 1927
lived // laurel county
played // anything with strings
died // 1998
Dora Mae Wagers -- 1. First Sights
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--Dora Mae Wagers
A scene from a short video clip: Dora Mae Wagers plays the banjo, sitting in a golf cart, an old tune, Pretty Polly. Her left knee nods up and down, forcefully, to the beat; her head, crowned with her big gray hairdo, bobs to the music, playing like she means it. She wears magenta pants, a lavender running jacket; she wears big golden rings on her fingers, big round sunglasses, and, as the video begins, a big smile on her face. There’s a crowd gathered, in the parking lot; older men in ballcaps, a young man playing the bass, a woman in a western shirt, listening. A man sings the words, as she plays.
Dora Mae Wagers was a fixture, not too long ago, at festivals and music gatherings, in Central Kentucky, her hard driving banjo ringing out. I gathered, this spring, stories about Dora Mae, from her daughter Evelyn, from a student of hers, Ethan Eversole, and from fiddler John Harrod. No doubt, there are countless other stories, countless parking lot jams, held in the memories of many.