Last week, I [Mike Craver] played for the Caswell County Arts Council Annual Party, at the Nectar Vineyard Bistro in the beautiful farm country just south of Danville VA. "Nectar" is owned and operated by Bob Donaghey. I have written about Bob in here before. I am indebted to him because he recognized my talent, such as it is -- then sought me out and offered me a great little place to play. Situations like this are one of the most reassuring and rewarding aspects of the free-lance life.
Bob Donaghey was originally from Detroit, just a kid with an interest in radio. But before going to college he was already managing a radio station in Hartford, Connecticut, and through contacts made there became involved in the initial development of public radio and television. Like many talented midwesterners he moved to NYC seeking fame and fortune. He worked his way up from being a page at CBS to being Ed Sullivan's studio assistant. Eventually he had his own fully franchised agency, Talent East, with a Fifth Avenue address.
However, after years of working in the big city Bob decided he'd been "double parked in the fast lane" for too long. He'd always loved the South (aided and abetted by his romance with bluegrass and country and western music) and he ended up buying this 82 acre farm with a Civil War era farmhouse, in Caswell County, NC. He renovated the house, planted a vineyard and opened up a winery and a tony gourmet restaurant and bistro on the premises. Bob's partner is Chuck Adams, a native Virginian, who for many years was an editor at Simon and Schuster. Chuck was splitting his time between NYC and Caswell County (his monthly routine was three weeks in NYC and one week in NC) until he accepted a job as senior editor for Algonquin Press in Chapel Hill. These days he is spending much more time in NC. In the meantime Bob produced several local bluegrass radio and tv programs, turned out a book about bluegrass ("The Bluegrass Yearbook" -- pictured at right), and became the regional representative of the IBMA.
The irony of this whole situation is that Bob and Chuck are tossing in the Nectar towel. They have put the farm, the winery and the bistro up for sale because "it was just too much expense and too much hard work". And believe you me these are two hard working guys. As is the case with many passionate people trying to establish and maintain a high quality cultural endeavor in the sticks, they just got burnt out. So, as soon as they find a buyer they will hole up in Chapel Hill until their new house gets built in Hilton Head Island. I guess life could be worse!
So, the night I refer to was Nectar's last night too -- for better or worse. At first it felt strange and somewhat bittersweet to be trying entertain folks under the circumstances, but it turned out to be a great crowd and perhaps in its way a fitting Nectar swansong. There had been a storm and rains in the afternoon and after the ovens had cooled and all the hors d'oeuvres and desserts had been consumed and the wine drunk and the last note played, the large and mostly high school aged wait staff dashed out to the pool, with peals of merry laughter, for a midnight swim. When I said goodbye to Bob and Chuck they had their arms filled with fresh towels and were heading out to the gang in the deep lit aqua water. But Bob had a smile on his face and seemed kind of relieved!