Last summer, at age 75, I fell in love again. In small-town New Haven. Catholic and Bourbon Country. Close to the Abbey of Gethsemani, where the late Trappist monk Thomas Merton lived. He was a priest, writer, peace activist and mystic whose numerous books have helped guide me on an interfaith spiritual path. 

So who’s the new love? The Amp at Log Still Distillery, a 2,300-seat outdoor amphitheater set against the backdrop of Kentucky’s picturesque rolling hills. Nearly every weekend between May and October, music lovers can enjoy live concerts at The Amp, about 55 miles from Frankfort on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®.

I attended two outstanding concerts at The Amp in 2023: Dionne Warwick in August; and Nappy Roots — considered the most influential hip-hop group to come out of Kentucky — in October. They got their start between 1995 and 1997 at Western Kentucky University, my alma mater in Bowling Green. And, they’re coming back to The Amp again this season with Petey Pablo on Friday, June 28.  

At WKU in the late 1960s and early ’70s, we listened to soul music and love songs of Dionne Warwick almost every night on a record player in the living room of a small rented house I shared with four friends from small-town Lebanon.

Then last summer, when I fell in love with The Amp, so did three other lifelong friends from Lebanon — Akie George, Mary Helen (Carrico) Weeks and her sister, Ann (Carrico) Lankford. Mary Helen and Ann lived in Frankfort several years before moving back to their hometown in 2022.

On the way to the August concert from Lebanon, we rode winding backroads together, seeing signs to St. Mary, and Holy Cross and St. Francis as we passed through Loretto — home of Maker’s Mark Distillery and Sisters of Loretto Motherhouse. Akie, a true Lebanese woman who still cooks delicious Middle Eastern foods on special occasions, was our excellent designated driver. Her cousin from Louisville, Theresa Mascagni, joined us.

They all had tickets close to the stage. And I moved around through the evening, feeling at home talking mostly to friendly people I didn’t know, and a few I recognized, like Eva Jo Nugent.

Eva Jo worked 43 years at The Lebanon Enterprise weekly newspaper, and I worked there with her for five years in the 1990s. In retirement, she’s enjoyed attending many concerts not far from home, like Renfro Valley in Mount Vernon, the Lexington Opera House, the Norton Center for the Arts at Centre College in Danville, the Stephen Foster Amphitheater in Bardstown, and The Amp.

“This is a special place,” Eva Jo said. “I come here a lot. No matter where your seats are, you have a good view of the stage. It’s not rowdy, and I love that.”

As a little girl with older sisters, “I remember listening to Dionne Warwick records and watching her on TV,” Eva Jo said. “I never imagined I would ever get the opportunity to go somewhere close to home and see her up close, and listen to her talk, and meet people in her family. This is a really cool experience, very classy.

“A concert for me is more than the music. I love the stories of music, and to go hear an artist I’ve loved for many years tell her music stories — that’s special.”

After her first visit to The Amp, Mary Helen Weeks said, “I thought the friendliness, the hospitality, and the setting were amazing. One of the simple things they did was offer us a bottle of water when we left because it was such a hot evening. And getting to see Dionne Warwick up close, and listen to her sing all the songs we grew up with was so special.”

A few of her hit songs she sang so beautifully at age 82 were “You’ll Never Get to Heaven If You Break My Heart,” “Message to Michael,” “What The World Needs Now Is Love,” “Alfie,” “I Say a Little Prayer for You,” “This Girl’s In Love with You,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?” — a 1968 song that sold several million copies worldwide and earned Warwick her first Grammy Award.

Warwick also sang other hits including, “I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” “I Need Your Love,” “Kentucky Bluebird,” “We Are The World, We Are The Children,” and “That’s What Friends Are For,” singing it with her granddaughter, Cheyenne Elliott, and little nephew to close the show.

“All I can say about her granddaughter (who also opened the concert) and nephew is wow,” said Mary Helen.

During a break between Elliott’s opener and her grandmother taking the stage, Mary Helen, a University of Kentucky graduate, got her picture made with UK basketball great Jack “Goose” Givens. In his senior season he scored 41 points to lead the Wildcats to a 94-88 win over Duke in the 1978 NCAA championship game. Today, Givens is a business development executive, a radio color analyst for the UK Sports Network, and a fan of The Amp. 

Dionne Warwick sings on stage at The Amp with her granddaughter, Cheyenne Elliott, and nephew, in the fall of 2023. (Photo by Charles W. Pearl)

Warwick has won six Grammy Awards, the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and three of her songs (“Walk On By,” “Alfie,” and “Don’t Make Me Over”) have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. She has been inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Grammy Hall of Fame, the National Rhythm and Blues Hall of Fame and the Apollo Theater Hall of Fame.

Nappy Roots

I had heard of Nappy Roots, but hadn’t listened to their music until I saw on The Amp’s 2023 concert schedule they were coming to New Haven to close the season on Oct. 27.

Then I started reading about them in a wonderful book, “The Kentucky African American Encyclopedia,” and loved that they got their start at WKU, playing at local skating rinks and parties. Members of the hip-hop group were Brian Scott (“B. Stille”), Ronald Wilson (“Clutch”), William Hughes (“Skinny DeVille”), all of Louisville, Vito Tisdale (“Big V”), of Bowling Green, Melvin Adams (“Fish Scales”), of Georgia, and Kenneth Anthony (“R. Prophet”), of California.

Nappy Roots soon became popular on Kentucky college campuses, and released its debut album, “Country Fried Cess,” in 1998. Then in 2002, Atlantic Records released “Watermelon, Chicken and Gritz.” The album quickly became certified platinum, selling over one million copies, and the song “Po’ Folks” was nominated for a Grammy.

According to one reviewer, it was “the first rap album to put Kentucky on the map,” and was one of the most successful hip-hop releases of the year. A “Rolling Stone” reviewer wrote that it was “the best thing to come out of Kentucky since the Colonel’s chicken.”

The group’s music video for the song “Awnaw” was frequently played on major cable TV channels like MTV, MTV2 and BET. Former Gov. Paul Patton named all six members of the group Kentucky Colonels and proclaimed Sept. 16, 2002, Nappy Roots Day.

Friends and family of Brian “B. Stille” Scott of Nappy Roots pose for a photo before a concert at the Amp in the fall of 2023. Front row, from left, Brian “B. Stille” Scott, Andrea Barbour, Alene Scott, Julia Scott, Melissa Young, Anthony Scott, Monisha White; back row, from left, Sam Scott, Dominick White and Kanyon Scott Spalding. (Photo submitted)

My designated driver for the Nappy Roots concert was my daughter, Charlsie (Pearl) Garrett, a 1991 Frankfort High graduate. She was a part of The Amp security team in addition to her full-time job as director of the Lebanon Aquatic Center. She had purchased me a seat close to the stage, but suggested I stay closer to her, at least early in the evening.

My energy level had dropped considerably in the short time between my two visits to The Amp. The reason? I found out from a cardiologist on Friday, Oct. 13, two weeks before the Nappy Roots concert, that I have a serious, rare heart disease, cardiac amyloidosis. It was a shock because I didn’t have any symptoms except for feeling a deep tiredness. 

Charlsie’s security job — on an upper level farther back from the stage —  was checking wristbands in the VIP section and Tasting Room, next to the disability section. She wanted me to stay there so she could keep a close check on me. I enjoyed watching her do her job because it was obvious she loved meeting people and answering their questions.

“Each performer who comes to The Amp brings their own group of fans,” Charlsie said. “I’ve met people from North Carolina, Pennsylvania, all over, and I like that. The crowds have been pleasant. Everybody wants to see everybody else have a good time.”

It was a long night since security workers must arrive two hours before the 7:30 p.m. concert begins. There were two opening acts, and for me, there was nothing enjoyable about the first one except when it was over. Georgia native Bubba Sparxxx, a country rapper and songwriter, was next and I enjoyed his performance. However, when he finished, there was a 45-minute delay before Nappy Roots came on stage around 9:45 p.m.

But it was worth the wait. The large crowd loved them. So did I, even though I couldn’t see them as well from the disability section where I stayed instead of moving closer to the stage. Fans in the best seats stood and danced the entire show, and I was certain I didn’t have the stamina to do that anymore.

The highlight was finally getting to hear Nappy Roots sing live “Po’ Folks,” which warmed my heart on a cool night. I had watched the video numerous times since August, and it always brought laughter and joy. “Good Day,” “Awnaw,” “Country Boyz,” and “No Static” are a few more of my favorite songs now, all classics.

Nappy Roots released its ninth album, “Nappy4Life,” on the day of The Amp concert.

The morning after the concert, I became a bigger Nappy Roots fan. On Facebook, a video of the concert by Lebanon friend Autria Calhoun caught my attention. She’s a rhythm and blues singer, and owner of a jewelry business, Clayslaybyautria; and Charlsie has bought lots of earrings created by Autria since 2020.

Autria was close to the stage and had taken a good video of Nappy Roots singing and fans dancing. I made a quick phone call to her and learned one of the southern hip-hop group members, B. Stille (Brian Scott) — the one wearing the big cowboy hat at The Amp — has family ties to Lebanon, Kentucky.

I love all the interconnections of life. A few days later, I called B. Stille’s aunt in Lebanon, Julia Scott, and realized B. Stille’s late uncle, Robert Scott, and I played little league baseball together for the Lebanon Braves in the late 1950s.

Julia’s Nappy Roots nephew “is very down to earth and caring,” she said. “He’s very family-oriented and comes here to Lebanon for holidays and other special occasions. He always wants to give back to his communities.”

Nappy Roots performs at The Amp at Log Still Distillery on Oct. 27, 2023. (Photo by Julianna Leach)

Soon, Aunt Julia had me on the phone talking to her brother, Sam Scott, B. Stille’s father in Louisville. Sam Scott is a retired detective from the Louisville Police Department. He also retired from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Army, much of it as a military police investigator through the National Guard and Reserves.

“I had a good career in law enforcement, teaching soldiers how to survive in combat, and police officers and recruits how to survive on the streets,” Sam Scott said.

Sam also has 35 years of experience as a music business manager, helping young recording artists pursue their musical dreams.

Regarding Nappy Roots, Sam says, “They have a different kind of twist on their music, in their lyrics, kind of a country-style, which has contributed to their longevity, their popularity. They have a lot of fans across the country and world. They have some sad lyrics and lyrics that make you think, and then they try to make you laugh. They can say something that is really serious and hurtful, but say it in a laughable way. Like the song ‘Po’ Folks,’ it’s funny, but then it’s not funny, to struggle and be poor.”

Frankfort’s Quincy Thurman, a retired city government employee who started his own small music business, Deuce Music & IN3 Entertainment, 16 years ago, said he “became a good friend of B. Stille through music. He’s very genuine and outgoing. His hustle is unmatched. He’s a great father. I know that for a fact.” B. Stille’s daughter, Stacia Marie Scott, is a rhythm and blues singer and songwriter.  

“I absolutely love the music of Nappy Roots,” Quincy said. “They stand to their Kentucky roots. They represent Kentucky. They’re very grounded, and they’ve done very good things for schools,” and have emphasized community involvement, such as serving Thanksgiving turkey dinners to Louisville’s homeless.

Speaking for his hip-hop group recently, B. Stille said, “We always enjoy performing in our home state, but especially in bourbon country where we have such strong family ties. We have a performance coming up on June 28 (at The Amp), and look forward to sharing some new music with our friends, family and fans in New Haven.”

Unique distillery

Log Still is one of 23 craft distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail®. Featured products include the Monk’s Road line of Kentucky bourbons and gins, and the Rattle & Snap Tennessee Whiskey line. Although it’s at the edge of New Haven, the address is 225 Dee Head Road, Gethsemane, KY 40051. The phone number is 502-917-0200; and the website is

Besides the outdoor amphitheater, the Log Still campus includes The Legacy, an indoor 20,000-square-foot wedding and events venue, five bed and breakfast homes, a private train depot, a soon-to-open farm-to-table restaurant and a 12-acre fishing lake. Distillery owners are Wally Dant and cousins, Lynne and Charles Dant.

Log Still Distillery neither owns nor has any affiliation with “J.W. Dant” distilled spirits.   

Upcoming concerts at The Amp

• Nappy Roots with Petey Pablo, Friday, June 28, 7 p.m.

• Ian Munsick, Friday, July 12, 7 p.m.

• Travis Tritt, Saturday, July 20, 7:30 p.m.

• Alabama with special guest Lee Greenwood, Saturday, July 27, 7 p.m.

• Greensky Bluegrass, Friday, August 2, 7 p.m.

• Gabby Barrett, Friday, August 9, 7 p.m.

• Sara Evans, Saturday, August 17, 7 p.m.

• Warrant with Lita Ford and Nelson, Friday, August 23, 7 p.m.

• Jeremy Camp, Friday, September 6, 7 p.m.

• Roots and Boots (Sammy Kershaw, Collin Raye and Aaron Tippin), Saturday, September 28, 7 p.m.

• Buckcherry, Saturday, October 12, 7 p.m.