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Remembering Rod Kennedy, Kerrville Folk Fest Founder

Rod Kennedy, who died early yesterday, was a giant, but a behind-the-scenes giant. I spoke to Kerrville Folk Festival Producer Dalis Allen.

“His passion led him to create what we now know as the Kerrville Folk Festival, which is in its 43rd year," Allen said. “He just understood that the artists that write their own songs didn’t have a whole lot of support and acknowledgement and encouragement.”

So in 1972 he created what would become one of the largest and most enduring folks festivals in the nation. It was all focused on the songwriters, about whom he said: “They are helping us save the world one song at a time.”  

Allen said he packed far more into life than most of us do.

“He’s an ex-Marine, he was a race car driver, he owned radio stations, he owned TV stations, he just has done enough to fill ten peoples’ lives,” Allen said.

After the Folk Festival's debut, he quickly moved the festival to the spacious Quiet Valley Ranch, west of Kerrville.

"He always said that the festival would end when he decided to leave, but gradually he changed his mind about that, and we now have shareholders that hold the festival and the Quiet Valley Ranch in trust," Allen said.

So the festival will continue. Kennedy had been in slow decline, which had recently taken a faster turn. As Allen tells the tale, longtime friend Peter Yarrow was able to say goodbye.

“He was able to do that! He had just flown in from Jordan," Allen said. "Probably about a dozen people in the room and we sang 'Give Yourself to Love,'[and] 'Where have all the Flowers Gone,' so it was a very beautiful experience for everyone that was there."

Rod Kennedy was 84 years old.

Jack Morgan can be reached at jack@tpr.org and on Twitter at @JackMorganii