I started hearing tales of the Lynyrd Skynyrd plane crash of ’77 from my father when pampers were still my favorite pair of pants.  I knew who Ronnie Van Zant was before Big Bird, and my Sunday dinners at Mamaw’s house were really jam sessions that became my lullabies. My father’s hair was longer than my mother’s at that time, and all the men in my family sported bloody finger tips that were slaves to those beckoning long-necked instruments.  At 27 years old, in the age of whatever it is music has become that I haven’t a word that qualifies, I can bank on every family get-together bringing me back to a place when it was pure.  It’s a place I can only visit through my father’s time machine in a land that existed around the time my mother discovered boys.  I go back whenever my now greying father and Uncle pick up their guitars, close their eyes, and try to perfect still, that long ever-growing famously tricky six-string solo in Free Bird.


Artimus Pyle, Lynyrd Skynyrd’s drummer, and only original band-member still touring traipsed into the Applebee’s in Candler, North Carolina, my hometown about two weeks ago. 

“Lorna, you got to get down here, now,”  My husband’s voice was urgent on the other end of the phone.

“Why?  Is something wrong?”

“No.  Artimus Pyle is here.  We’re hanging out, and he’s cool as hell,”  my husband’s speech was hurried.

“You’re lying!”


“I’ll be there in five,”  I replied with my mind reeling all the things I knew about this legend.  I knew he had a house in Asheville, but what was he doing at an Applebee’s in the down-home Candler suburb of the artsy town?

When I walked in, I saw him immediately and I had to catch my breath a little.  I was genuinely star-struck.  I swear I could smell a faint trail of smoke permeating from his long burly hair, that grew like ragged wires from under his distressed leather cowboy hat.  I wondered what the eyes from behind his aviator glasses had seen in the world of rock n’ roll, fame, and heartache.  I knew his eyes would certainly tell the stories of things I had never and would never see. 

When my husband motioned to him, and it was our time to finally meet, I don’t remember exactly what I said.  It was something to the effect of how I grew up on his music, and was proud to keep the band alive in my generation…you know, the things you say, but trying to stand out all at once.  In retrospect, I may have sounded rushed, and looked like a pre-teen meeting Justin Bieber.

When I handed him the clean white half sheet of paper the waitress rustled up for me, I first noticed his time-worn hands.  They shook a bit as he started to write, “Laugh, Lorna.  Peace, love, and happiness (in symbols).  Artimus Pyle, Drums, Lynyrd Skynyrd.  Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame 2006.”  I took the sheet from him, perusing it in awe.  Then, I noticed the initials, RVZ.

“You, signed Ronnie’s initials, didn’t you?”  I asked, moved that he’d not omitted the lead-singer and founding member’s name.

“You wouldn’t even know my name had it not been for that man,” he replied seriously, “and after the crash I started signing his initials.”

Artimus Pyle Band

I thought to myself what a class-act this man truly was to carry-on the memory of his fallen band-member and how proud I was to meet him.  It was then I relaxed a little bit and started just chatting with him.  I found out how he co-wrote my favorite Skynyrd song, Tuesday’s Gone, and how he was always drawn to Asheville, NC. We chatted about his respect for the philanthropic Asheville-born musician, Warren Haynes, and how he’d played with him here and there.  He spoke of his son, River, and how proud he was of him. I was careful not to bring up the plane crash, though I was so painfully curious about his take on it.  All I knew was that Van Zant and the Gaines members perished, and Artimus survived.  I wanted to know more, and maybe he sensed it, because he went into the story all on his own.”

“You know, after the crash, there was just smoke everywhere,” he began, “and I ran to the barn to get help.”

“I didn’t know you were able to that,”  I replied in awe.

He went on to describe the only things he remembered, and the whirlwind it became.  I could tell some of it was cloudy to him, yet still felt as real as it had over 35 years ago.  My guess is it was cloudy then.

After telling me to remember that money ruins everything, I gave him a hug, noticing an unimagined raw musk about him, and he went on his way.  I rushed home and googled him immediately, seeing what else I could learn.  I discovered when he ran from the plane wreckage to the nearby barn, the farmer’s son actually shot Artimus in the shoulder with an air-rifle because he was startled by his appearance.  I learned he never stopped revering Van Zant and the other members, and had made the legacy of the band his life.  I discovered he’d had ups, and downs, but understood the things that matter in life…, respect and downright allegiance to his band, family, art, and fellow man.  He is yet another jewel tucked in these blue ridge mountains; an ARTimus form in Asheville that we’re forever proud to claim.

Artimus Pyle and Lorna Hollifield January 3, 2014

Artimus Pyle and Lorna Hollifield January 3, 2014

A Little Bit of Soul

Everyone knows that Asheville has some sort of special “it” quality.  There’s something to the food, the music, the climate, the architecture, and the people.  There’s just a soul present that many other cities simply cannot contend with.  Asheville has held onto a quality many cities have lost in sky-scrapers, public transportation systems, and technology.  It’s funny really, because this apparition, this spirit, draws artists, celebrities, and intellectuals as strongly as a magnet lures metal.  I set out to discover why.

I started researching my city a couple years ago, which prompted me to tour my own city through La Zoom Tours. After the research and the tours, I chocked up the town’s charisma to a couple different things: it’s birth, and it’s death. In the late 1700s Asheville was nothing but a convenient patch of dirt, sitting in a valley at the crossroads of a Cherokee trading route.  They say real estate is all about location, location, location.  This meeting place of sorts just happened to have a nice river running through it, and some trails elevated low enough for the horses to hoof it without falling sideways off a cliff.  The white settlers came in, realized its potential, and noticed it wasn’t hard to look at either.  We all know how the rest of that story went…luckily the hills kept their secrets and preserved a lot of that early heritage with folk art, and a respect for nature unparalleled in much of our country.

The death of Asheville was as important as the birth.  What death?  Some may be wondering how they missed the memo.  Asheville became a huge part of the jazz age, and one of the major hubs of the 20s scene.  It’s this flashy era that Asheville can trace some it’s progressive roots.  The city became a regular stomping ground for the Fitzgeralds and their cronies (I think Hemingway actually made it Beer City U.S.A. back then).  That on top of Thomas Wolfe hailing from here, the city was a literary hot spot.  Intellectuals and writers had now entered the scene.  The ingredients that make Asheville were in the pot and boiling.  People were building new buildings next to the old, rubbing elbows with Vanderbilts, and mixing deep southern culture with new ideas, causing ignition.  It was a city of steam, and it was smoldering from the inside out.

Sadly, Asheville couldn’t hide from the stock market crash in ’29.  Asheville had the most debt per capita of any city in America.  There was no money left, and the charming streets once filled with trolleys, bootlegged liquor, and new money had no more hustle and bustle.  Blood stains from self-inflicted wounds sadly decorated the walls of too many banks, and too many bedroom walls in the upscale Montford neighborhood.  For the next 50 years much of the city looked like a ghost town, a shell of what once was.  The city had died.

Now for the triumphant part.  Here in Asheville, we believe in ghosts.  We believe that the soul of the city that hosted so much life would not go gently into the night.  A city that produced singers like Roberta Flack, war heroes like Kiffin Rockwell,and awe inspiring evangelists like Billy Graham would not simply succumb to becoming a “once upon a time”.  This was a city with too much presence.  People started pouring in, enamored with what was left behind. The city was like a beautiful, intricate bees nest preserved by time, built in a season that thrived.  However, those bees work was done, and they had laid down their duties.  They became Zelda Fitzgeralds dying in fires on a knoll in Montford, or artists knowing moonshine all to well, or angels knowing they could never go home again.  They didn’t thrive, but instead left legacies in the form of art deco buildings, great literary works, soulful music, and museums.  We were left untouched French gothic buildings, art deco masterpieces (one of the greatest collections in the nation), and the largest privately owned home in America; ours to tour.  Why?  We couldn’t afford anything else, so we held onto that abandoned space and filled it with art, breathing sweet honeysuckle scented life back into its spirit, and gave birth to this town once again.  If you ask me, this Mecca of art and humanity should be one any bucket list in the world.

I got more acquainted with this when I toured my own city on a La Zoom tour, and feel I’ve truly tasted it now.  La Zoom is a comedic tour featuring all the hot spots I mentioned.  Tours run daily, and meet on Biltmore Avenue right outside the French Broad Food Co-op (which is a great place to buy your local beer to take on the tour)!  After this tour you’ll have a lengthy list of places to visit time and time again.  Bring a change of pants though, in case your pee yourself laughing! 


My husband and I having a great time!


ph2          ph1


Post by:  Lorna Hollifield Click here for more on aspiring author, Lorna Hollifield!



Join the Asheville Community Content Team

We are putting together a Community Content Team for the new AskAsheville website and blog that we are launching in a few weeks. A team of 10 is already in place, but we are looking for more people who would like to contribute and share information about a variety of topics. Sections of the new site include News, Women, Beer, Food, Wine, Hotels, Photos, Videos, Business, Events, Music, Entertainment, Neighboring Towns and much more. We are interested in getting a great diversity of contributors that will share Asheville from their “point of view” on a daily, weekly or monthly basis.

You may be a Writer or Blogger in the WNC area that would like to post a weekly story to AskAsheville. Maybe you are a Photographer or Videographer in the community that wants to share a photo or some videos each week with a quick description on the blog. You may be a marketer and have a few clients or business connections that you would like to write about on a monthly basis. Or maybe you just like to go out and eat, drink, tour, dance, shop and have a good time; and you want to start documenting the experiences, making them count more, and building a portfolio of your work. You post it… and we distribute it online through our social media audiences which reach so many focused on the Asheville area.

Team meetings (online & offline) and full support will be offered including educational opportunities for you to teach your area of expertise, and learn from other teammates. We are implementing a mentorship and internship program as well, so if there is an area of media that you would like to learn more about or improve on; we can help you with training. We can also assist you with credit and a certificate for the work you complete. This could mean extra-credit for you in College and this will give you more credibility to potential employers and clients.

Building a community takes a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Some of you, some of me, some of all of us. Can you write 200 words per month or per week about something that pertains to Asheville NC? Can you provide one featured photo per week or month with 25 word description? Can you draw a weekly or monthly cartoon? Maybe you want to do an Asheville Short Story series? We’ve got your back! We will feature you on our new website, link to you, promote you and your content, and the whole team will support you. We invite you to apply to be on our Asheville Community Content Team.

Contact AskAsheville

From Asheville to visit Elkin & Dobson NC

When I travel on vacation, I am not much for a long distance trip. I like to be somewhat close to Home, and that is Asheville for me. This past weekend we visited the Historic Kapps Mill Estate in Dobson North Carolina. It is an amazing piece of property that is rich in history. As we pulled up to the property a half moon driveway greeted us and we pulled up to the bridge to the main house. This bridge that runs over a large stream of water is about 8 feet wide and 25 feet long, and lands you are in front of a gorgeous dwelling. I had the opportunity to stay here for a night and loved it. The home and decor was amazing, the place was a piece of art.

On Saturday night, we headed to downtown Elkin North Carolina and had an incredible time. The first stop was Fiddles Pub which has one wall dominated by Fiddles and the other wall with beer, wine and a flat screen. I also got to meet Pete McPhearson who is one of the managing partners of this great spot. He kinda noticed me admiring the “beer list”.. and I was!

In the entry corner of Fiddles was a couple of musicians named Charles & Jonathan playing some great tunes that fit right in with the mood. The bar was packed and tables were full.

Ashley and Jeanette both tag-teamed the bartending and tables, covering whatever needed to be done. They were very efficient in fun, communications and service. Food was good too! 2 premium beers + 2 appetizers = $15. Very nice!!

I ended up drinking a glass of the the Anchor Steam Beer that was on tap from San Francisco California. A delish addition to my taste buds! Then I tried the LTD from Full Sail Brewing in Hood River Oregon.

Fiddles Pub was awesome! Wish we had one in Asheville, but Elkin is close enough.

Another stop we made was Twenty One & Main and so glad we did! This Elkin restaurant could definitely hang with the cuisine you would find at some of the better restaurants in Asheville and elsewhere.

We called on short notice, but they worked it out and fit us in 30 minutes later. Kyra, the hostess was as hospitable in person as she was on the phone and had some great convo with her. I found out later that her husband John is one of the Chefs in the kitchen as well. Michael tended to our tables, while Liz was a strong support, double checking on us regularly. Richard on the staff also brought our meals out and said hello. Great team service!! I started out with the Carolina Blonde Cream Ale from Foothills Brewing in Winston Salem NC, and then had some New Belgium 1554.

And OHHHHH.. the seared scallops were so tasty and amazing! Best I have had in a long while.

Then the delicious entrees came! We ordered the Pork and also the Salmon. See these photos and fall in foodie love!!!

The meal was so satisfying that we had to skip dessert, but later that evening we had wished we had not. We took a quick tour of the cozy upscale Wine Bar upstairs and it was very nice! We also got to meet Chef Jeff Gibbs who is also the Proprietor and his wife Erika Bullock who is the Manager & Proprietor. Great team at this place.

Incredible experience in Elkin NC during our visit to the Historic Kapps Mill Estate in Dobson, which is currently up for sale. We will definitely be back!

See a Video Tour of the Historic Kapps Mill Estate.

Asheville Grafitti – not too nice

Okay “Moms”, here is your 3 minutes of fame. Years ago in NYC, there was big tension and division between those who claimed to be “grafitti artists” and those who were considered “toys” by the graph world. Of course the artists yelled that the “toys” were “making them look bad”. The “toys” screamed “we want a voice too!” This piece of work on the recently closed Dominoe’s Pizza on Merrimom Ave makes all grafitti look disgusting. Not only is it a crime to deface property, but things like this make it all the worse. Who is this “MOMS”?