Appalachian Regional Commission highlights talents of Randall Franks and the Watkins Family

The Appalachian Ambassador of the Fiddle Randall Franks, “Officer Randy Goode” from TV’s “In the Heat of the Night,” and bluegrass gospel performers The Watkins Family entertained leaders from 13 Appalachian states at the Appalachian Regional Commission Conference at the Forum Civic Center Arena in Rome, Ga. recently.
“I was so honored that the Watkins Family and I were selected to represent Georgia, our hometowns of Toccoa and Ringgold, and our wonderful musical heritage in front of these distinguished guests to our state,” Franks said. “It is wonderful the opportunities that God allows us in life.”
The focus of the conference was Appalachia’s Educational Assets – Investing in a Skilled Future.
Franks is president of the non-profit Share America Foundation, Inc. that awards Pearl and Floyd Franks scholarships to musicians carrying on the tradition of Appalachian musical styles each year.
The Watkins Family includes matriarch Judy Watkins and her three adult children Todd, Lorie and Shanon and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Maness. The group includes several educators that share their skills with youth.
Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, who serves as ARC 2010 states’ co-chair, hosted the event. He and Earl F. Gohl, Appalachian Regional Commission federal co-chair, welcomed both performers and Perdue even took a little musical advice from them as he pulled the bow across Franks’s fiddle strings.“Georgia is full of really good people, hard working folks that I love, you are going to hear from some of those tonight, musicians that talk about the music of our land, our hearts, our spirits, they really tell you who we are…the soul of the South is our music,” said Gov. Perdue. Mike Beatty, Georgia Department of Community Affairs commissioner, brought Franks to the stage telling attendees they were “in for a treat” as Franks presented a program of country comedy also sharing from Georgia’s rich musical history spanning Fiddlin’ John Carson’s 1923 recording of “The Little Ole Log Cabin in the Lane” to his own hit “The Old Black Fiddle,” a prequel to Charlie Daniels’ “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.”The Watkins Family shared a selection of songs from their “Heaven’s Worth Waiting For” CD including their current two chart songs “Sometimes You Gotta Rock the Boat” and “She’s Working on Her Testimony.”
“The opportunity to continue our family legacy of hope and encouragement through music in front of these influential attendees from across the Appalachian region just took our breath away,” said Lorie Watkins. “We were so honored to be included.”