Stories from the Veranda
The intent of the architecture of Bloomsbury was to dissipate heat. Summer heat and humidity of South Carolina can be very uncomfortable for those of us not born and bred to it. For some, it can literally take the breath out of them the first time they inhale.
The heat reminds us of why Bloomsbury was built the way it was in 1854. High ceilings allow for heat to rise. Large windows allow for the heat to escape. And the wide center hall gives the breeze the opportunity to flow through the house like a cool river through the mountains. The air conditioning at Bloomsbury is love by all. Despite the hot days, we find time to go out on the veranda after dark, to rock, talk, and take in the fresh air.
The other day, Katherine and I were discussing some of our past guests. One that came to mind was Hilton Valentine. You have to be a part of our generation to remember him. He was a member of the rock band, the Animals, in the mid-sixties.
Who could forget his solo guitar introduction to the song “The House of the Rising Sun.” or “Baby Let Me Take You Home.” “House of the Rising Sun” had a tremendous impact on many a young man of the era. For many, this was one of the first songs they learned to play on a guitar.
You can imagine our surprise when Hilton Valentine came to stay with us several years ago. He was in town for the Camden “Blues Festival.” He still had his own band!
The night before they performed, they were on the veranda, jamming and rocking. Now, this was without amplifiers, but we all sat on the veranda swinging to the music…just a different style.
How many of you have heard of skiffledog? Skiffle was a music style played with rudimentary instruments. It had its origins in the U.S., but it became a sensation in Britain during the mid-1950s. They used a variety of instruments to include jugs, banjos, guitars, harmonicas, kazoos, and washboards.
That was the style of music Hilton was playing on the veranda of Bloomsbury Inn, and what he had started with in his youth. He formed his own skiffle group called the Heppers and played locally in his home country of England. Paul McCartney and John Lennon originally formed a skiffle group called the Quarrymen at the beginning of their careers. What a grand time everyone had listening and watching Hilton perform!
That evening we had the opportunity to sit on the veranda with Hilton. You can imagine my elation sitting on the veranda with a rock star. And, you can also imagine my surprise when people started coming up to get his autograph. What a grand time everyone had listening and watching Hilton perform!
One lady walked up with an Animals album and handed it to Hilton. Here request was for him to autograph it. Hilton smiled, graciously took the album, and then looked up. After examining the album, he told his fan that he had already autographed it. She replied yes. She went on to tell the story of how he had been coming in to New York Tower Records in 1965. She had stopped him on the steps and boldly asked for his autograph. Which he granted.
Then, he took his marker for a second time and autographed the album. I thought the lady was going to cry, while smiling from ear to ear.
After she left, I commented how kind that was of him, and how we got to see the real Hilton Valentine. He said that early in his career and with the Animals, they had made a joint decision to always stop and autograph whenever possible because it was those fans who made them who they are. Imagine, a rock star who values his fans…how refreshing!
At this point, I looked down at the bottom of the porch and there were several teenagers with t-shirts asking Hilton to come down and autograph them. I started to get up and ask them to leave, and Hilton stopped me. He said it was fine and he would go down and give the autographs. As he walked away, he smiled at me and said “It’s good to still be remembered.”
Hilton was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 and Hollywood’s Rock Walk of Fame in 2001. What an honor, to be considered one of the greats in your industry and in a profession you love.
The next day, we sat on the veranda and marveled at our experience. Who could imagine having the opportunity to sit on their veranda and talk to a rock star of our youth? I and many others still sit on the Bloomsbury rocking chairs and talk on that same veranda. The guests are many and everyone has a story to tell.
Stories from the Veranda
Well, that’s it for this story from the Bloomsbury Inn Veranda. The air continues to cool summer evenings. One frog is singing with the crickets. Talk to you next time…on the Veranda.
We certainly hope you can join us soon on the Veranda, for additional stories from the veranda! Book Direct and we’ll keep you posted on others stories.