By GINA KINSLOW
Glasgow Daily Times
Phil Patton was known to pick up his guitar and play a song or two at informal gatherings during Kentucky Bar Association conventions in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Those gatherings, which began in the hotel room of former Barren County Judge-Executive James E. Gillenwater of Glasgow, came to be known as the “to-do.”
“Lawyers – generally older lawyers – would come in and tell stories; very funny stories,” Patton said, who now serves as Barren County’s circuit judge. “I would play the guitar and sing old songs and Dan Taylor would join me on the harmonica.”
The purpose of the “to-do” was “to preserve the oral history of the practice of law,” Taylor said. “They were doing this thing long before I came onto the scene. My part was very, very minor,” he said.
The “to-do” gained popularity and grew to the point that it was eventually moved from Gillenwater’s hotel room to a hotel suite and finally, to a small meeting room at the hotels where the conventions took place.
“It became something, you know, that justices of the supreme court would want to be there. Gov. Bert Combs would come and he would also tell stories, but the principal storytellers were Judge Gillenwater and Woodrow Burchett,” Patton said.
Burchett, the Sage of Cow Creek, hailed from Prestonburg. He died in 1995, two years after Gillenwater.
“Since their deaths, we quit doing the ‘to-do.’ People … I guess older people like me, have said, ‘You know, you all ought to do the ‘to-do,’ again,’” Patton said. “We’re not going to because they’re never going to be as good as they used to be.”
Patton and Taylor were talking one day and decided to record the songs they performed during the “to-do.”
“Dan’s 85 and I’m not getting any younger, so we set it up to record them with Wayne Sexton over in Cave City,” Patton said. “The purpose was simply to preserve some of the memories of what we did.”
Taylor, who lives in Oldham County, said recording the CD, which is titled “D.T. and the Judge,” was “very comfortable and easy.”
“It was practically effortless. Like two fellas getting together and cranking out a few songs,” Taylor said.
The CD is dedicated to the memories of Gillenwater and Burchett.
Patton has given copies of the CD to Gillenwater’s and Burchett’s families.
Glasgow attorney Tim Gillenwater, who is Judge Gillenwater’s son, said he has listened to the CD several times, and was fortunate enough to get hear some of the songs performed live during the “to-do.”
“There was always music from a number of people [at the to-do], but mostly from Daniel T. Taylor and Judge Patton,” Gillenwater said.
He called the CD “a national treasure,” because some of the songs would be lost forever had Patton and Taylor not taken the time to preserve them by recording the CD.
As for a favorite song featured on the CD, Taylor doesn’t have one.
“I think they are all very nice,” he said.
Patton, on the other hand, favors “Blackwaters.”
“It’s about strip mining and about back when there was the broad form deed, which is still something of a problem but not as great as it was; where the surface can be destroyed in order to remove the minerals,” he said. “A great line in the song is, ‘I own all my land, but my land is not my own.’”
Both Patton and Taylor have performed on other occasions.
Patton was once part of a local bluegrass band called the No Bottom Boys. The group performed for about five years.
“We performed in a resurgence of the popularity of bluegrass music after ‘Oh Brother, Where Art Thou,’” Patton said.
He also had bands in high school and college. His high school band was called The Green Briars, while his college band was The Fabulous Pig Brothers.
“Music has been an important part of my life from childhood. I’m not a very good musician, as far as playing the guitar, but my gift has always been that I could remember hundreds of songs and the lyrics to those songs,” Patton said.
Patton has also been known to play the guitar at commonwealth’s attorney’s conferences, when he served as commonwealth’s attorney for Barren and Metcalfe counties.
“There would be a few of us that would join in,” he said. “Steve Wilson [Warren County circuit court judge] would play his guitar,” he said.
Taylor plays a little bit from time-to-time for functions, but said, “I’m really not quite ready for prime time.”
Both doubt they will record a second CD.
“I would be surprised, [if we did],” Patton said.
The CD cannot be found at any store; however, copies are available free from Patton.
“I’m not sure they would sell if they were for sale,” he said.
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