CRESTVIEW — Banjoist Rick Edenfield, a familiar sight on Main Street, parks on a bench and plucks out tunes to entertain passersby.
Particularly Crestview children.
“I sit here and do this for the kids,” said Edenfield, also known as “the Banjo Bear,” or just "Bear." “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t come down here. I’d get on my hands and knees and crawl down here if it meant playing for a kid.”
It hasn't come to that, but Edenfield, who uses a cane, regularly walks along Ferdon Boulevard to and from downtown, toting his banjo case, wearing a vest and an old fedora.
Neighborhood children enjoy listening to his virtuosity, and he’s always glad to oblige.
But Edenfield's musical roots go back much farther than today's generation. He's been playing the banjo in bluegrass and country bands for 47 years.
“He’s been playing with me for 15 years or (more),” bluegrass musician Mack Brooks said from his memorabilia-filled barber shop, Main Street’s oldest business. Traditional country bluegrass practitioners sometimes gather there Saturday mornings to jam and swap stories.
“He’s a pretty talented person. He learnt a lot of it right here in this building."
Brooks said he and Edenfield are lifelong friends, having grown up in the Baker and Milligan areas, respectively. Brooks has watched out for Edenfield after his mother was killed.
“I’ve known Rickey ever since he was 3 or 4 years old,” Brooks said. “I always looked after him and took care of him. I learned him lots and he learned me lots.”
Brooks said he’s written at least 28 songs and Edenfield helped write the music for some of them.
“Me and Rickey went down to the Suwannee River, and I won three awards, and Rickey played with me there,” Brooks said of the state music festival in Live Oak.
Edenfield used to work a variety of jobs, including woodworking and cabinetry, Brooks said.
That meant “puttin’ up fences and workin’, just like every country boy.”