Friday, December 10, 2010


Being out here in Texas literally puts one in the hinterlands, far from civilization and the presence of many Family and Friends who reside mostly in the southeast. Texas is good, mind you, but it’s just that distance makes it difficult to be there for the rites of passage and the rhythms of those special folks – and yes, the wants and needs of this writer. Sometimes that old telegraph line breaks down and it surely did last week when I was out of country.

Yesterday Kingdome of Räknar Queen Mother Helga aka Jeanette Swanson and Brother Colin Grant-Adams broke the news to me that an incredibly special human being, one Earl Legbittr of The Kingdome aka Rege Malady had peacefully slipped away whilst sleeping in his recliner at his home in Charlotte. Consistent with Rege & Wife Barbara the Barbarian’s sense of humor, Rege’s last entry on his Facebook page notes, “Passed on while Barb was shopping on Nov 26, 2010. I will miss everyone here, but there are many Friends and Family I will be glad to see again.” God bless you Barb – You Rock…

As I approach my ultimate maturity (the last second of the last minute of the last hour of the day I die) I note that many of my Friends are now claiming their ultimate reward and leaving me behind to document the rest of our/their lives and ponder my remaining time. I also understand that while I will be joining them soon enough and will have to fess up and be held accountable for my life, my charge and challenge is to be forthright and tell it like it was/is in that interim. That has always been the motivation of my postings and the Might of Right and Rege’s passing has all the more punctuated that reality.

We have lost an indispensible and absolutely irreplaceable Champion in the Celtic music scene and the Scottish-American Community – an absolutely good guy. I knew Rege for going on thirty years through the Scottish Highland Games and mostly through his business enterprise of twenty years, The Celtic Trader. Even following my transfer to Texas we got together at the Texas Scottish Festival in Arlington and otherwise talked on the phone and swapped occasional e-mails and cards. Now, Rege wasn’t just another vagabond/gypsy vendor marching around to games, festivals and fairs around the country. He was here to make a buck, yes, but to also make a difference and create interest in music and its history.

Rege embraced an eclectic taste in music that included Celtic, Bluegrass, Hillbilly, Country (that Appalachian and sometimes Cajun connection) and everything in between and the preservation of those genres for future generations. He lived and breathed the national and international Celtic community and amassed an incredible and unequalled body of knowledge about Celtic music, the sounds of Appalachia and then forthrightly, painlessly and joyfully educated the rest of us. He was mentor (and as some put it “Midwife”) to individual musicians and groups in those genres and helped them take that next logical step to success for their and the community’s benefit. I daresay I was but one of many where Rege was an important Friend, guide and supporter over the years offering sincere, honest counsel and advice from music to myriad personal issues.

Rege was a macro thinker who always saw the big picture though with his incredible intuitive people, communication and insightful mentoring skills he was also able to drive down to the lowest common denominator. Through Celtic Trader and working with and through organizations like the Charlotte Folk Society he organized spontaneous and well planned ceilidhs and jam sessions where amateurs could showcase their musical talents, further develop their skills and preserve the traditions and music of our ancestors. Some of those folks have even moved on to the professional level. He appreciated, championed and was Friend to many groups and individuals including Clan Na Gael (Seven Nations), the now retired Maggie’s Fancy, The April Verch Band, Mint Hill’s own Stirling Bridge, Carolina Gator Gumbo, Jed Marum & Lonestar Stout, Alex Beaton, The Edinburgh Rambler - Ed Miller of Austin, Texas, Celtic Lark Margaret Gravitt, The Tannahill Weavers, the Texas-based group Clandestine, Runrig, John Whelan and the legendary and ever evolving WBT Briarhoppers and many, many more.

Rege was fully committed to the arts and music community serving for many years with other luminaries such as Tom Paxton, Fiona Ritchie, Tommy Sands and Dougie MacLean (among others) as an Advisory Board Member for The Swannanoa Gathering in Asheville, NC. Rege supported NPR (Thistle & Shamrock, Celtic Connections, Car Talk & Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me), WFAE, WNCW, Redbird School of Irish Music, The Celtic Exchange, Levine Museum of the New South, Bill Reid & East of the Hebrides Entertainments and any Scottish/Irish music gatherings including the North Texas Irish Festival (NTIF) here in Dallas’ Fair Park, the Texas Scottish Festival in Arlington, the Loch Norman Highland Games and the Carolina Renaissance Festival. Rege’s sense of humor put him squarely in the sights of Terry Foy aka Zilch the Tory Steller and his spoonerisms and musical talent at the Carolina Renaissance Festival. Rege loved and supported all pipe bands but his two favorites had to be the Loch Norman and Field Marshall Montgomery Pipe Bands.

Rege wasn’t shy about his Pennsylvania roots and his rabid enthusiasm for the Pittsburgh Steelers (a Steel Curtain Fanatic), the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Pittsburgh Pirates. The most recent Sunday night NFL football game appropriately pitted the 8-3 Pittsburgh Steelers against the equally high flying Baltimore Ravens. I thought there no doubt that Rege was watching and reveled at this incredibly brutal, physical contest that saw the Steeler’s star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger while already playing with a broken right foot, suffer a broken nose courtesy of a blow to/through the facemask by Baltimore Raven’s defensive tackle, Haloti Ngata (no penalty but a $15K fine?).

Roethlisberger despite a new nose with a strong right turn didn’t miss an offensive snap and the Steelers came from behind to defeat the Ravens 13-10. Roethlisberger stoically stated after the game, “…the broken nose took some of the pain away.” That performance conjured memories of football legends – Hall of Fame Quarterbacks Charlie Conerly (Ole Miss), Y. A. Tittle (LSU) and Bobby Layne (a Texas Longhorn) who along with all other players initially wore no facemasks and got clobbered all the time. It was a Rege kind of evening – you know all that character, integrity and perseverance stuff. Rege was the wind under the wings of the Steelers that night with the good guys triumphant in the end.

Rege’s love of the Boston Red Sox seems to go sideways with his Keystone mentality but he did live in Springfield, Massachusetts for a while fomenting that relationship. We never discussed the Red Sox even given my enthusiasm and years growing up in the shadow of Ted Williams in nearby Providence, Rhode Island though we did discuss the ins and outs of college athletics. Rege was a student athlete at Duquesne University (class of 1964) in Pittsburgh where as a Duke he used his almost 7 feet to great effectiveness on the basketball court. The storied Duquesne basketball program was most notable and dominant in the 50’s and 60’s so his selection and participation speaks to his prowess on the court (two NIT appearances).

With as mild mannered an exterior persona that one can muster Rege wasn’t at all tolerant of folks that couldn’t or wouldn’t pull their own weight and phonies that cared more for post-nominals and self-aggrandizement. He wasn’t afraid to engage political and humanitarian causes witness his support for organizations like Grassroots Leadership, Chase Community Giving and Samaritan House, NC. I saw him essentially give away CDs and other product from Celtic Trader to those who couldn’t afford to buy if he thought the customer worthy or if he could make a difference… I suspect that Celtic Trader never really provided Rege and Barb with a handsome living or any substantial payoff. It was always more of a labor of love.

When Rege and Barbara decided to retire from the Celtic Trader a huge vacuum was created in the music community though both remained supportive thereafter. Those who had jammed at Rege’s place wrote, a jig, Farewell to the Trader in honor of Rege and Barb on the occasion of their final jam session on July 27, 2006 at the Celtic Trader in Charlotte. It turned out to be an Irish wake of epic proportions where all raised a glass to the tall guy, and I know it was Glenmorangie and then some. We assume those same sentiments and actions will be once again expressed and embraced at a memorial session for Rege to be held in Charlotte on December 15, 2010. By the way those sessions which now continue roughly every six weeks are still known as the Celtic Trader Sessions… We are reminded of a now legendary 1998 Celtic Trader Hogmanay fete and music session where Rege later lamented distributing 30 semi-drunk musicians slide whistles. James Galway would have been proud…

After attending many Kingdome of Räknar Raids at Grandfather Mountain where he and Barbara consorted and partied with many other shakers and movers in the Scottish Community, Rege decided in 1990 to come out of the closet and was created Knight Legbittr at the Great Glasgow, KY Highland Gathering. He and Barbara the Barbarian became an indispensible and integral part of this fun loving and talented group.

Rege would not want us to mourn, rather to celebrate with Family and Friends a life well lived and the legacy of a lifetime of work that brought many of us together. I look around my home and he lives in every fabric of this dwelling. Rege hasn’t left us, rather lives on in us.

Rege has passed from this mortal plane and joined in Valhalla those sage and august members of the Kingdome of Räknar who constitute our pantheon of heroes including the iconic Hägar aka Bob Swanson, Fat Duncan, Ed Manson, John Morrison, Bill Wright, John MacLeod of MacLeod, Ralph Payne, Tom Raisbeck, Jamie MacKenzie-Frye, George MakGill, Danny Potter, Bill Matthews, Kenn Maxwell, Gary Morrison, Tom Dowd, Richard Gammon, Bob Southerland, Mad Max, Yes-Tad Sims and Jan Pennington Gray, My Friend Carl and all the other heroes of Räknar, perhaps like his predecessors being offered some mead by a Valkyrie - or two… Barb says it’s OK…


Ned Buxton

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