The band that Dill performs in — aptly named The Dill Pickers — will be performing a benefit concert Sunday afternoon to raise money for Interfaith Ministries of Calhoun County — an organization that Dill’s parents, Rev. Lawrence and Flo Dill, helped found in 1976.
“It’s an honor to be a part of what Interfaith does,” Norton Dill said, “even if it’s only a small part.”
Dill’s involvement happened largely by coincidence. Last year, Cathy Pitts and some other members of Anniston First United Methodist Church’s United Methodist Women’s group went to a dinner theater in Springville, Ala., called Local Color, where The Dill Pickers happened to be performing.
The show made quite an impression on the women.
“We had such a delightful time,” Pitts said. “It was light and fun. We found ourselves laughing all the time.”
With “pickers” in their name, conventional wisdom might lead one to assume that the Dill Pickers are bluegrass band. That’s true … to some extent.
Rather, The Dill Pickers are a theatrical music group that plays everything from doo-wop to jazz. They even throw in some costume changes for good measure.
“I like to say that we’re a vocal band that happens to own bluegrass instruments,” Dill explained. “We’ve really got to be seen to be believed.”
Back in 1999, the members of the Pickers — which also includes Stewart A. Jackson, Theresa McKibben, Kneeland Wright, Lesli Wright and Stewart Jackson — first shared the stage as cast members for a Birmingham production of “Smoke on the Mountain,” which told the story of the Sanders Family, a traveling gospel singing group.
As actors, the group also got to perform as a band — and they’ve been playing together ever since, performing songs from “Smoke on the Mountain” and its sequel, “Sand Mountain Saturday Night,” as well as other songs.
“I think the reason we’ve become popular is not just because of the music but the overall entertainment,” Dill said. “And truth be told, most of our fans would never consider going to bluegrass festival. They just love good music and a good show.”
The founding of Interfaith
For 25 years, Interfaith Ministries of Calhoun County has helped those in need, providing, among many other services, food and medical assistance, gifts at Christmas and clothing. For an organization that now offers such far-reaching benefits, Interfaith had a small, humble beginning.
In June of 1975, an informal meeting was called by Rev. Lawrence Dill of Anniston First Methodist and his wife, Flo. Also in attendance were Nan Christian, Ruth Bodenheimer, Rita Judge and Rev. Henry Golson. By September of that year, nine local churches and Temple Beth El had joined.
By late 1976, that number had grown to 18 churches.
Today, that number stands at more than 100 churches and millions of dollars in aid.
Norton Dill doesn’t remember specifics about the night his father and mother founded Interfaith around their dinner room table in 1975. But he does remember his parent’s desire for change and for creating an environment of cooperation.
Dill remembers his father championing the eventual merger of the North Alabama Conference of the United Methodist Church with the Central Alabama Conference, which represented the black Methodist churches.
“I’ve always been proud that my folks were leaders in a lot of areas that, during the late ‘50s and ‘60s, weren’t necessarily popular with everyone,” Dill said. “They taught me about reaching out, working together and seeing that we’re all equal on this Earth.”
Contact Brett Buckner at email@example.com.
The Dill Pickers
When: 2 p.m. Sunday.
Where: The Bridge, behind Anniston First United Methodist Church, 1400 Noble St.
Tickets: $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Available at Anniston FUMC and Nunnally’s Framing on Noble Street in downtown Anniston.