What a blast we had this past Monday in Elizabethton. I really enjoy this jam because there are so many highly talented pickers and singers. Here are a few pictures that Mary took. There are more on the "Bluegrass Country Pictures" page.
On Saturdays, Mary and I look forward to the Rheatown Store Bluegrass jam sessions. This week saw fewer pickers since many were off playing gigs elsewhere, but the musical talent was very high and the sound very professional. Several commented on the talent level. Early on, before a lot of the pickers showed, I got to do some fiddling with Ken Williams (fiddle). I played a bunch of old fiddling styles like French Canadian, Irish, Old-Time and some Celtic waltzes and Ken fiddled some good old Bluegrass numbers much to the audience's delight. Later on, toward the close of the evening, when big Charlie, the guitar picker from the Nolichuckey band showed up, Maynard twin-fiddled with me for a couple of old Bluegrass numbers. Standbys like Walter, Dennis, David, Maynard, Ken, Marvin, John, yours truly and others were around to keep the large audience entertained. It was a great, fun night for all of us.
This past Friday night found us back at the Sunshine Kitchen on Bohannon Avenue in Greeneville, TN. There were quite a few of the regulars present and a really good pickin' session was had by all. Many of these same pickers will meet on Saturday night in Rheatown at the Store. Mary took these photos early on in the evening before a lot of the pickers arrived.
Wednesday, Mary and I took a little trip over to Roan Mountain State Park and climbed the highway to the top in our automobile and drove down the back side into North Carolina and returned home by the back roads. Here, above, are a few pictures Mary took. The elevation of Roan is over 6,280 feet above sea level. "Click" the mouse to enlarge the photos.
Monday night found us at the Sunshine Market in Elizabethton, TN. I am very impressed with the level of Bluegrass musical abilities spread around through the many pickers who show up to this weekly jam. Here are some pictures below. Be sure and "click" your mouse on them to enlarge them for better viewing. (More pictures on the Bluegrass Country Pictures page)
On Friday night, we met our friend Jeffery Lewis in Kingsport and went to a Bluegrass concert on Broad Street featuring "Hard Times" a really gifted band. Later after the show, many musicians jammed on the streets of the city for several hours.
Saturday found us in Newport at Strings & Things jamming with our friends Tony, Mary Ann and Jim. Then we left there and headed to Rheatown for our Saturday night jam with our many, many friends at the Rheatown Store on the main drag thru town.
Be sure and check out the many fine pictures Mary has taken. They're on the dropdown named "Bluegrass Country Pictures".
Thursday, June 16th in Marshall, NC
Yesterday -another Thursday in which our plan was to culminate in playing music with Bobby Hicks and his many friends at the Zuma Coffee House in Marshall, North Carolina - was a beautiful day. When Mary and I left Greeneville, we took Rte 107 through the Houston Valley and had a picnic deep in the Cherokee Mountains before coming to Rtes 25 and 70 and arriving in Marshall. Mary took countless gorgeous photos that will eventually be posted on this website.
This time I was moved to bring a couple of my fiddles with me to the jam. I sure am glad I did. My new friend who I admire so much for his fiddling ability, Roger Howell, relocated the sound posts on both of my fiddles and wow, what a difference that made in the overall sound and balance.
In addition to what I would call the “regular” fiddlers, i.e. Bobby Hicks, Roger Howell and “Mac” Claflin, the audience was superbly entertained by other fiddlers including a young man named Branson Raines, another young man who is a student of Bobby’s named Adam Masters who Bobby claims has almost caught him in ability, and several others I didn’t get names for.
Lead guitar runs were very professional executed by Bryce Parham and mandolin was beautifully played by Orrin Jenstad. Leonard Hollifield sang many songs while Cathy Arrowwood played superbly on the standup bass. Prior to the evening of jamming, I played fiddle with a really neat guy, Steve Davidowski, who was providing entertainment by playing the upright piano. Steve is a graduate of Eastman School of music and he and I spent quite a while reminiscing about our music school days and how the directions taken differed so much from our original ambitions.
I'd heard the tune "Squirrel Hunter's" the previous Thursday, but I didn't have my fiddle with me, so this Thursday I came prepared and when the gang started playing it, I played along until I got the gist of it and took the wrinkles out early this morning. It's a fun reel to play.
Yesterday, we went to Chester, Virginia and back. It was a distance of 750.3 miles. We left at 5:55 a.m. and returned 15 hours and 15 minutes later. We sure did get to see a lot of the countryside. Virginia is as beautiful as the songs say it is. We even went through Blue Ridge, VA. The words of the old song penned by Certain and Stacey and made famous by Flatt & Scruggs kept coming into my head until finally I started singing them aloud:
"There's a well-beaten path in the old mountainside
Where I wandered when I was a lad
And I wandered alone to the place I call home
In those Blue Ridge hills far away...
Oh, I love those hills of old Virginia
From those Blue Ridge hills I did roam
When I die won't you bury me on the mountain
Far away near my Blue Ridge mountain home...."
What a great day it was. On the way back, I received two calls from friends wanting to pick Bluegrass and believe it or not, I had to decline from being too tired! Hard to believe, I know.
I talked with Donnie Perkins today for about a half an hour. He's still in the CVPH hospital in Plattsburgh, NY on the fifth floor. We had a great chat and he was in good spirits. He was curious about this area and the many musicians that are here and he wanted me to send Bobby Hicks his "Best Wishes", too.
Mary and I will see Bobby this Thursday night in Marshall, NC, and we'll give Bobby Donnie's best.
When Donnie's fully recovered we're hoping he and Pat will be able, at some point, to come south and stay with us and visit Bobby. He's only about 35-40 miles from us.
I was so pleased to hear Donnie in good spirits. He's been in the hospital for SO LONG!
We all wish for a speedy recovery, Donnie. Get well soon and grab your fiddle!
I've just completed composing a new banjo tune which I really, really like. I've named it "The Rheatown Ramble" in honor of my many new friends in Rheatown, TN. It will undoubtedly be included in my upcoming banjo book volume 2. I can't wait to debut it for my friends.
What an inspiration all these musicians have been for me since I've arrived. They've all taken me into the fold and accepted me. (This of course goes for Mary, too). The reception each time I pick a banjo break is unbelievable; people really like my banjo work down here. 40 years of playing and the appreciation level is very high in Tennessee. The level of musicianship around here is to die for. I couldn't have settled in a better region.
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