Pete's Bluegrass Weblog - or Blog

Subjects: bluegrass, old time music, and vaguely related items. You are invited to join in, as you wish. E-mail them to us and we'll add your comments, which are very welcome.

August 23, 2003

This past Tuesday, I visited the second installment of Jim Wimmer's summer old time fiddle class. Jim is a first class luthier who enoyes sharing his knowledge of old time and Irish style fiddling with enthusiasts. The event takes place every Tuesday (until Sept. 2nd), around 5:30 PM, at Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens, Santa Barbara and Mitcheltorenna Streets in Samnta Barbara, CA. Gilles Apap also showed up, and we had a group of a dozen fiddlers, plus an accordian player and a guitarist who enoyed the late afternoon. If you'd like to participate, stop by next Tuesday, and bring a cassette recorder to catch the tunes. It's free to all.

James Wimmer

August 11, 2003

We have beautiful, warm, sunny days out here in the Santa Ynez Valley. Most of the wildflowers are gone as the local vegetation drifts into dormant time during the dry season. Most of our precipitation comes in the winter and spring months ... now, it's fire season for us.

I had a nice visit from Gene Earle this past week. He's been a fan of old time music for many years, and has what can only be described as a fabulous record collection based on this music, with more than 50,000 78s filling three rooms of his house. We were recollecting the early 1960s as a period when interest in this music really perked up. Gene was the one who, along with Ralph Rintzler and others, visited Deep Gap, North Carolina and recorded Clarence "Tom" Ashley, a blind guitarist, and friends in 1960/61. Those recordings, released by Moses Ash on Folkways Records, introduced Doc Watson to the world.

I've been thinking about Bill Monroe's early musical influences, once he left home in Rosine, KY and moved up to Northern Indiana. Of course, he must have listened to the National Barn Dance out of WLS, Chicago, and in fact, got one of his first show business jobs there as a dancer. He and his brother Charlie were performing there, and finally got a recording session with Victor in 1936. There were several mandolin players on record in this period, and I've been listening to some of Gene's 78s to get a better sense of what others were doing.

Charlie Monroe indeed, after breaking up with Bill, usually had a mandolin player with his band, including a young Lester Flatt!  (photo below, second from left)
L->R: Paul Prince, .Lester Flatt, Gladys Flatt, Charlie Monroe, Helen Osborne, Tex Isley, Birch Monroe.
Click on the photo for an enlarged view.
Gene loaned me some Charlie Monroe 78s, which, along with my own copies, I've compiled into a 25 song CD of his quite interesting material. If you're interested,
e-mail me, and I'll send details.

August 3, 2003

We've been having too much fun to write BLOGs lately! But here are a few items and notes to try to catch up a little.

Congratulations to Switzerland, who celebrated their 712th birthday as a democratic confederation this past Friday, August 1st.  It's my home country, so I guess in a way I could call myself a Confederate. We don't call it Dixie, but man, we can produce some powerful mooshine, back behind the hills of Bern or Zug. If the Swiss flag looks somewhat familiar and you're not a Swiss, it's perhaps because the International Red Cross was founded there many years ago, and uses the opposite colors for their symbol.    Swiss Flag

Last weekend was the occasion of the second annual Great American Bluegrass Festival, produced by Tricopolis Records at Lake Hesperia (near Victorville, California, off of Interstate 15). It's an interesting setting, essentially typical southwestern low desert, populated by Joshua Trees and Greasewood shrubs, but with a nearby lake and shade trees. There wee some fine bands there, along with a vintage car show. This makes some sense when you realize the producer, Mike Nadolson, was formerly a car dealer. The sound was overseen by Walden Dahl, who was based in a great 1950's "flyer-style" diesel bus with only 13,000 original miles on it. Make him an offer!

Hesperia Festival
Artist waiting to perform at Lake Hesperia.

We had a chance for a nice visit with Steve Spurgin, who was at the Festival for a Sunday performance on his way towards San Diego to produce some demo work. As usual, there was some great jaming with Mike Nadolson, Dave Richardson, Cliff Wagner, Eric White, and Tom Sauber, who was there to catch his son Patrick's set with The Bladerunners, a great new Irvine California-based bluegrass group.

Steve Spurgin
Steve Spurgin in typical hard-working mode.

This past Thursday night, Richard Greene, Rick Cunha, and I had a chance to do a little pickin' and singin' at the old Maverick Saloon in Santa Ynez, opening for Rhonda Vincent and The Rage. Hopefully this venue will continue to book bluegrass acts - and also, we sincerely hope, install some air conditioning on-stage!.Man, that set was hot in more ways than one!

Rick and I will be performing later this week at Zoey's Coffee Loft down in Ventura CA, so stop by if you can.


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