5:30 in the morning last Thursday, I headed out, driving to Amarillo. Sunday morning, I came home on Cloud 9. When I left Plano, the fog was heavy, but the traffic was light and nothing short of an ice storm was going to stop me. I was going to the Panhandle Bluegrass Assoc. Winter Indoor Jam. It had been three months since the last one, and it was the longest three months I’ve spent in a long time. This was my third time to make this trip and I was drawn back there for two very simple reasons:
#1 – the people. Some of the kindest, friendliest folks I’ve ever met. They’ve made me feel welcomed from the first time there and now they treat me like family, especially when Rob Simpson is pestering me. I guess I shouldn’t feel too special about that, though, because he picks on everybody. There is no reason to be surprised by the number of good-hearted people. Alvie Ivy, after all, is the one that got me mixed up with this bunch and I will be forever grateful. I always enjoy pickin’ with Alvie. I’ve know him a long time and he’s always been my bluegrass mentor. He supported me and my brother when we first started a little band years ago and he stays in touch, inviting me to new places and introducing me to new pickers. Thanks, Alvie.
#2 – the players. There are a LOT of really good, top-notch bluegrass musicians at these events. And the great part is you can just ramble around and pick with them all. Every instrument; bass, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, harmonica, banjo and even ukulele. And, singing…oh, my. Great lead singing and there was always somebody that would pick up any of the harmony parts that were needed. What a pleasure.
It was really nice to hear some of the young musicians. They just keep getting better. Makes me hustle!! Ethan Truelock is just killing mandolin and guitar and the Swapp family gave us the kind of harmony blends that can only come from families. I met a young man, Mark (don’t recall his last name) on this trip and wow! Super fantastic fiddle playing and harmony singing. Those fill-ins and leads were spot-on and the twin fiddle work he did with Dave Kuncicky was over the top. Those boys truly understood bluegrass fiddle work. On this trip, Alvie introduced me to Dennis Sparks and Marty McPherson, both from the Glen Rose area. Fine pickers and singers. You can tell they’ve been doing this for a while since they knew a lot of songs (and could remember the words). It was really nice to get to know them and play with them both AND they’re not far away. We’ll probably hook up the next time I’m down Glen Rose way. Oh, did I mention that these are all really nice folks?
It was real pleasure to get to play with some friends again. And, lucky me, they introduced me to some of their pickin’ friends and we went totally crazy. Some of the folks I first me when I started going to Amarillo were primed and ready this time, too. Bobby Truelock, Rob and Carol Simpson, are always fun to play with and fellow banjoist Joe Shallard made it over for one afternoon (he had some family commitments). We jammed a while, then swapped some licks and talked about banjos and life in general. You’ve got to love him for having his priorities straight. I love pickin’ with these guys. They like to mess with you, though, so “approach with caution”. 🙂
It was great to play with Tim and Becky McGaughy again. Both accomplished musicians. They play mandolin and bass, respectively, with Bobby Giles & Music Mountain. They have great smiles, are a hoot to play with, and they’re “rock solid”. To my great fortune, all of their band mates were in town and after some introductions we hit it. Bobby Giles on guitar, Steve Loggie on banjo and Dave Kuncicky on fiddle. Carl on guitar and vocals, Mike on Dobro (more on them later) and Mark on the twin fiddle. What a jam! Great pickers, good songs and lots of grins and laughter. I can only recall one other time that I’ve played until my right hand was swollen.
I first met Carl Josefy last Octorber and could not wait to get back up there to see him again. Yes, I enjoy picking with him, but that wasn’t my driving force. I just wanted to sit and talk and tell stories and such. Of course, we could pick before, after or during the talking, but that was secondary. I’m pretty sure that God put Carl in my life. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone that I have felt like I’ve know all my life and became such a dear friend, so quickly. We picked up right where we left off last time, except for Mike. Oh, my gosh. Mike Reeves is a story-telling, dobro-playing, song-writing bundle of joy and part-time maniac. Mike and I are not related, but through a bunch of stories we did determine that we have the same brother (or our brothers were very similar). We still
haven’t figured out how that happened. We spent one full afternoon just swapping original songs, talking about lyrics and some of the stories behind them. Mike is wonderful wordsmith and I’ve asked him to help me out a couple songs that I’ve written. Mike and Carl are both so good with lyrics and melodies that, if I can get them to collaborate with me, I’ll have the easiest part of the job. What a deal. And, if we could get published, I could sneak off with 70% of the royalties (until they catch up with me).
To all the folks at the PB&OMA jam, THANK YOU. I always have a great time, love the people and the music is outstanding. I plan to be back in April.
I really missed having my buddy George Nixon with me this time. He is a fine mandolin player (and luthier) and a ton of fun. I tried everything I could to convince him that Amarillo was a better option, in January, than Florida. He just wouldn’t buy it. I did get a text message from him. It said something about washing the beach sand off his feet after he finished jamming. Aaarrrggghhh. Well, looking on the bright side, I didn’t wind up short on Honeycrisp apples this time.