Hooked on Bluegrass

Jeanie Ramos

I have quite a few “flower” songs in my repertoire. Songs like “Gathering Flowers for the Master’s Bouquet,” “Beautiful Bouquet,” “Where the Roses Never Fade,” and my favorite, “Wildflowers.” I love wildflowers; I’ve read that wildflower seeds can remain dormant in the soil for years until conditions are just right for germination. With just the right amount of rain and warmth from the sun, their tender shoots will break through the hardest ground and they will sprout leaves and open their pretty faces to the sky and perfume the spring air.

My “hooked on bluegrass” story can be compared to a wildflower seed, waiting for just the right time and conditions to bloom and flourish. I believe I started singing as soon as I could talk. I learned to accompany myself on guitar when I was fourteen years old. That was during the “Happy Days” of the 1950’s, so I was singing old time rock n’ roll.

I moved to North Carolina in the early 1960’s and began hanging out with country music pickers. It was during that time that I had the unique experience of visiting some folks in the Appalachian Mountains in Pennsylvania. They played and sang late into the night. Some of it was foot stomping music and some of it included the saddest songs I ever heard; songs of lost loves, lost children, lost souls, etc. I had never heard such beautiful harmonies or felt such emotions as some of these songs evoked. This was my first exposure to bluegrass music, a memorable experience. I may not have become an instant bluegrass fan back then, but the seed was planted.

Twenty years or so later, I got acquainted with some folks down the road, Sadie and Hugh Portwood. Neither one of them played an instrument or sang but they were enthusiastic bluegrass fans and served as Goodwill Ambassadors for the California Bluegrass Association. They spread the “Bluegrass Gospel” like dedicated evangelists. They often loaned me their vinyl albums and encouraged me to learn some bluegrass songs and attend the CBA events. I was busy raising a family and didn’t have the time to dedicate to my music. I was like the dormant wildflower seed, the conditions still weren’t right for me to take root and bloom in the bluegrass world.

In the winter of 2007, my husband and I were spending the winter on the California side of Lake Havasu. That was the winter that Bill Bogan and Ben Sandoval put on the First Annual Lakeshore Bluegrass Festival at the resort where we were staying. Ken Orrick and Lost Highway, Cedar Hill, Flint Hill Special, were just a few of the bands that performed. The trailers and RVs came streaming into camp a week before the actual festival. I went from camp to camp meeting people and enjoying some fantastic music. I made friends with a lady named Lorraine Paris who knew almost everyone there, including the paid performers. She introduced me around and got me involved in some jams and explained the jam etiquette to me. It was a memorable week and by the time the last RV pulled out of the resort, this old wildflower seed was starting to germinate and sink some roots. I was hooked on bluegrass music and bluegrass people.

In 2008, we joined the California Bluegrass Association and attended our first camp-out. The CBA people have welcomed me into the bluegrass community and the music has become a big part of my life. I no longer feel like the “Lonely Little Petunia in the Onion Patch.” (That was the first flower song I learned as a child).

(posted 5/25/2012)

Copyright © 2002 - 2010 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email rickcornish7777@gmail.com