Hooked on Bluegrass

Randy Wiesendanger

I grew up in a very remote and secluded place and I heard music only when there was a dance or birthday party, on tv (That Nashville Music, Hee Haw, etc..) or on the AM radio in the pickup truck whenever we would go to town. To most folks that would seem like a lot of music but by todays standards you could say that it was rarely played.

I guess I was a fan at an early age where music was not a big part of my life but Country music was very popular with the folks back then and we enjoyed the traditional music that was played at the few gatherings that we had. Hank Williams and Roy Acuff were familiar names as they were still in the top 200. We did not draw a line between country and bluegrass back then as it was all the same to us but since I was drawn to the sound of the fiddle like Jerry Rivers', Paul Warrens', Chubby Wises', etc.. I began to see things differently and I would listen for the sound of the fiddle whenever music was playing on the radio. Dad had an old Hank Williams record that had Jerry Rivers playing a fiddle tune on each side but the tunes would only play for about 15 seconds and I wondered what it would be like if these tunes were played for a long time. I hadn't yet discovered Old-Time music.

Because of the fiddle I became a big fan of Moe Bandy's and not George Strait's. I became a George Strait fan later but that's another story. I did not take to Ricky Skaggs because just like George Strait, Nashville chose to promote the jazzy or pop sounding songs on their albums and It took a long time for me to accept these two as good musicians.

Now I took to Bluegrass easily because the fiddle was a normal part of the music unlike country which seemed to hate the fiddle and traditional music. I did not care about the difference between Bluegrass and Old-Time then. I guess by now you can guess that I was not a Patsy Cline fan.

Now some of you know that I used to drive trucks for a living and It was in the late 1980's when I decided that I wanted to take more control of my life but I did not know what I wanted. I just knew that driving trucks was wrong. One day while at a mechanic's shop in Bakersfield I found out that our mechanic was a guitar player for fiddle players and that he would go to many events all over the state.It was on that day that I vowed and I said it out loud that if I were to leave this very job then I would go and seek out these musicians and go and listen to lots of good music.

God must have heard me because it was no more than a month or two when something happened that caused me to quit that job for another. I began to look for good old traditional music and one day I found an announcement on the paper about the fiddle and banjo contest in La Grange.

I went and enjoyed this event and got a membership application to the CBA, and eventually got my first Breakdown. I was on my new truck driving job and was laid-over in Roanoke, Virginia on the 4th of July looking for something to do and so I opened up the Breakdown and saw many things happening close to home and here I was a couple thousand miles away. Now I didn't like this job and I told myself that if I was going to do a job I did not like I might as well do one close to home. This is another story but I did get another job but I was beginning to insist on getting more time off .

I started going to jams within a 2 hour drive of the house and decided to learn how to play the fiddle by just playing it. I went to fiddle contests, festivals and campouts and now I think I can spot a fiddle in a roomful of banjos.

(posted 12/29/2009)

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