Hooked on Bluegrass
Montie Elston - 2009 version
In September 1997 while living in Northern Virginia, I went to Luray (on the western side of the state in the middle of the Blue Ridge parkway) to visit the gift shop at the beautiful caverns there. (If you haven't been to the caverns, I highly suggest you go.) On the way back, I noticed a flea market. Now, I love shopping flea markets, so I pulled in and started wandering. While looking around, I heard some music. Live music. So I headed toward the sound, and there, outside a snack bar, was a group of people playing music. Bluegrass music.
While growing up, I was around gospel music in church, and later in life, I enjoyed country music - real country music. Standing around listening to the folks playing got my foot to tapping and a smile on my face. This was music that spoke to me. Music I could relate to and enjoy.
As I was standing around watching, one of the owners of the flea market, Alice, came up and started talking to me. During our conversation, she asked if I played an instrument. "Yes," I told her, "I play the guitar a little." She said, "Well, bring it with you the next time you come, and sit and play with the group." Other than playing my guitar in church, I had never sat around with other folks and jammed. But, dummy me, I took Alice at her word. Next time I went out there - it was 80 miles one way - I took my guitar.
Now, I must admit here and now that it wasn't just the music. I had noticed a nice-looking lady playing music in that group and had determined during my talk with Alice that she was "unattached." So I had more than one reason to revisit the flea market. Well, one trip turned into two, then three, and, well, I was hooked on bluegrass. I wasn't that good of a guitar player, hadn't ever used a capo before, and those folks didn't know what to make of me and my bar chords.
I met some wonderful people, and one of them played bass. I've always loved the bass. I've always wanted to play bass. So, in January, in the company of the nice-looking lady, I went to the Washington Music Store in Maryland and ended up buying a basic bass for me to start learning how to play. And play I started doing, after a lot of practice, that is.
I was fortunate in that the folks out there on the western side of Virginia - as well as in between and all around - love their bluegrass music and are very tolerant of beginners. I learned a lot about playing bass, what to do and not do in a jam, and that although I love to sing, I don't do it well with others. I also happened to make some good friends - the nice-looking lady was one, and the first bass player I met the other - who would let me play bass while they sang and played, and the three of us got fairly good at doing it. (I said "fairly" good" - not "really" good.)
As I was leaving Virginia in the summer of 1998, as well as the nice-looking lady (she was going one way, me another), the three of us made a tape together, of which I still have some copies somewhere. Now I could say I was a recording artist. We probably sold all of 20 copies of it - and could have sold more, but my mom and dad and sisters just wouldn't buy any more! After moving to California, I got in touch with Bob Thomas, who put me in touch with the CBA - and the rest, as they say, is history.
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