Hooked on Bluegrass

Randy Shelton

Perhaps it was Clyde Barrow's fault, or was it Bonnie Parker's? Foggy Mountain Breakdown played frequently in the 1967 movie "Bonnie and Clyde". It had me intrigued. Early on I only knew the name of that tune. Somewhere along the line I learned the artists were Flatt and Scruggs. Who were these guys? I had no clue but I liked their style. The hook was baited, dangled within reach but it took years to finally get set.

Over the next several years (more than I care to admit) bluegrass music was rarely in my mind, nor was it on top of my list of favorites. Bluegrass on the radio was difficult to find. There was a show on Saturday mornings that a friend listened to. I never could remember where or when it was and always missed it. Country music, especially classic country music, rested firmly on top of my musical heap.

Fast forward to the summer of 2009. Friends from Redding asked my wife and I if we would like join them at the Scott Valley Bluegrass Festival. They had been attending for years and thought we might enjoy it. What the heck is a Bluegrass Festival? We had not a clue.

The event was in the small Northern California town of Etna, located in the beautiful Scott Valley. We went, it was hot, camping was uncomfortable, cold bottled water was free, and the food was perfect, especially the homemade pies and ice cream. Everything was reasonably priced. Did I mention it was hot? We sat in the shade of an old oak tree and barely moved except to get more cold water, food and rest. The telephone didn't ring, no one texted me, business and other worrisome thoughts eluded my mind for those days. Relaxation was in order. I was in heaven.

When we drove in to camp, there stood Steve Tilden, the single handed welcoming committee. He shook my hand and offered to help in any way. I was immediately impressed. Steve was the first "bluegrassin" soul I met; we are still friends today. Such nice folks were all around.

The music was incredible. The Friday night street jam was an experience that was all new to me. The bands, Monroe Crossing, Kathy Boyd and Phoenix Rising, The Wintons and The Mark Phillips III Generation Bluegrass Band and others were captivating. Their hard driving music was uplifting. I offer special thanks to Ed Baker for hosting Bluegrass Church, it was an experience to behold. We left Etna with our hearts filled with memories and fists full of CD's which we still enjoy today. After that weekend the bait was more enticing but wasn't taken yet.

I wish I could say that I had taken piano, violin, guitar or oboe lessons in my youth but I can't. We were poor, I had no interest, lessons were not offered, and "gone fishing" are the best excuses I can come up with.

While hanging around different camps at the Susanville Bluegrass Festival in 2011 I saw what fun everyone was having jamming. I thought there was no way I could ever participate. One night at Ernie Hunt's camp I saw a guy just strumming chords on a guitar and thought to myself, I CAN DO THAT! The bait had been taken. I came home, bought a guitar and a fiddle (maybe more than one), hired a teacher and started attending jams.

It is not only the music that has me hooked but the friendships that have been created. I am looking forward to meeting more of you in the future. The Bluegrass family is the greatest. The hook is set, the barb is sharp, the line is unbreakable and the drag is strong. There is no getting away. I'm hooked. Thanks to Bonnie; or was it Clyde?

(posted 11/21/2012)

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