Author: Ramos, Jean

Duct Tape

My debut Welcome Column was about the 2008 Spring Camp-Out, the first CBA event I ever attended. I knew not one CBA Member; my Martin Guitar was so new it still had the plastic film stuck on the pick guard and I only knew a couple songs that could pass as Bluegrass but came out sounding “country” even to my ears. As Loretta would say, “A lotta things have changed since way back then.”

Most of us kept pretty close tabs on the weather predictions for the week of our most recent camp-out and none of it was encouraging. We had the mindset that we would go regardless of the weather and we would have a great time. Randy Shelton did a countdown everyday for a week, sending me a message of how many days ‘til camp-out. He evidently had the same mindset.

We arrived on Monday, a beautiful sunny, calm day. Terry and Ralph set the “EZ-Ups” into place and attached the sides for wind breaks. To make a long story short, after two “near catastrophes” early in the week, we were set up with a cozy, dry place to jam. There’s just nothing like duct tape to make things right in the bluegrass world. We survived torrential rains, gale force winds, lightning, hail, cats and dogs.

Since we had one of the few dry places to jam, it was a popular spot. It was interesting to watch how each jam session took on a character of its own. Early in the week, we had the “country” gentlemen who came to sing their drinking and cheatin’ songs and another jam was heavy on the Gospel end of the spectrum.

One afternoon, I hosted a slow jam for those who are less experienced or need to rely on songbooks. Another jam that stands out was when I had Rick Cornish, Fred Steppe and a fine fiddlin’ lady named Karen in the tent. I felt like Old King Cole (minus the pipe and bowl) but was blown away by the “Fiddlers Three.” What beautiful three-part harmonies they coaxed from their fiddles. A Merry Old Soul was me.

One particularly cold and windy afternoon, I invited some of the younger set to use the shelter for jamming. I was pleased to host such stellar pickers as Mark Peet, his friend Julie (a fine fiddler), Angelica Grim Doerfel, and Joe Ash, Snap Jackson, Eric Antrim, Howard Goetz, Scott Gates and several others. They created a bluegrass storm on the inside of the tent that rivaled the one going on outside. Again, duct tape held things together.

Speaking of Snap Jackson, he and Knock on Wood have a new CD coming out soon. It’s a full length album, all original songs, some straight ahead Bluegrass mixed with Old Time, and Americana style tunes. Bill Evans is on one track and there’s a song on the album called Glory Train that was written by Henry Zuniga. It’s one CD we’ll all want to have in our collection. Hit him up at Grass Valley.

Am I the only one who pays attention to little quirky things that people do while they are jamming? I was watching peoples feet…almost everyone taps a foot in time with the music. Some use the right foot, some the left, some jump in with both feet. One fellow I know can tap one foot for the down beat and the other for the off beat, quite a feat (no pun intended). It was brought to my attention that I use my heel and not my toe, and I tap on the off beat. I wonder what it would sound like if we weren’t allowed to use our feet. I’ve always wanted to use the word cacophony in a sentence.

Did the trains seem particularly loud last week? At one point I thought I’d have to lift a flap on the tent and let the train roll on through. We all had a good laugh when Mark Peet was singing Mr. Engineer with Suzie Brown. When he sang the line, “Mr. Engineer, reach up and pull the whistle,” the train whistle blew right on cue.

I want to express my thanks to the bass players who hung in there all week. Robert Crowder brought in “Sarah Kay” for a couple jams and Lou McClenahan spent many hours in our tent setting the pace with “Stanley.” My good friend Kristen Willis was there with “Bubba.” Is the naming of instruments reserved only for basses?

My new (old) Gibson F5L Mandolin got a pretty good work out at one of my jams and it has never sounded so good. Oh yeah, it was in the hands of my friend Dennis Anderson.

Once again, Spain’s Carolina Barbecue did a good job with the pork dinner on Saturday night. The entertainment was great too with Coon Skin Cap, featuring Annie Alvira; what a voice! A highlight of the show was when Angelica came on stage and sang, “West Virginia, My Home.” It was good to see her and her two babies, Jake and Callie.

The last jam on Saturday night will always stand out in my memory. Some of my favorite musicians were there; Lou, Kristen, Jimmy Bowman, Jonathan Bluemel, Steve Ladonga, Tina Louise and Uncle John. It was one of those “anything goes” type of jams and they didn’t hold back. It’s a very rare occasion that you will hear Tina make a mistake on the autoharp, so we will mark this one down on the calendar. She wanted to redeem herself by playing through it again, but she repeated the same mistake. She told us that there is a musical term for what she did; it’s called a “bullshendo.” We all got a good laugh out of that, particularly coming from her because she takes her music seriously.

I was chatting with Kristen and I like the way she describes the Bluegrass Community. She said it’s like a long spool of thread, and each of us latches on to a piece of the fiber and we are bound together by the music and fellowship. We are from different walks of life, have a variety of religious and political beliefs, different careers and economic levels, and none of the differences matter. We are woven together like a beautiful tapestry and find our fulfillment in that which we share in common. (Better than Duct Tape).

See you all at the next musical event, remember to put the “latch string” out for the newcomers, and allow them to add their own brand of beauty to our tapestry.

Posted:  4/22/2012

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