Author: Cornish, Rick

Hooked How?

Good morning, once again, from Whiskey Creek, where last Friday I began clearing out a little brush from our llama pasture, a couple hours job I told Lynn, and in a few minutes Iíll head back down there for a fifth straight day of work in sweat-spewing sun and dung-ladened dust, the combination of which transforms me by mid-afternoon into the spitting image a private first class in Emperor Qin's Terracotta Army
, less the top notch.

Iíve been meaning for a while now to write a Welcome column encouraging those who havenít yet to write and send in the story of their introduction to bluegrass and/or old-time music. Itís a refrain I sing every couple years here in this spot, and since 2002, well over two hundred and fifty folks (and one dog), young and old, famous and not so famous, rich and dirt poor, pickers and grinners, have met the challenge and sent their Hooked on Bluegrass story in. So this seems like a perfect morning to make the pitch once again. Our first Tuesday columnist wasnít able to get his piece in and I donít have an hour or two to attempt to make up something worth readingógot to get back out to the pasture. So Iíll do two things: first, Iíll ask youóplease send me your hooked on bluegrass story. It doesnít have to be long or perfectly written or inspirational or ironic or funny; it just has to explain how you got into this crazy scene in which you find yourself. Send your story to me at And the second thing Iíll do is post the most recent hooked story I have received. Itís Randy Sheltonís story and I think it tells as much about our bluegrass community as it does about Randy. EnjoyÖ

How I got hooked on bluegrass
Randy Shelton
Spring, 2012

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

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, 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

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 Bonnie or was it Clyde?

"The Newbie" aka Randy Shelton
Posted:  7/3/2012

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