Author: Campbell, Bruce

Things That Make Me Smile When I Think of Them

If you’re lucky like me, several times a day, certain thoughts or mental images flicker across your mind and make you smile. Here are some of the things that do this for me (above and beyond the obvious kids and family).

Vocal phrasing from Red Allen, Jimmy Martin and Lester Flatt
It’s hard enough to sing in tune, but to have great timbre and vocal style, combined with great phrasing is sublime. Imaginative vocal phrasing and dynamics are inherent in bluegrass and a big part of its appeal for me, but when I listen to these three cats sing, I get goosebumps. Listen to Jimmy’s band’s vocals – solidly rhythmic: “Two strikes against me, before I even start” – the beat is punctuated on the 1st three syllables (the first syllable of ‘against” is in between the beats), and the vocals nearly fade away on the word “start”. Then, the next line echoes that basic rhythm, except it accentuates the final word (heart). That stuff doesn’t happen by accident, my friends!

Duane Campbell’s Smile
OK, Duane gets a certain amount of credit in my opinion, simply for having the same name as my late dad. My heart skipped a beat the first time I got an email from him; I thought it was dad, communicating from the Great Beyond. Have you ever played with this guy and his friends? They have the best darn time, and my cheeks always hurt afterwards from smiling so much myself. He’s got some pals he plays with – Jody Whitney, Keith Davis, Melissa Blas and others – and THEY all have great smiles and pick like crazy. They had another friend who moved away a while back – Dawn Antelo – and SHE had a world-class smile. If you’re ever feeling a little blue at a festival (like THAT could ever happen!), look these folks up.

The Tinfoil Helmet Guy on the CBA Website
There’s one silly ad on the CBA Website occasionally that shows a chubby guy with a helmet made of tinfoil, with two absurd horns (or antenna) sticking up. He looks very serious, he has bizarre goggles and he has his fingers stuck in his ears. I can’t get enough of it, because I’m dying to know the context behind the photo. I assume it was intended to be silly, but the guy looks so serious, I have to wonder. I get a chuckle every single time I see it. Keep your eyes peeled for it!

CBA Board Meetings
Yeah, it’s a drive, and because of that, you kind of have to set aside a whole day for it. But it’s always stimulating. Anyone that thinks the CBA Board is a bunch of cronies rubber stamping harebrained ideas so they can sit around and gossip hasn’t attended a meeting. The Board (and I’ve seen several versions of it throughout the years I have served that august body) consists of people with diverse opinions, and quite often, those opinions clash. Voices may be raised, cheeks may flush and tempers may flare, but the passion is about the opinions, not the people, so there is no real rancor. I am a person who hates confrontation, but even I have “got up on my hind legs” a time or two (as Mark Varner characterized it). Why would this stuff make me smile? Because it’s how things get done. It’s how decisions can be made, even as widely disparate points of view are vigorously defended. I love how we’ll all go nose-to-nose on some issue, and then - lunch time! - and everybody’s pals for 20 minutes, and we get right back at it. It’s kind of like that old cartoon with Ralph and Sam, the sheepdog and wolf who would punch their timeclock every morning (“Morning, Ralph!” Morning, Sam!”), fight all day, then punch out each night.

These are just some of the things I smiled about today. Take note of the things that make YOU smile – they’ll make a long day at work seem shorter, and ease a long commute.

Posted:  8/15/2012

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email