Author: Williams, Dave

What have they done to the Old Home Place….

Deadlines are tough when you are the road. I thought this five week month was going to be a piece of cake for putting together my Welcome column but here I am on Labor Day working on a deadline. I have seen a few examples around here of prolific welcome column writers doing some great writing with a deadline bearing down on them, so I am going to give it go, not because I am comparing myself to them but because I have no other choice.

I am in my hometown Niagara Falls, NY on a very lucrative endeavor. I am ostensibly here to play two gigs with very old friends. You might ask, do you mean friends you have had for a long time or friends who are very old. Turns out both are probably correct depending on your definition of very old.
In order to make any sense of this, I probably need to begin with a short biography. I moved to Bay Area 35 years ago travelling across country in a caravan of three vans filled with our band and lots of hope. In Western New York, we were the biggest fish in a small puddle (not big enough to be a pond) and in getting to the Bay Area we became the chum that the big fish dined on. In short order, we all had day jobs and then families and so on and so on. Like many others like us, this put our musical careers on hold. It was a relatively short hiatus of about 30 years give or take a couple years. One other critical piece of data is that this band was somewhat like a society or club as there were probably 20 or so members at various times.

I know, I know, you are probably saying get on with this story, will you. Or worse, you have already moved on to the message board page.

Okay, about 5 years ago our band starting playing gigs every summer but with this somewhat unique situation. There are two bands, one playing on each end of the continent. Among the members, there are a couple of bi coastal players but generally there is an East Coast band and a West Coast Band.

Maybe now is a good time to make sure I add some bluegrass / CBA content. The westsiders have played GOF twice (big tent?) and a few years back on April 1, we were featured on the CBA Welcome page…… as the April Fools joke column. Look it up!

Anyway enough of this, on with the story, being politically neutral in cross continental band politics, I was invited to play bass with the east coasters at a blues festival this weekend. That is part of the lucrative endeavor I mentioned earlier. There is some decent pay for this gig but my accountant reminds me that I paid $600 in airfare and another $100 to rent a bass and more dollars to rent a car to carry it in. However, being able to meet up with my old friends and to spend some time with my mother and other family in the area is extremely lucrative.

In trying to put this trip together, I realize how difficult it is to travel with instruments. I suspect that the pros have it down and can protect their instruments during travel but what about regular folks who want to go back to where they are from and pick with their friends. Air travel is not made for that. At music camp a few years ago I saw the case Mark Schatz used to travel with his bass. It was bigger than a coffin but with much better padding. We regulars can’t do that. After an extensive regional internet and phone search, I managed to find a bass to use while I am here rehearsing and playing. I know it is just a bass but like most players; I sure would like to be playing my own ax..

What hasn’t been so lucrative is seeing the city I grew up in. Like many rust belt cities Niagara Falls hasn’t aged well at all. Vibrant neighborhoods where we lived, hung out and learned to play music have vanished. I imagine this is the same feeling that bluegrass songwriters were telling us in songs like “The Old Home Place”. I get a sense that songs about these neighborhoods would be blues without the grass though.

I am off to a rehearsal today with my stand in stand up bass. I’ll talk to you next month.

Oh, and if you are in the area. The Amazing Dr, Zarcon’s Breathing Machine is playing in the Niagara Falls Blues Festival at 3:00 on Saturday Sept 8. We are on the bill with James Cotton. Admission is free and you are just walking distance from the falls.

Posted:  9/6/2012

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