Author: Rhynes, J.D.

Shaving in a hubcap, and other road musician stories

Back in January of 1973, my two good friends Vern and Ray did a tour of upstate New York and Eastern Canada. They wanted me to go along and play rhythm guitar with them, but I had a rare winter job that year so I could not go. A music friend of theirs who was from New Jersey, and had lived in California for 10 years or so, and who relocated to New Jersey arranged the tour for them. He hired two other musicians to go on tour with them, a bass player by the name of Nick Barr, and a banjo player who was none other than Don Stover of the Lilly Brothers band. Don played banjo with the Lilly Brothers for well over 20 years, and was one of the best in the business. He was also a good old country boy who loved to hunt and fish. He was especially fond of deer hunting, and Vern told me that when they were traveling in the country between towns, he was always looking for deer tracks and deer trails beside the road, which prompted Ray to nickname him," deer track Stover". This tour occurred in the dead of winter, and I still have the short letter that Vern wrote me stating; JD, you are so lucky not to be here because me and Ray are about to freeze to death. Vern always allowed to how a person could probably freeze to death in Canada in the middle of the summer. They were supposed to be there for about a month, but the tour was
cut short after two weeks by the oil embargo of 1973, and they could
not get enough fuel for their vehicle to make all the dates. Vern
told me when he got home that they made out of Canada by the skin of
their teeth. Fast forward to about 1980 or 1981, when the California
Bluegrass Association hired the Lilly Brothers to play the Father's
Day Festival in grass Valley, California. Naturally Don Stover was
part of that band, that made the trip West. We all had a grand
reunion backstage with Vern and Ray and Don, and the Lilly Brothers.
Vern and Ray and Don got to relive their short lived tour of upstate
New York and Eastern Canada back in 1973, and I only wish I could
remember all of those grand stories, but one that I remember the
most was this one. They got to talking about some of the cheap
motels that they stayed in on that trip, and Don made the remark
that a couple of them reminded him of his early days of playing
music on the road, when you had to sleep in the car and shave in a
hubcap. I immediately jumped on that remark, and said whoa whoa
whoa! Don, what you mean about shaving in a hubcap? He says, well,
JD, Back then we didn't have money for a motel room so we would
sleep in the car, which we usually parked next to a creek or a
stream, and the next morning we would take a hubcap off of the car,
build a small fire next to the creek, and boil some water in the
hubcap, so we could have hot water to shave with. Don said I've
shaved many a morning in a hubcap, while looking in the side view
mirror on the car. And then if it was in the summertime or the
weather was warm enough,we would take a bath in the creek so we
would look presentable when we got to our next job that day. He said
that life on the road in the 50s and 60s was not for the faint of
heart, and you had to really love the music to do it.

I have always lamented the fact that we have never had a video
camera backstage to document the stories over the years, or at least
a cassette recorder, but to do so would be a breach of trust with
the musicians, because a lot of the stories and incidents are
personal and were meant for your ears only. I am so glad that I was
there to hear that story that day from my old friend"deer track
Stover", and can share it here with all of you folks. Hopefully I
can remember and share a lot more stories from the past with you
folks right here in the years to come. Don Stover was one of the
pioneers in the bluegrass music business and played some the
greatest banjo music there ever was. May his soul rest in peace.
Posted:  9/27/2012

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