Author: Varner, Mark

The story of the 2013 Grass Valley bands

Dear friends,

The upcoming CBA board of directors meeting marks the end of the 2012 session of the Talent Advisory Group. As you probably know, the CBA leadership created this three member committee to research and advise them on the main stage line up for the Fatherís Day Bluegrass Festival in Grass Valley. The members serve a three year sentence, I mean ďtermĒ. Those serving on ďTAGĒ are chosen by CBA leadership because they have a knowledge of bluegrass and old time music that extends beyond their own musical tastes and encompasses the old and the up-and-coming in our music. The committee is expected to honor the CBAís commitment to preserving and promoting bluegrass, old time, gospel and related music. They are also tasked with working within those confines to create an event that will appeal to a mass audience and ďputs butts in seatsĒ. To be a TAG member it also helps to have skin like a rhinoceros.

It has been my pleasure to serve on TAG for the past three years, the last two as chairman. It will also be my distinct pleasure to pass the task on to another lucky soul. The two other TAG members, Whit Washburn and Ray Edlund, have expressed their preference to serve the committee as members but do not want to take on the large and messy job of chairing the group. So our new member will also step up into the leadership role. Of course this person can always call permanent TAG resource, Carl Pagter for guidance. And as outgoing chair they can count on my help too, of course.

Annnnnnnyhoozle. Told you that to tell you this! The CBA board of directors has approved another fantastic line up of performers for the 2013 Fatherís Day Festival and I am proud of TAGís efforts to offer four days of music rich in quality and variety.

How and why are the bands chosen? We can start at the beginning. Early in the year TAG is tasked with procuring the headline acts. These are the most famous, most popular and of course the most costly to book. We announce these acts at our previous FDF to encourage return attendees. This year we went with Rhonda Vincent and the Rage and Blue Highway. Blue Highway, featuring one of Californiaís favorite sons, Rob Ickes, is always a solid choice. After seventeen years as an award winning group I think they have got the whole bluegrass thing down. And Rhonda has pleased a whole lot of fans by re-hiring the super-talented guitarist, singer Josh Williams. The Queen of Bluegrass has been a frequent performer at Grass Valley due in large part to her love of our festival and association. (Rhonda and the Rage are also doing a benefit show for us in Bakersfield in January. She personally asked to be involved.) The last time I saw her perform, at the River City Festival, she was at top form and had clearly settled into her role as a bluegrass matriarch.

Speaking of Rage alumni, bluegrass banjo hero Kenny Ingram has been playing as part of the Larry Stephenson Band. Itís a great fit and Larry has a hot band. Larry Stephenson has not played for a Grass Valley audience in many years. I think the last time he was here was with Bill Harrell. Larry has played with Cliff Waldron and the Bluegrass Cardinals among others, and both he and Kenny won SPBGMA awards this year.

When we started thinking about some hot picking firmly grounded in traditional bluegrass we came up with a number of qualified applicants, but none better than Michael Cleveland and Flamekeeper. This band is a crowd favorite in Grass Valley.

With ďcontemporaryĒ bluegrass well represented, TAG knew it needed more traditional style bluegrass. There were plenty of ideas on the part of the committee and we all three enjoy the masters of the genre and vintage music. In a major episode of deus ex machina, I got a call from Carl Pagter who had been contacted by Melvyn Goins who expressed a wish to come to our festival for the very first time! As part of the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, a pioneering bluegrass band that started in the 1930s, Melvyn is an IBMA Hall of Fame member. Friends, it does not get any more big deal than that. Itís the pinnacle of bluegrass honors. Among many other honors, Melvyn told me how pleased he was when he and his brother Ray were put onto the Country Music Highway in Kentucky in 2005. And Iíll tell ya, for a guy who played his first radio gig in 1951, the fella is as energetic and full of life as anyone youíd want to meet. He and his band Windy Mountain are sure to be big hits at Grass Valley.

I think I will tease you and leave the rest of the story of the 2013 Fatherís Day Festival line up for my next column. Thereís more! I think itís good to know the thinking behind the CBAís choices of performers for our flagship event. Next time Iíll tell you about a band that is the same age as the Fatherís Day Festival and continues to rock as hard as we do. Also how about old time music? Oh weíve got it. Iíll tell you about that as well. And our Emerging Artist. And maybe a special surprise. Ooh. I canít wait to hear what I have to say!

Your pal,
Mark Varner
Posted:  12/3/2012

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