Author: Rhynes, J.D.

Denned Up J.D. Speaks

Today's column from J.D. Rhynes
Thursday, January 24, 2008

Today's column, is the result of me being "denned up" fer the last three days here in the house, 'cause it's been snowing pitchforks here on Bluegrass Acres. I've been catching up on a bunch of paperwork that I'd been putting off, waiting fer a stormy spell jes like the one I'm expereincing here on my mountain top right now. I finally got out a box of papers that I'd had in the attic since my first divorce, back in 1986. I was looking for something other than what jolted my memory for today's story. While looking for a particular piece of info, I stumbled across a letter from Mr. Don Barsotti, who at the time[Aug. 1977] was the chairman of the Community Center Committee, in Salinas, Ca..They were the folks that put on the annual Salt Flats Hoedown, a fiddle contest that was billed as the" Western Regional Old Time Fiddling Championship", and was sponsored by the California Rodeo Association.

The story starts in around May of 1977, when I received a call from my good friend Jack Sadler [ One of the three founders of the C.B.A., YAY!] Jack asked me if I would be willing to be a "judge" at a Bluegrass Band contest in Salinas , the contest to be held in conjunction with the Salt Flats Hoedown. I said I'd be delighted to do that, and Jack told me that along with me as a judge there would be my good friends Keith Little, Roscoe Keithley, Ray Park, and himself, as a judge also. He gave me the date, and all of the particulars, and we couldn't wait to get to Salinas, as we KNEW that a good time was gonna be had!

The time finally arrived to head to Salinas, in the summer, and there were ALL of the BIG names of the Fiddle Contest circuit at the time, in attendance at Salinas. A very young Marc O"Connor, Junior Shaughnessy,and Dick Barrett just to name a few that I remember, lo these 31 years later.

The plan was to have the different Bluegrass Bands fill in the "blank spots" in the fiddle contest, while the judges compiled scores, and eleminated the lower scoring fiddlers, a very time consuming process for you folks that have never been to a major fiddle contest. Well, as they say, the plans of Mice and Men always seem to go astray. The "astray" part of the Band Contest concept was the fact that there wasn't enough bands to have a contest! The Hoedown folks figured that they would have about 20 to 25 bands show up, but in fact there was only enough Bluegrass musicians to make up a very scant FIVE BANDS! AAAAGGGGGHHHH! What to do? Well, we "judges" put our heads together and came up with the idea to pay all of the bands an equal amount of the Band Contest prize money pool, and go ahead and put on a "mini" festival for the audience. So, that's what we did.

Now fer the fun part of the story. The fiddle contest started, and the first round of fiddlers got up and played, and then the Chairman of the Hoedown explained to the audience how the program was going to go, and he introduced the first Bluegrass band. They played a full 45 minute set, and then the next round of fiddlers got up and played, followed by the next Bluegrass band, and then we had a nice long lunch break.

I'll never forget what happened during our lunch break, as long as I live! A bunch of us went across the street from the big hall to have lunch at a really great restuarant. There was Keith Little, Roscoe Keithley, Jack, and Jan Sadler, Ray Park and myself. We all sat in a big booth, ordered our meal and were setting there having a good cup of coffee, visiting as good friends do, and jes enjoying each others company. Now my buddy Roscoe Keithley was one of the sharpest dressers that I've ever seen! [In fact he has always been an inspiration to me to dress as fine as I can when I go out in public.] On this particular day, Roscoe had a Sterling Silver ring on, and it was inlaid with Coral and Turquoise. Ray kept staring at the ring and he finally asked Roscoe, what kind if stones were in it? Roscoe told him what they were, and Ray stated, that was the pretiest ring he'd ever seen! At that, Roscoe took the ring off of his finger and told Ray to try it on: Ray did, and it fit him perfectly. Roscoe asked him if he liked that ring? Ray said he loved it, and with that, Roscoe said; Ray, if you like that ring that much, it's yours! Ray kinda stammered, and said that he didn't mean to get it that way. Roscoe told him that it was a present from him to Ray as a friend and he would get himself another one. Immeadiately, Jack, Keith, and me started out on Ray: Oh yeah Ray, that's really nice! Just BEG the damn ring right off of yer buddy's hand! You oughta be ashamed, etc., etc.! We gave Ray the "Knife" fer about 10 minutes over that one! We all got a good laugh out of that incident, and Roscoe assured Ray that he really wanted Ray to have that ring as a reminder of their frienship. We finished our lunch and it was back to the hall for some more good music..

After the last band had did their set, it came time for "The Judges" to play a set. We were all back stage, getting tuned up, and one of the musicians there with one of the Bluegrass bands was none other than our friend, Laurie Lewis. Laurie asked if we needed a Bass player? We sure do, was our immeadiate reply! So laurie grabbed her Bass, and joined us for our set. The chairman explained that we were all Bluegrass musicians and were well qualified to judge the aborted band contest that never materialized, but he wanted the audience hear us play a set too. So with that, Keith kicked off a fast Monroe number, and we were off and running! We played a 45 minute set, and the audience loved us, but unknowingly, the best was yet to come! After our set, another round of fiddlers played, and then we were to play a few hoedowns for the Foggy Mountain Cloggers to dance to. Now this was the first time that we had ever met the Foggy Mtn. Cloggers, and boy were we in fer a surprise! They were only gonna dance two numbers, and Ray suggested Ol Joe Clark, and Soldiers Reel as the two fiddle tunes he'd play. That was fine with them and He kicked off Ol Joe Clark and the audience really got into it as well as us, and the place was about to shake apart! I mean those guys and gals really were kickin as high as the moon, and a'spinnin and yellin', and Ray was playin the best fiddle that I'd ever heard him play! A lot of the fiddlers that were in the contest were watching from the stage wings, with their mouths wide open, and they couldn't believe how Ray could play that fiddle! When we finished that number it brought the house down, and those fiddle players were clapping the loudest! We played two or three songs to give the cloggers a rest, and then Ray kicked off one of my favorite fiddle tunes, Soldiers Reel, fer the clogers. Now, I'd heard and played Soldiers Reel with Ray several times before in the past, but the licks he was a'layin on it today was something straight from Heaven above! He was double and triple bowing a lot of the licks like I'd never heard before! The audience really got into his version of it and started dancing and stomping, and the floor actually started moving! One of the people from the maintenance crew ran out and yelled at the audience to STOP, before the place fell down! Ray never heard him though and jes kept on playing those hot licks! About that time Arliss Butler, of the cloggers danced by and gave me the high sign to stop. I leaned over and said in Ray's ear, to stop. He never heard a word I said, and just kept on playing! Arliss made another round and gave me the "Cut" sign, and I yelled back, I'm trying! I finally had to get right in front of Ray and yell at him: Ray! Stop! They want to stop! Ray's eye's were all glassy and he was lookin at the ceiling and had abut another 10 or 15 licks in his mind to play! I finally got him back to Earth, and he threw a shave and a haircut ending on it, and the place went into pure BEDLAM!<
Posted:  1/24/2008

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