Author: Martin, George

Take me to your leader(s)

Recently I once again became a part of what the CBA calls its “leadership team.”

It happened at Grass Valley last June. On the Wednesday of festival week I bought a local paper and noticed that although the cover of the weekend entertainment section had a sort of generic cover with “Bluegrass Festival” as the motif, there wasn’t much information inside the section.

For years back in the late 1990s and early 2000s I had supplied the papers around Grass Valley with festival advance stories. At the time I was working in San Francisco at the Examiner and then the Chronicle where we had entertainment writers. I found quickly that the small papers in the foothills are seriously understaffed and don’t have a lot of time to assemble packages of story and pictures about our festival.

For the first few years I did the stories and Suzanne Denison sent them photos. Later as I got better on the computer I think I started finding photos on the Net and e-mailing them. So, that Wednesday I resolved to volunteer to feed material about the festival to the local press.

Sunday evening we were packing up our tent when CBA President Darby Brandli strolled up to our rapidly disappearing camp. Before I could open my mouth to say I would handle the local press next year, Darby said, “We need you to be CBA publicity director.” It was a bigger bite of the apple than I had planned to take, but I agreed, and a few weeks later I got an e-mail that the board had made it official.

I tell you that to tell you this: Being publicity director got me into an e-mail list of some of the people who are working even now on the Great 48 bluegrass jam that will be happening in Bakersfield about three months from today. I never really had considered how much work goes into this event. I guess subconsciously I was thinking, well, we rent a bunch of hotel rooms, put out the word and everyone comes. What could go wrong?

But it’s not like that. Somebody has to coordinate with the hotel for the rooms, assign jam suites, arrange bands for the showcase, liaison with the people who are putting on the Special Consensus concert, put together a poster (that was me and Rick Cornish) and a bunch of other things that I am forgetting at the moment.

It got me to thinking about the number of people it takes to make the CBA happen. I dug up an old Bluegrass Breakdown from 1998, when I was on the board for two years, and there on page two was a list of board members and officers. The board, the Breakdown editor, and the various coordinators totaled 22 people.

Finding a recent Breakdown was easy: my office is so cluttered there were two of them within reach, both on the floor under my computer, I’m embarrassed to say. The entire page two is taken up with names: 101 board members, officers, coordinators, ambassadors, etc. And 26 web site columnists, many of whom have other jobs. And this doesn’t count the dozens of volunteers who do so many tasks at each event we put on.

This organization runs on volunteers. I’ve always known that, but I know it better now. Thanks to all of you/them, and although (as I mentioned to Rick Cornish) I feel a little like a mule going back into a coal mine, I’m proud to part of such a committed, selfless group.

And, one more thing: Somebody on my Facebook page posted a really nice video from the IBMA awards show of ace guitarist Tony Rice being inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. You all remember, I’m sure, that Tony lost his singing voice 18 years ago, and many of you know that Alison Krauss has encountered a similar problem and is currently resting her voice. Tony has been working on his, and as he accepts his honor he starts out with a gravely rasp, but then tells the awestruck crowd that he has been working really hard on his voice and then, hesitatingly at first, begins speaking in the “old” Tony Rice voice. It’s a very emotional moment and can be found at

Posted:  10/10/2013

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