Author: Cornish, Rick

You don’t miss your water…

Good morning from Whiskey Creek, where the favorite past time is taking turns asking Siri questions on the new IPhone V my wife bought me for my birthday. “Siri, is it raining outside?” “No, I don’t believe it is.” “Better check again.” “Alright, give me a moment to think about that…No, I don’t believe it is raining outside.”

Oh, I almost forgot; not everyone on the planet knows what/who Siri is. Here’s a quick explanation that Siri helped me find when I asked her what she is. (Do you suppose she was a little biased?)

”Siri /'s?ri/ is an intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator which works as an application for Apple Inc.'s iOS. The application uses a natural language user interface to answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions by delegating requests to a set of Web services. Apple claims that the software adapts to the user's individual preferences over time and personalizes results. The name Siri is Norwegian, meaning "beautiful woman who leads you to victory", and comes from the intended name for the original developer's first child.”—Wikipedia

It takes less and less to keep Lynn and I amused anymore. Part of me yearns for the day when all we’ll need to do is hang a plastic fruit mobile over our bed. All in due time.

But, of course and thankfully, Little-Miss-Know-it-All is dead wrong. It’s raining alright, and even the dogs seem to get that the dull roar of water pounding on the metal roof of our house is a big deal…something to get excited about, if only vicariously.

So Pete Seeger died this week and I was surprised by my surprise. Even though he was ninety-four I just never saw it coming. Hell, he could have been a hundred and fourteen and I think I’d have been shocked when I logged onto my Mac at 3:30 a.m. Monday morning and was rudely informed of Pete’s death. Until this week I don’t think I ever really consciously thought about it, but, for me, Pete Seeger was more or less a permanent fixture in my life…always had been there and always would be there. But that’s not how it works, is it.

Monday afternoon Lynn and I drove to Hurst Ranch to buy four bales of grass hay for the llamas and when we returned home I drove the truck out to their feed shed to unload. Just as I was about to slide out of the cab a 1996 interview that Terry Gross did with Pete on NPR’s Fresh Air came on the radio. I ended up sitting there for the entire conversation between the two. Even though he was in his mid-seventies twenty years ago, the folk singer…folk hero, really…spoke with the vitality and excitement and laser focus of a young man who, just having discovered the secret of, well, everything, just couldn’t wait to share it. Pete described the time he spent tramping around the country with Woody Guthrie, their shared work in the American labor movement, the trick his older friend taught him for catching a moving freight car, (Getting on was easy, he said, getting off, that was another thing altogether.

My dad hated Pete Seeger. Just hearing his name made my pop’s blood boil. ‘You know,’ he was fond of saying, ‘he was a commie rat, don’t you. Admitted he belonged to the party back in the ‘30’s. I read he and Joe Stalin were pals. PALS!’ Nothing I could say changed his opinion or even softened it.

Ironically, but I guess not surprisingly, my father, a country boy from the plains of Nebraska, loved the TYPE of music Pete wrote and played and sang. And he especially loved hearing me play my guitar and sing folks songs, new and old. In 1983, just a few months before my dad dies unexpectedly from a massive heart attack, my wife and I drove up to Lake County for a visit. As always I brought my guitar, but this time I also brought some new songs to perform for my dad...If I Had a Hammer, Where Have All the Flowers Gone, We Shall Overcome, Waist Deep in Big Muddy, Kisses Sweeter than Wine, Turn! Turn! Turn!.
I knew Bebe would love them all, and my plan was to wait till he’d heard the tunes and then tell him that each and every one was written by “Joe’s good buddy.” Well, he did love all of Pete Seeger’s songs, and a few of them even caused him to tear up. But when the time came to snap the trap, I remained silent. I guess having sung so many of my hero’s songs, one after the other, took me, at least briefly, to that special place to which Pete was always and forever trying to lead us.

And Kip Martin also died this week, too. Here’s a bit of an awfully good piece run by yesterday…

Kip Martin, bass player, founder of the DC Bluegrass Union, songwriter, journalist and friend, died earlier this morning (1/29/14) after a lengthy illness. He passed peacefully around 11:00 a.m. (CST) surrounded by family. A benefit concert held last weekend in Maryland had raised roughly $8,000 towards his remaining medical expenses, and gave his DC area friends a chance to say their farewell in song. Kip’s biggest gig was with Jimmy Martin, whom he called a “cranky old genius.” That was Kip, honest to a fault. But the truth is, Kip played with many talented folks over the years and considered many of them hereoes: Darren Beachley, Mike Auldridge, Wayne Taylor, Norman Wright, Kevin Church, John Miller and many more. During a 2005 tour, he found himself on stage with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. It was, he recalled, one of those “pinch-me moments.”

I remember meeting Kip back in 1996 through a back-and-forth correspondence that lasted a couple days and started out on pretty shaky ground. On the Bluegrass-L listserv he’d made what some of us considered a derisive remark about the sorry state of bluegrass music “out West.” Naturally I called him on it, though, thankfully, I’d been smart enough to do it off line. It didn’t take long to figure out that Kip was a “stirrer”, a sort of bluegrass provocateur, expert at instigating serious discussion about the great love of his life, bluegrass music. It was also in that year that Skip sent me his “Hooked on Bluegrass’ story. It’s a fairly short one, so I’ll share it with you…

“I was introduced to Bluegrass as a pre-teen by some of my Dad's students (he was a Philosophy professor) and remember the Flatt and Scruggs 'Live at Carnegie Hall' album being played quite a bit in my small-town home in Western PA. I gravitated towards Rock music as a teenager, but somehow still managed to stumble upon John Hartford, the Dillards, Earl Scruggs Revue, Old and In the Way, and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Later, I served on my college's Concert Committee and found myself tasked with showing John Hartford around town and later took him around to various after-concert parties. I already loved his music, but was most impressed with him as a person--I believe I became a True Believer that day. This past summer, 25+ years later, I found myself playing bass with the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. I've been blessed to have worked with several bluegrass 'stars' over the years, but when I looked across the stage that night with the 'Nitties', I realized my dreams had come true. play and record bluegrass several times per week, and still work very hard at honing my craft. And let the record show that the hair on the back of my neck still stands on end when that old, grey, West Coast bluegrass band launches into 'Midnight Moonlight'. Thanks!”

So it’s been a hard week and I’ll be glad when it’s over. The rain’s suddenly stopped beating on the metal roof of our house. How quickly I’d gotten used to it and forgot it was there until the tapping stopped. Not so with Pete, or Kip for that matter.
Posted:  1/30/2014

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