Author: Ramos, Jean


Two weeks ago today my husband and I were on our way home from the 48 Hour Bluegrass Jam in Bakersfield. We went down on Thursday so we had three full days of Bluegrass. I say three full days because we had the satellite radio tuned to Sirius Bluegrass all the way down I-5.

Those of you, who have gotten acquainted with my husband Terry, know that he doesn’t sing nor does he play an instrument of any kind. If you were to ask him who Ralph Stanley is, he wouldn’t be able to tell you. I’m not exaggerating. I just asked him and he said, “I don’t know, but I’ve heard the name.” You may wonder why a fellow who is not musical at all would go to the CBA Camp-Outs, Bluegrass Festivals and events like the 48 Hour Jam. Why would he stay up ‘til 2:00 or 3:00 AM, going from jam to jam at the Doubletree? The only answer I can give you is; it’s because he loves me and since our involvement with CBA, he has fallen in love with the “Bluegrass Family,” and he enjoys the music. (He also knows who serves the best snacks).

I think it’s wonderful to see couples like Henry and Nancy Zuniga, Rich and Debra Ferguson, Mildred and Sam Criswell, and others making music together and sharing the same passion for Bluegrass. As I began pondering this, I find that these couples may be in the minority. It seems that in most cases, it’s usually the husband or the wife that plays an instrument and/or sings and the spouse doesn’t. Aside from just sitting and listening to jammers, what is there for the “unmusically inclined” spouse to do? Here are my observations:

Many of them volunteer. At the 48 hour Jam, Slim’s wife Charlene worked many hours alongside her husband at the CBA registration table. Mary Tilden goes to the jams and listens to the music and visits with friends and can often be seen working on her beautiful quilt blocks. She assists her husband Steve with his duties as Statewide Activities Director and now she is doing some work on the CBA Website.

Our CBA president, Darby Brandli began her involvement with the bluegrass community by “creating the space” for the music, first with a camp at festivals, which later became known as Camp Spam. This expanded into a community and resting place for musicians and eventually led to volunteer work for CBA and the rest is history. She and her husband have hosted many young bands in their home, sometimes it’s a foam mat on the floor but it is a “welcome” mat nevertheless. This week-end, they are providing space for the Bee Eaters from Boston.

My husband Terry is good about pitching in where he can. He has helped with some of Chef Mike’s spaghetti dinners, was a judge for the car show at the Plymouth Festival last fall, worked the gate at the fall camp-out and is always quick to lend a helping hand to folks who have technical problems with their RVs and satellite systems.

Many of the spouses can be seen doing some kind of needlework or enjoying another type of hobby while their mate is jamming. Others like to kick back in their RV and work (or play) on their computer, or sit in their campsite and read a good book (or trashy novel). There are some spouses who prefer to stay home while their husband or wife attends a Bluegrass event. I took a photo of Bill Jirsa during one of the jams at Bakersfield and he asked me if I could send a copy to him so his family could “see” what he does at these functions. Kristen Willis told me that her husband is supportive of her music. He doesn’t mind her going to camp-outs or jams without him because he knows she is with good friends who are like family to her, but he prefers to stay home most of the time, walk his dog, read or watch sports. Many spouses stay home out of necessity, because of kids in school, livestock or pets that need care or elderly parents who can’t be left alone, etc. It’s great when they willingly make sacrifices so that their spouse can attend the bluegrass events that they enjoy so much.

I’ve met some couples like Phyllis and Chuck Campbell who love bluegrass music; attend the camp-outs and other bluegrass functions and neither one play an instrument. In fact, the first CBA couple I met was my former neighbors, Hugh and Sadie Portwood. They were goodwill ambassadors for the Association and neither one played an instrument. Whenever they’d speak of the events, they talked more about the people than they did the music, though the music was the common denominator.

Another group of folks I’d like to mention are those parents whose children are musicians and they bring them to the CBA events to be involved with other likeminded families. It’s a great way for the kids to showcase their talent, get accustomed to playing in front of an audience, build self confidence and make some long lasting friendships. I spoke at length with PJ Elson, who is mother to twelve year old (almost thirteen) Tim who plays fiddle with the Kids on Bluegrass. PJ likes to sing and play guitar but refers to herself as a “packer” instead of a “picker.” In other words, she packs her guitar but never plays in a jam. Her husband Eric doesn’t play an instrument or sing but he loves kicking back and listening to the jams but they are both very supportive and proud of their son’s accomplishments. PJ has fond memories of singing and listening to her father play bluegrass as she was growing up and wants Tim to have a similar experience. When they go to Grass Valley, Eric and Tim take time out from the music to do some fishing. It’s not always about the music. At the camp-outs, you may see Tim bike riding or playing with his R/C car. These CBA events are wonderful memory making times for our musical families.

Speaking of making memories, it’s never too late to start. The 48 Hour Jam at Bakersfield was a memorable experience for Terry and me. As we were making our way back home, I thought for sure that he would want to leave the radio off and have a quiet return trip after listening to Bluegrass for three days. I figured I could play Scrabble on my iPhone if I got bored. As soon as we got out to the freeway, he turned the radio on again, and I braced myself for something like Lawrence Welk or Escape but to my surprise, he tuned back in to Bluegrass Junction. What a guy!

We can’t all be pickers or singers; we need the “Grinners.” They play an important role and I want to take this opportunity to acknowledge them. If CBA comes up with an official position of “Chief Grinner and Snack Sampler” I want you all to know that you may vote with confidence for my husband Terry.

Posted:  1/24/2010

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