Author: Brandli, Darby

May Presidentís Message

We began attending the Fatherís Day Festival in the mid 80ís and by 1989 or 1990 we met a contingent of Alaskan bluegrassers who were also attending the festival. Grass Plus was on a western tour after winning (as I recall) a Pizza Parlor Bluegrass contest and were on their way to compete in the Telluride Emerging Band contest at the festival which that year was held a week after our festival. (I believe they came in second to a new band called the Dixie Chicks) Grass Plus was playing the new Childrenís Stage and were camped across the road from us in tent camping. We became very good friends with some of those Alaskans: Ken Terry, Pamela Montgomery and Lowell Webb. Ken, Pam (with her boys), Lowell, Steve and Mary Oudean, Bill Yeagle, Mike Lindeau, Mike Riopel and others whose names are lost to history came down from Alaska a few more times to attend the festival and by that time we were storing their California camping gear in our garage and hauling it up to Grass Valley. One year a group flew into Oakland and camped out at our house prior to driving up to the Festival. In retrospect I realize this was the first group of bluegrassers to stay with us and dozens more follow in their footsteps today.

About a dozen years after befriending that first group of Alaskans, a band of young teenagers called Bearfoot Bluegrass was on the road on their very first tour and camped with Frank Solivan II across the road from us in the very same spot Grass Plus had stayed that very first year. I was amazed to discover that one of the young hot pickers was Angela Oudean and I knew her parents. The kids were at our camp constantly and we fed them and took them with our teens to the Yuba River. The band had formed as a result of their participation at an Alaskan Bluegrass Camp for children held in Cordova, Alaska.

The very next year one of our friends and fellow camper, Jennifer Kitchen, flew up to Alaska to teach at that same Cordova camp and Mike Schwartz and Annie Staninec became faculty and continue to teach at the camp to this day.

I did not know for years that Frank Solivan II was an Alaskan resident. I only knew him as the very talented son of our own Frank Solivan of Kids on Bluegrass fame. I simply assumed Frank II lived in the Central Valley where his dad lived. The Solivans were responsible for bringing Bearfoot Bluegrass to California and Frank I had made many trips to Alaska himself. Ken Terry passed away a short few years ago and I found out that Frank II had visited him in the hospital shortly before he died and had played and sung for him for hours, an outpouring of love for a remarkable man and good friend of both of us.

The Bearfoot Bluegrass Band evolved to become simply Bearfoot and we have seen them a few times over the years at festivals and IBMA and stand in awe of their talent. Bearfootís newest member is Odessa Jorgensen, a Californian of enormous talent and who had spent the night on our floor a few years ago on her way to a fiddle contest.
Two more Alaskan musicians, who could see California from their front porch, made their way south a couple of years ago: Tyson Alteri and Dan Booth. Dan became a member of local Bay Area band Homespun Rowdy. Tyson and Dan then formed the bluegrass band 49 Special. The banjo player in 49 Special, Jim Chayka, slept on our floor for many, many nights.

Last year Dan Boothís dad, Greg Booth, came down from Alaska to watch his son perform on our stage in both Homespun Rowdy and 49 Special. We provided Greg with a ticket and sleeping gear and space so he could attend his very first Fatherís Day Festival. Little did we know that Greg Booth is an enormous musical talent himself.
Greg and Dan Booth are now both members of the enormously exciting new Kathy Kallick Band with Kathy, Tom Bekeny and Annie Staninec! The Kathy Kallick Band will be playing the main stage and also on stage this year as our Emerging Artist Band is Frank Solivan and Dirty Kitchen. Somehow I think Ken Terry will be smiling.

Posted:  5/4/2010

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email