Author: Cornish, Rick

My Story about Jake
Well, it’s been nearly a week now since the passing of our friend Jake Quesenberry and for me at least, it still hasn’t completely sunk in that he’s gone. I had an interesting relationship with Jake, different, I’m thinking than most given the posts I’ve read on the Board. I think I only jammed once with him, and, although he was literally the person who got me hooked on bluegrass music back in 1976 when I heard his band on stage at the FDF, I never actually met Jake Quesenberry until years later when I ran for the board for the first time.

It was about a week after my campaign statement appeared in the Breakdown that I got a call from him. He introduced himself in that immediately welcoming and relaxed way he had about him and then, without any formalities whatever, he asked simply, ‘So tell me, what’s your dream for the CBA?’ I can say with complete honesty that I have absolutely NO idea how I responded. I was taken aback that this bluegrass legend would call me at home and, as for his question, I barely knew how the California Bluegrass Association functioned, let alone what direction it should take in the future. I suppose I stammered some and said something safe and general. Jake spent the next 45 minutes telling me a series of brief little stories about the CBA and its history, with each ending with a pause for my reaction, my ‘take’ on what he’d just told me. In short, the guy got to know who I was and what I stood for, relative to the Association, while it was being revealed to me as I spoke. Smart guy that Jake, very, very smart guy. And completely and utterly committed to the Association he’d helped found

There would be many more phone calls over the next several years, some placed by him, some placed by me. One in particular stands out, and that was when Carl Pagter retired from the board and I succeeded him as chairman. Jake waited about a week and then called me. ‘I heard tell,’ he drawled in that wonderful Kentucky drawl of his, ‘that you and Carl went head to head on quite a few issues while he was on the board. Even heard that there might be some bad blood between you two. Well, I’ll tell you this, Rick, there’s no man alive who cares more for our Association, or who is smarter about what makes it work, than Carl, and you’d be a derned fool if you don’t take advantage of that.’ ‘You think he’d mentor me? I asked sheepishly? ‘Son, I KNOW he would.’ And Carl has, unselfishly, week in and week out for the past five years. Don’t know if I’d have even made the approach to him if it hadn’t been for Jake’s call.

Yesterday Lynn and I had a few friends over for a BBQ picking party. Carl was here and after dinner he asked me to join him in my music room. ‘I have something I want you to hear,’ was all he said as he handed me a CD. ‘Track 2’. The song was ‘You are My Flower’, Jake singing lead and backed up by Carl’s band, Country Ham. A 1984 recording. Nearly everybody who’s every jammed with Jake has had the good fortune to hear him sing that song, but he only recorded it once, with Carl and Judy Pagter nearly twenty-five years ago. Carl and I sat in the darkened room and listened to ‘You are My Flower’ in silence. When it was finished, he sucked in his breath and sighed, ‘my God’. ‘Yes,’ I said, ‘my God.’
Posted:  7/8/2007

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