Author: Ramos, Jean

Elton John at Plymouth?

I’m writing this on Wednesday before the Hobbs Grove Festival. I’m still rockin’ and reelin’ from a fun filled week at L & S Productions’ Bluegrassin’ in the Foothills. What a great line-up of bands! I sat through nearly every performance from the first Emerging Artists to the Kids on Bluegrass and the final set done by the Spinney Brothers. There was quite an eclectic mix of musical styles, from the traditional to the more “edgy,” hard driving bluegrass, but it was all good. There were a few surprises; such as Spring Creek’s rendition of Elton John’s “Honky Cats;” never thought I’d hear that at a bluegrass festival. Another song that was a little off the wall but fun was “Finger Poppin’ Time,” which was originally done by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, many years ago.

If I had to choose my personal favorite, it would be a toss-up between the Bluegrass Brothers and Larry Gillis. I was particularly impressed with Donald Dowdy’s beautiful vocals but also with the fact that he is left handed but plays right-handed instruments, strung right-handed, chording and picking upside down. The Bluegrass brothers did a very entertaining version of Grandfathers Clock in which they kept swapping instruments and everyone but the fiddler, Billy Hurt, took a turn doing a solo on the bass. The Bluegrass Brothers did the last set on Saturday night, and for a finale they were joined on stage with the Larry Gillis Band and Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice. That’s a whole lot of talent crammed onto one stage! Larry Baker and George Best did the final number with them, Thirty years of Farming. Quite….ah…entertaining.

The band performances are fun, but a real draw to these festivals is the jamming and visiting with friends, old and new. It was good to see Ernie Hunt back with the bluegrass family. We really missed Pat and George Calhoun and look forward to the time when they are back in our midst and she’s playing and singing with us. I got a chance to pick and sing with Cliff while we were at a fun jam in Jack Brose and Bob Reynolds’ camp on Wednesday night. We were all shocked and saddened to hear that he took ill the next day and was taken to the hospital. Thank the Lord, he is doing better.

At every festival or camp-out I hear songs that I think I’d like to learn. I have a long list that I made at this event. One of them is a song that my friend Kristen Willis sings beautifully, “Old Hands.” Another one I want to learn is, “I’ve Just Seen the Rock of Ages.” The trouble is, I need to stay home long enough to work on them. We’ve still got the Fall Camp-Out and other jams coming up. Such a big problem I have.

Ella Naiman did a great job Saturday night as a guest fiddler with the Larry Gillis Band. They didn’t need all those spotlights on stage, her smile lights up the whole place! Congratulations to Windy Hill (one of the bands she plays in) for winning the Emerging Artist award. The Dalton Mountain Gang just gets better and better too.

I was very pleased and honored to have JD Rhynes and his friend, Wanda Dalton, visit our camp. We sang a couple Jimmie Rodgers songs together; Hobo’s Meditation (also known as Hobo’s Lament), California Blues and a few other songs. JD has a beautiful voice, and Wanda does lovely harmonies. Wanda’s brother is the late Randall Hylton, a bluegrass performer and song writer, known for his finger-picking guitar style. His best known composition was “Room at the Top of the Stairs.” His songs were recorded by many artists, including Ralph Stanley and Vern Gosdin. Wanda is also a songwriter. She worked thirty years for County Sales in Floyd, VA, a company that boasts of having the world’s largest selection of bluegrass and old-time music. Making new friends at a bluegrass festival is always a highlight for me.

I was in a late night jam after the last set on Saturday night, by then everyone seemed to be showing signs of fatigue. A fellow in our jam asked if anyone knew the song, “Cabin of Death,” I thought it was going to be one of those pitiful songs like Echo Mountain, and yes, there was so many people dying in that song, I thought I saw buzzards circling overhead. It turned out to be the funniest song I heard all week-end. We laughed all the way through the poor guy’s song. Our laughing even woke up our congenial host, Jerry Pujol who actually fell asleep while playing the guitar. (Jerry put in a lot of hours as a volunteer at the festival). I know my friends Jimmie Bowman, Pat Wade and Chuck Weiher probably have already looked up “Cabin of Death” on You Tube and are posting it to their Facebook pages.

Be sure to put the Fall Camp-Out on your calendar. October 11-17 will be “jam” packed with fun, food and lots of music. While you’re there, make it a point to welcome any folks who are new to these events, that’s how they become ‘hooked.” I spoke to Walt Jamieson at Plymouth and he gave me an update on Dave, the man I showed a few chords to at the Lighthouse Camp-Out in August. He said Dave has been really working on his guitar playing and enjoying it.

By the time you read this, the Hobbs Grove Festival will be nearly over. Thanks to Kelly Broyles, Marcos Alvira and their team of volunteers who have worked so hard to make this a fun and memorable event.
Posted:  9/26/2010

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