Author: Karsemeyer, John

The Sleepy Holler Boys and Excuses

The Dillards, a bluegrass band from the not too distant past, are well known to many people who have followed bluegrass music over the years. That band was the catalyst for many people to get interested in bluegrass music, and for some to become bluegrass musicians at various levels (professional, semi-professional, professional amateurs, and amateur professionals). Rodney Dillard, Doug Dillard, Dean Webb, and Mitch Jayne (The Dillards bluegrass band) got their start in Salem, Missouri in the 1960's, and subsequently performed all over the world. What's not so well known is that the Dillards had cousins who were also bluegrass musicians.

The cousins were from Stark City, Missouri, about two hundred miles from Salem. The odd thing is that the parents of the cousins were so smitten by the success of the Dillards that they named their four children (much younger and born way after their cousins) the same as the members of the Dillards band, even though Dean Webb (mandolin) and Mitch Jayne (bass) were not actually blood, not actually Dillard children (even though “The Dillards” were occasionally thought to all be brothers, especially by people who saw them in Hollywood).

Another odd thing is that the last name of the cousins was Dullard, close to Dillard, but no cigar. Coincidentally, the cousins also were bluegrass musicians, and they decided to call their band, “The Dullards.” Riding on the success of their cousins from Salem seemed like a good idea. Even though they were from the back woods in the Missouri Ozarks, they were plenty savvy musicians. After all, posters stating, “Tonight, The Dullards, Live,” could easily be confused with the really famous “Dillards Live,” and bring in standing-room-only crowds (at least for awhile).

Also, and considered by the Dullards to be a coincidence of an astounding nature, each of the “boys” who had the same first name of their cousins played the exact same bluegrass instrument.

Actually, that very concept gave the Dullards a chance to play at one of the CBA's (California Bluegrass Association) festivals. The only one of the Dullards who was computer competent stumbled, indirectly, onto the CBA website and found out that they had a festival out in California. Stumbled, indirectly (I mentioned) because he was really on the Victoria's Secret website that somehow linked to the CBA website (accept the mystery).

Anyhow, the Dillard/Dullard mistaken identity promotional package worked for the Dullards, and it got accepted by the CBA band selection committee back then, who thought they were getting the Dillards. After all, the lead singer of the Dullards sounded uncannily like Rodney Dillard, especially on, “There Is A Time,” and, “Old Home Place.” And the Dullards banjo player nailed-it on, “Doug's Tune.” That promotional package could have fooled anybody. Anybody!

When The Dullards arrived at the CBA Festival, and the truth revealed itself in the midst of the pine trees, tents, RVs, porta potties, and fake chickens, it was too late. But the CBA, being the good natured, friendly, understanding Association that it is, accepted the truth for what it was. The CBA only made one change. The Dullards were moved from the main stage to one of the minor stages.

At 2:00 in the afternoon, on Saturday, the Dullards took the stage (it didn't seem minor to them because it was the first real stage they had ever played on). Their opening song was a success, and wildly accepted by the audience as authentic bluegrass. But then an unanticipated occurrence happened.

While starting their second tune, “Doug's Tune,” Doug Dullard (banjo) began to get drowsy. Drowsy quickly evolved to near narcolepsy, but not quite. Rodney was immediately aware, and yelled at Doug, “What's the matter Doug, your timing is way off!” Not knowing what else to say, and thinking of a way to redeem himself, Doug replied, “They told me at the Blood Bank this might happen.” Then he got back on track, but just for a short time.

But then the same thing happened to Rodney. Yes, drowsy, downright sleepy, right in the middle of the third song, and he sang some of the wrong words. Doug had regressed somewhat back to his drowsy state, but he was still able to hear Rodney's mistakes. Doug's voice snapped at him, “Rodney, focus, you're falling asleep at the wheel!” That pulled him out of it, as he defensively replied, “I wasn't sleeping, I was meditating on the mission statement of the band, and was envisioning a new marketing strategy.” It was clear that some kind of somniferous force had overtaken two member of the Dullard Band right in the middle of their performance. Not only that, this force was about to spread to the other members of the band.

Dean, was the next victim. During his break on, “Dooley,” (The Dullards liked to play as many of the Dillards' songs as possible) his head kept bobbing downward, closer and closer to his mandolin, on a destructive course with a potential for a collision between flesh and wood. Mitch literally yelled at him, “Dean, wake up! What's wrong with you?” Revived by Mitch's therapeutic intervention (and not missing any licks during his break), Dean shot back, “I was doing a highly specific Yoga exercise to relieve performance related stress while actually playing. Are you discriminatory toward people who practice Yoga?” Mitch didn't say anything, but Dean pondered on what had happened to him.

Mitch, now feeling immune to any influence that could hinder his on-stage performance, suddenly began to feel different. His first warning sign was when he dropped the beat on his stand-up, dog-house, double bass, that was hand made (no CNC machinery having anything to do with this musical masterpiece of creativity). Then he dropped the beat again, and again, and again. The rest of the band, all now having again entered a state of near sleep, were still alert enough to hear what was wrong. In perfect three part harmony they all verbally hurled at him, “Mitch, get with it, you're dropping the beat,” (this was done quite well, as the audience thought it was part of the song). Once Mitch came back to his senses, and timing, the only thing he could think of to say was, “Who put decaf in the wrong pot?”

The whole situation got worse. The entire Dullard band went downhill from there. They all started nodding-off, like those miniature toy plastic dogs that some people have on their dashboards, heads incessantly moving up and down.

They never made it to the last song on their set list. During the middle of the next to the last song, “I'll Fly Away,” they were oblivious to the conscious world. All four of The Dullards just stood there, eyes closed, with heads bowed down. The audience, in a state of shock, knew not what to do (mass paralysis). Just then, J.D. Rhynes, stage manager for the main stage, happened to be passing by, with a tall glass of cold lemonade. He took it upon himself (a stage manager's entitlement) to put his fingers in his glass, reach out, and sprinkle the faces of our sleeping quartet, bringing them back to the state of awareness. Immediately, with no hesitation, in perfect unison, the Dullards declared, “In Jesus' name, Amen.” This, of course, saved their musical career with the CBA, and they were forgiven.

During their trip back home to the Ozarks, in their 1956 non-customized van, The Dullards had plenty of time for introspection and analysis of their on-stage performance predicament. Their conclusion was that the culprit was some kind of strange sleeping sickness. They saw it as a sign, an almost divine intervention, and turned the negative into a positive, which resulted in a name change for the band.

“The Dullards” decided to become, “The Sleepy Holler Boys,” never to be confused with their bluegrass cousins again. It was a big risk, regarding “show biz,” but they went for it.

It was only a month later, after returning to their native Ozarks, that they discovered their sleeping proble
Posted:  1/8/2011

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