Sunday, April 20, 2008

the start of the merlefest 2008 adventure...

Every festival trip that is taken starts with the journey to the festival location itself, and for me that adventure usually involves a long truck/trailer drive, for I do live a long ways from all of those fine festivals that I like to go to! Of course Merlefest, being located in North Carolina, and about 12oo miles from home, is no exception.
I started this journey Friday afternoon, leaving home around 2:30pm. My first destination was Madison, where Lynn and I would be meeting my daughter Monica at my daughter Amanda's club/bar/restaurant, the Alchemy. Besides getting to see half of my children I'd get a great supper at Amanda's and then spend the night at Monica's house, where in the morning we'd get to see granddaughter Malia and her dad Jeff. (Malia is now 9 months old and cuter than cute....>g<) So...the first part of the trip promised to be a smooth and a sweet one, barring any truck or trailer breakdowns; of which I have had more than plenty over the years. (I could tell stories...)
As I was approaching Madtown, in the pouring rain and the heavy traffic, I noticed that a car had pulled up next to me and the driver was waving and pointing to me frantically, which of course first caused me to think: " what?!" I was sure that he had spotted a blown trailer tire or a burnt out trailer wheel bearing or some such nonsense, but it turned out that the driver was a friend of mine from my home area...a friend that I don't see much these days, but we sure were happy to see each other during the rain and the Madison traffic; it was fun.
The night and next morning went great, as is always a treat for me to visit with my family. The next morning Lynn and I had just left Monica's for the long trip to North Carolina when I spotted a red Corvette ahead of us, and I made just a little comment about it. She responded by getting into telling me about her old friend Ray, who owns a transmission shop in Neenah, and who many years ago would let her drive his Corvette whenever she needed an "attitude adjustment". She told me all about Ray...they were friends in high school, dated for awhile after, and became even closer friends after their dating experience didn't work out. He loves anything with speed, and even races cars as a hobby.
She had just pretty much finished her stories about Ray when I merged onto Interstate 39, heading south, when I noticed a truck pulling a trailer merging next to me....and the trailer read: "Ray's Transmission.....Neenah,Wisconsin"!
Lynn and I both cracked up, and Lynn dug out her address book, only to find that she had his business and home phone number, but no cell phone number; and being the race car driver that he is, I had no chance of catching up to him! So she called his home number, talked with both his daughter and his wife, learned the cell number, and gave him a call. He got a charge out of our "meeting" and the two of them talked for a half hour or so, doin' some catch-up, since they hadn't seen each other for a few years. And sure enough, he was on a weekend trip to a car race with his son....
It was just a good story the way it was, and I thought I might blog about it, but this thought was secured when we pulled into a Beloit gas station a bit later, and of course, Ray was already at the pumps! So----there were hugs all around, and he got to show off his fancy little race car and I got to show off my trailer full of camping gear!
The rest of the trip to Wilkesboro was smooth and of not much excitement...just the way I would hope it would be, for most of my driving excitement of late centers around breakdowns. We made it safely to Wilkesboro, we already met with the director of Merlefest who showed us our new camping spot on the campus (it IS sweet!!), and will be starting our Merlefest and Dancin'Dave work tomorrow morning.
I love comin' to these mountains in the spring.....seems like perfect Watson territory to me! And hopefully I'll be able to blog my way through the entire Merlefest week...that will depend on how smoothly my own work goes.
Peace, David

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

me and installment; for now

I have had the opportunity to meet many musicians over these many years. Some very casually, of course, some on a more personal basis. I have met some super folks, who also just happen to thrill music-lovers with their talents. And I have met some folks, who despite their musical abilities, I wouldn't go out of my way to say "hi" again. Now, for sure, I realize that lots of these musicians are besieged by fans, all telling them how fabulous they are, and that it must get pretty tiring to have so many fans wanting even a little part of you. In the acoustic music world that I mostly inhabit, I have found the performers to be very approachable; something that is a sweet phenomenon inherent to this genre. And I certainly don't expect friendships to spring up for the simple reason that I am a fan....
And Sam is one of the most personable fabulous musicians that I've had the priviledge to meet. He has thrilled me many many times musically; I love the fact that he will take on almost any genre of music and somehow make it his own. And the respect that he receives from his peers only validates my humble judgement of his abilities. Plus, there is that positive joy and energy that he exudes on stage...I have spent time watching the audience during his shows, and diggin' the fact that most folks simply cannnot help but smile.
My four children are all grown now, although I of course feel like my "work" will never be done; that they are going to need my advice for another long-time to come! As they were growing up they heard lots and lots of New Grass Revival, and I love to point out the fact that they all know all the words...>g< So---starting in 1996 with the release of "Glamour and Grits" I have given all of them the latest Sammy cd for christmas. It has become a fun family holiday tradition and they all get a charge out of it. They are not what I would call big fans, but if Sam is playing anywhere in Wisconsin and the timing is right, they all will gather for a family outing to see his concert. ( work is never done...g<)
In 2006 Sam released "Laps in Seven", which I certainly can highly recommend. It was released in April, and when I saw that he would be playing at the Magoliafest in October I had the bright idea that I'd see if he could sign the cds for my kids. (another timing thing...)
After his Magfest set I went back to my camp to get some cash and then went back to the cd buying area. Sam was busy talking with fans, but I got to visit with Lynn...I don't get to see her often enough and she's so much fun to talk with. (while we were visiting a young man came up, asking about Telluride. She answered him and then looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and said: "Tell him what you think about Telluride, David... >g<)(my response: "Fabulous festival, gorgeous should go.")
Anyhow, I told her my cd signing plan, and she told me that she had just put all the cds away; that yesterday was their wedding anniversary so they were anxious to take off, but that I should give them a call...after the World Series. (according to her, Sam is like an 11 year-old boy during the Series, especially seeing as how the Cardinals were in it!) About this time Sam came over and we chatted a bit, but I didn't mention the cds.
So after the Cardinals won in four I gave Sam a call. He was all for it...he took down the names of my kids and told me that he and Lynn were off for vacation, so he'd send the cds out right away. The cds arrived in a few days, all signed with a different christmas greeting to each. We really hadn't even talked about price, so I simply wrote out a check and mailed it to him.
About a month passed, and I was surprised to receive a voicemail...which was in typical Sam Bush fashion; a message a couple of minute long, telling me that he hoped I wouldn't be offended, but that he is going to rip up the check; that there was no need for me to pay him for what amounted to a very sweet gesture by both he and Lynn. I of course called him back, and we ended up talking about music for some time and me telling him that: no, I'm not offended in the least!
So it was with great fun when the kids opened what they already knew must have been a new Sam cd...lots of giggles. Fortunately I was able to save the voicemail so they could hear that at least I TRIED to buy them a present...>g<
I'm looking forward to more of the man's music...I get to see and hear him soon at Merlefest. And I know that it will be a treat....
Peace, David

me and sammy...part 2

In April of 1998 I had the idea for my festival camping business while driving home from Merlefest. When I got home I got the ball rollin', calling a host of folks and running my idea past them.
One of the first calls was made to the Winterhawk Bluegrass Festival festival in New York...a festival that I had heard about for years and one I had dreamed about attending someday. Well, it turned out that it was the first festival trip I went on with my business, and I'll get into that story later. (suffice it to say that this festival, which of course is now called the Greyfox Bluegrass Festival, is my favorite festival, bar none.)
And of course the headliner, as least in my mind, was Sammy! And as usual, he tore the place up, as only he can...
Plus, he was playing in Saratoga Springs, New York, on the Tuesday night after the festival! I had some extra time on my hands so of course I made a side trip on the way home...>g< An added bonus to this trip was that I'd get to drive through part of the Adirondacks, a part of the world that I had never seen.
Had a neat little happening on the way to the gig.....I saw an older gentleman sitting in his driveway, so I stopped to ask directions. (I am not one of those men who refuse to do this....I would much rather find this info and be on my right way.) I rolled the window down in my truck, acknowledged the fact that this fellow would steer me the right way, to which he replied: "If you get out of that truck and sit here with me for awhile I'll certainly be able to help you!"
Man, it was a great visit....Ted was in his late 80s and talking with him was a definite treat! He told me all about the area, and which years he planted which trees and he was a pure delight. He shared his cold tasty lemondade, and of course he gave me great directions and I always hoped to get back there to visit with him again. And I'm pretty sure that he got a kick out of me, also...
So that night Sam and John and Jon Randall and Larry Atamaniuk were hot! It was great to see them at a venue that had fine beer and one where they could play for hours, loosening up and still staying tight at the same was a blast. I don't remember the name of the bar/restaurant, but I do remember that it also was a dart-ball hall. Now, I have seen many a pool hall, but this was my first dart-ball hall....there were probably a couple dozen dart-boards lined up on the walls.
And after the show Sam and his buddies, less Johnny C., all hung around playing darts. I had the good fortune to meet Sam's lovely wife Lynn also, and wasn't surprised to find that she's as sweet as she is foxy.
Anyhoo----I am usually not a heavy drinker. I love a couple of good tasting beers, but learned many years ago not to enjoy too many, especially if I have to drive! But for some reason, I'm afraid I let down my guard that night...I was simply having too much fun! I had this fun until 3:00am, when the place finally closed. Sam and the boys only had to walk across the parking lot to their bus, but I had to drive the 15 minutes to where I was camped at a nice state campground.
Well....I started driving at around 3:15, and didn't find my tent until 6:15! (and oh, what a pretty sight it was by that time....>g<) I do remember telling myself: "David....concentrate!" So I was concentrating up a storm, but that didn't seem to help much, except that I was sure I was driving safely; I do know that I was driving slowly, but it sure seemed as if I was in one of those revolving cartoons, where most of the scenery looks alike...
When I finally found my tent I collapsed inside and slept until noon, and when I awoke I remembered distinctly why I don't over-drink. That day I did drive through some beautiful country, and would have enjoyed that scenery much more if my head didn't hurt from so much concentrating a few hours before...
I did call my Lynn, who was back at home, and told her that I just can't run with the big boys, and she did her best to feel sympathy for me....
Damn...that night sure was fun, though!
Peace, David

Sunday, April 13, 2008

me and sammy....

After my mother died my four grown children were having fun going through the old papers that she left behind. In those papers were my elementary report cards, including even my kindergarten report. They all got a big chuckle from the comment by my teacher: "David seems to like music....alot!!" They of course knew this and were not really surprised that I had shown this tendency early on....
Anyhoo----being such a music-lovin' nut all my life, I have seen and heard lots of musicians all these years. I do remember Elvis in his early days, and the pop radio music of the late 50s/early sixties, but really started listening intently when the Beatles came around! I bought my first album ("Introducing the Beatles") at the A&P food store just down the block; I think the cost was $1.99, which of course took awhile for me to save up.
And what I'm getting at is simple: of all of those musicians I can pick out one that stands above the rest for me, and he is Sam Bush.
I started listening intently to the bluegrass genre when the Mole Lake Bluegrass Festival started near home here in northern Wisconsin in 1976. I had quite the musical awakening...being introduced to Bill Monroe, Doc and Merle Watson, John Hartford, Benny Martin, Jim and Jesse, Ralph Stanley, and many other of the first generation bluegrass giants. I fell in love with the music, and came to the conclusion that these cats were the best musicians I had ever seen!
Then, in about 1983 there was a group on stage that I hadn't seen or even heard of, and they were blowing me away! The New Grass Revival had played Mole Lake earlier, back in the late 70s, but I must have simply missed them, for I had never been so taken by one band. It seemed as if they had taken all of the best of the genres that I had listened to up to that point, mixed them all up, and delivered the result with the most energy and verve and musical skill that I had ever witnessed! For example: the banjo player was doin' licks on the 5-string that I had never heard before, the guitar player was fast and fluid and tasteful, and the bass player/vocalist was amazing! Bela Fleck and Pat Flynn and John Cowan were becoming instant favorites of mine.....and then there was that fellow up there who was wailing on the mandolin and the fiddle!
Through the buying of bluegrass and related music I had come across the name "Sam Bush" on many albums; and by pouring over the "Flying Fish" and "Rounder" record catalogues, this name seemed to be on at least every other collection! I guess I figured that this Sam fellow was an old Nashville studio musician...and a good one from what I heard. >g<
So---when the leader of this new band was introduced I was finally introduced to Mr. Sammy... I bought "On the Boulevard" right after the set, along with a New Grass Revival t-shirt; but mainly I wanted to see these fellows up see if they were really human. >g<
I started buying all the New Grass music that I could afford at a time, and of course also discovered Curtis Burch and Courtney Johnson through these albums. And, I had found the best damned music that I had ever heard!
In 1986 I was advised by T. Michael Coleman, who was playing bass with Doc Watson at the time and who I had met at Mole Lake, that I should check out the Telluride Bluegrass Festival. I took his advice the next year, making my first trip to the San Juan mountains of Colorado for what turned out to be an annual musical pilgrimage for a dozen years. And who was dubbed the King of Telluride by Emmylou Harris?
And I had known for a long time that I should visit Nashville! I finally got that opportunity in 1996, when I had some extra time on my hands while on the way to Merlefest and I realized that I could alter my route just a little and end up there. I met some friends who were headed down to New Orleans for the Jazzfest, and we spent a couple of days exploring the Music City. It was a blast!
I had heard of the Station Inn in Nashville, so this was one spot that had to be checked out. We went there on Friday night, and upon entering the building I noticed a small, hand-written note on a torn off piece of paper, announcing that on April 21 Sam Bush would be playing! (wow...the timing was right, seeing as how I was reading this on the 20th.) That first show I saw at the Station Inn was Butch Balassardi's "Nashville Mandolin Ensemble"; eight mandolins, one guitar and one was amazing!
The next day we were driving around Nashville, thinking of getting something to eat, when I realized that we were near the Station Inn. Just for giggles, I mentioned that we ought to stop to see if Sam was rehearsing...>g< We actually did stop, noticing that the padlock was unlocked and just hanging on the door. (the Station Inn was and is a very low-tech musical venue...that produces very high-quality music!) My friend Sandra jumped out of the car, rushed into the place, came back out, and motioned for us to join her. Sure enough, Sam and his buddies were about to start to rehearse! I asked Sam (we didn't know each other at this point) if I could hang around and he graciously said: "Sure, make yourself at home...we're breaking in a new guitar player, a fellow named Darrell Scott, and he's a dandy."
Brian and Sandra were still hungry so they took off, but I somehow lost my I stayed! It was a GAS listening and watching Sam and John Cowan teaching Darrell some much fun. Larry Atamaniuk was drummin' up a storm, and I hung around all afternoon; I was the only person in the place, other than the band and two sound men. At one point Sam pointed out the fact that there was beer in the coolers behind the bar, so I was in what really could be described as a heaven! (I do have some photos from that day, and should someday try to figure out how to post them on this blog...)
And that night they rocked the joint! After the show I ran into Sam and he tossed me a "Bush in '96" button that I sure have had fun with over the years. The button was a promotional deal for the release of his cd, "Glamour and Grits", by Sugar Hill. There were very few of them made up, which surprised me, but when asked both at Merlefest and Telluride that year: "WHERE did you get THAT?!", I always had a fun story to retell. >g< (I got pretty burned out with the telling of that story during Telluride that year, so as we were leaving town after the festival I took the button off so I didn't have to tell the story one more time. Lynn and I stopped at the grocery store and who did I run into to?...of course, Sammy! I did have on that original New Grass t-shirt that I had purchased many years before, and he was wearing a "new" shirt from the original New Grass Revival that a fan had just presented him...we had a chuckle about that, and it was fun to know that he had recognized me.)

Whew...I need to take a break, blog-wise. I will have to do a Part 2 and maybe even a Part 3 to this tribute to my buddy Sam; there are more stories!
Peace, David

Monday, April 7, 2008

merlefest...part 2 musings

In 1998, on the way home from Merlefest I had the idea for my camping service business. It was a fun trip home.
The next weekend Doc and Jack were playing a gig in Madison, Wisconsin, and Jack and I had made plans to meet after the show. (He and I had become friends in 1985, at that same ol' Mole Lake Bluegrass Festival) But, I was so excited with my new business idea that I called Jack during the week, and arranged to go out for supper with him and Doc before the show. All week my sweet wife Lynn pondered over what song to request of Doc that night.
The meal was wonderful, with Doc sharing stories on the loss of his site, and he being the southern gentleman that he is, even straightened out my manners: when the waitress asked if we were ready to order and looked at me, I replied: "Doc...?" He replied: "well now, David, don't you think the lady should order first...?" Lynn smiled...
After the meal Lynn and I and Doc were standing outside the restaurant, talking about Merle. I told Doc that I had met Merle during that Charlie Daniels ordeal, and Doc of course remembered all the details of that fiasco. I had debated for years over whether if I would get the chance whether I would mention to Doc Merle's assessment of Charlie's fiddlin'...and I went ahead and told him. Doc chuckled and replied: "you know, Merle was always right..." >g<
It was then that I told Doc that when I had starting courting Lynn that I had sung to her: "She's My Curly-Headed Baby". He came back with: "And didn't Merle play a sweet slide on that?" I of course agreed and Doc added: "I haven't been able to play that song since Merle's death...I'd miss that slide too much".
Of course...out the window the request went!
But as we were walking back to the venue I overheard Doc whisper to Jack: "do you think we could play "She's My Curly-Headed Baby"?"
And sure enough, Doc opened the second set with the song, dedicating it to "Miss Lynn and David". After the show Lynn gave him a big hug of thanks, and as she tells it: "my hair must have brushed Doc's cheek, for he told me that I DO have beautiful hair"!
No wonder I get excited every year for my trip to Merlefest...
Peace, David

thinking of merle...

In less than two weeks I'll be headed down to North Carolina for the Merlefest, a big daddy in the world of music festivals, and a highlight of mine every year since 1995.
Merlefest is very special to me for a few reasons, none of them more important than the fact that I had befriended Merle Watson back in 1983, when we met during the Mole Lake Bluegrass Festival. We had similar thoughts on home and family and being dedicated to and loving the part of the world we lived in. He was building his homestead in the mountains in North Carolina, and I was in the process of building mine in the great northwoods of Wisconsin. We made plans to visit each other's part of the world, and his chance was supposed to come far before mine!
At that point Merle had already hired Jack Lawrence to go out on the road with Doc and T. Michael....he was tired of the road and didn't care if he never saw the inside of a Holiday Inn again. He was planning on only playing a couple of festivals every year; Telluride and Mole Lake.
So--seeing as how I drove past the Rhinelander Holiday Inn every day on my way to Mole Lake, it was an easy call to offer Merle and Doc my spare cabin! (I had visions of the two of them pickin' on my screen porch, I can tell ya'...>g<) We exchanged addresses and phone numbers and made tentative plans....of which of course tragically were never pulled off. Doc and Merle played the Newport Folk Festival instead of Mole Lake in 1984, and Merle had his accident in 1985; so he didn't make it back to Mole Lake.
And an interesting end to our visit Merle and I had; he was on one side of the fence and I the other, near the backstage entrance. During our couple of hour conversation, there had been a fleet of trucks and buses pull into the backstage area....Charlie Daniels had arrived. There were probably 6 huge vehicles in the fleet, for Charlie apparently traveled in style. At one point Merle mentioned that he should get goin', that "the old man" would want to go back to the Holiday Inn....
We said our goodbyes and Merle headed to the door, when he was stopped by a woman who told him that no one could enter the backstage area while Charlie Daniels was there, on his orders. Merle kind of shrugged, turned and smiled kind of quizzically at me, and brushed on by her. (this smallish Indian woman was not much of a match for a big mountain man...) He again ran into resistence at the door itself, and I'm not sure how many folks that he had to brush aside before he got to Doc, but he did prevail...>g<
As promised, Merle drove Doc over to a gate so I'd have a chance to meet him as well. Doc was very gracious, but you could kind of tell that he might be in a bad mood....he was even thinking of not coming back for the next day's gig. But at some point Charlie apologized and Doc came back and we all were better off 'cause of THAT!! Merle and I were saying our final goodbyes he whispered to me: "that fat little "farmer" can't even fiddle....!" ("farmer" being close enough for this description...>g<)
My next entry will of course have to be the second part of my Merlefest musings; musings about the start of my business at this wonderful festival.
Peace, David

Friday, April 4, 2008

bloggin' away...

Hey folks...
I'm starting this blog for a couple of reasons; the main one being that I have had many requests to do so! And as it turns out, I already had a blog set up at my website, but have never really taken advantage....
This blog will of course center on the musical world that I inhabit; music being one of my main passions. There will also probably be sprinklings of family and cross-country ski musings, my other two passions. As I learn to handle posting photos and videos even, this blog will no doubt become even more personal.
Many of you folks that come here will have already known who I am and what I'm about; at least partially! >g< I have a festival camping business that I call "Dancin'Dave'sFestivalCamping", and I really have a ball with it. I bascially set up campsites for folks at festivals in different parts of the country, using all of my own equipment. My patrons show up at the festival to a comfortable, high-quality campsite and then after the festival they simply pack up their own belongings and drive away, leaving the teardown work to me as well. I meet and serve folks from it seems like damned near all over the world; including China, Australia, Austria, England, Spain, the Netherlands, Canada, and even Russia. Many of my patrons have become good friends, as I'm generally camped right alongside everyone that's booked me.
I just returned home from a successful festival trip to the Suwannee Springfest, in Live Oak, Florida. It was a blast. My next trip will be to North Carolina and the Merlefest, followed by the Lake Eden Arts Festival. These two festivals are both awesome in their own ways, and I'll be blogging about them soon.....
Welcome to my blog..... Peace, David