Friday, February 25, 2011

Ashland Kentucky August 12-15, 1971

Jack Hicks and I came to Ashland a few weeks prior to do some advertising. We put up "window cards" and visited the local newspapers in Ashland and Huntington to get some newspaper ads for the festival.

As we were going back to Nashville, we heard on the radio that J.D. Crowe was playing the Lexingtion Blue Grass Fair so we took a detour to stop by and see J.D. and the band. It had gotten dark as we parked and walked toward the midway. We asked a couple of Fayette County deputies where J.D. was performing. They said he was way over on the other side of the fair and if we wanted to ride, they needed to patrol over that way anyway.

So we got in the back seat of the deputies' car (don't ever get in the back of a deputies car willingly). We rode along a few minutes when the two deputies jumped out and ran into the crowd. Friends, there are no handles in the back seat, so there Jack and I were sitting in the back of the car, lights flashing and all sorts of people coming by and looking at us and wondering what we were in for. We found it was little use to ask anyone to open the door from the outside, so we waited. Jack was always the master of all situations. He would simply wave and grin at all who peered in to look at us. When the deputies finally came back they had new occupants that they needed to transport. All of a sudden we then felt the need to stretch our legs and we gladly walked to see J.D. and the guys.

On Tuesday before the festival, Jack and I took the bus out to the truckstop on Trinity Lane there in Goodlettsville to fill the bus with fuel and get it washed. While they guys were washing the bus, we got the ball and gloves from under the bus and were pitching baseball in the parking lot. Jack threw one long and high, and as I was walking backward, I didn't see the curb and while stumbling, the ball hit me right in the eye, giving me a good dark black shiner. Bill, Kenny, and Joe got a good laugh at me about that one.
We left Nashville on Wednesday night about midnight to go to Ashland for Bill's 2nd Annual Bill Monroe Ashland, Kentucky, Festival.
It was held at Rockdale Park. Rockdale park had an indoor stage, and across a creek and in a flat bottom land area, a wonderful outdoor stage.

There was a photo by Carl Fleischhauer included in the first Bill Monroe discography by Neil Rosenberg that didn't include me. I've always meant to ask Carl if I was cropped out because of the black eye.

Ashland was a wonderful festival. I played six shows a day there.
Jim McCown had left Sam King and The Pine Mountain Boys. Sam asked Bill if I could play banjo with his group since he hadn't found anyone yet and Bill agreed. Buck White and the Down Home Folks were on the show and Buck asked Bill if Jack could play with them. Jack and Sharon were dating at the time. Bill said "Doug can play banjo with you."

Friday, Saturday and Sunday -- Sam King and the Pine Mountain Boys started the show. I wore a white shirt. Buck White and the Down Home Folks followed. I would rush backstage and change to the light blue shirt and return to the stage. Then I had a break until I returned with the bass with the Blue Grass Boys that ended each round of performances. After having the bass neck in my hands most of the summer, the banjo neck felt like a tooth pick.

It was a wonderful time. I have a few photos that my friend Harry Bickel took as I played bass, but I'd love to find some with Sam and Buck and the girls.

XXXXUnder ConstructionXXXXX

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Montreal August16-22, 1971

We left Ashland, Kentucky, on the night of the 15th of August and drove all night on the way to Montreal.

It was late Sunday evening, after Bill’s second bluegrass festival on the grounds of the Rockdale Jamboree. As we were packing up and getting ready to leave, it was about dark. We put the records and Opry picture books in Calvin Robins' camper, so we wouldn’t have to pay duty when we crossed the border into Canada. I had bought a bass from Junior Stennett in Ottawa, Ohio, a week or so before, so we left Joe Stuart’s bass with Calvin as well. We were the last to leave the grounds.

The festival had been a reasonably good one, but it was very hot all weekend, and by Sunday night we were all worn out. Looking ahead, Kenny had taken an afternoon nap and did the first shift driving. Then about 1 in the morning, Joe took over. It was just something we did -- we never drove at night without someone riding shotgun, so Kenny stayed up until about 4 a.m., when I awoke and took over from Joe. When I started driving, Kenny went to bed and Joe sat up riding shotgun with me.

I had pulled my 4 to 8 a.m. shift driving. We were just south of Buffalo New York, when Jack came up to take over driving. In the course of events of Jack taking the wheel and me getting out of the driver seat we missed a turn. (We never stopped the bus to change drivers; the one ready to drive took the wheel while the one driving got up and out of the seat.)
It took us a while to find an exit where we could do the flip and get onto the correct route again. I’d figure 20 or 30 minutes. About a half hour later, Bill came up and asked where we were, Jack told him and he looked as his watch and said, “We’ve lost some time somewhere, we should be on up the road by now. If we can’t make up the time, we’re going to be late.” Bill usually had a good idea of time and places. I guess it was the result of the highway being his home for all those years.
We pulled into the “Man and His World” location about 12:30, a half hour late. Jim McCall and Earl Taylor had just finished playing our first show for us. We worked at noon each day, again at 1:30 and 3:00 each day for the next 7 days. Bill also did a one-hour blues set each day with Williams and Jackson at 5:00 each afternoon.

The week we were there they had three stages. We worked the Main Stage near the entrance of the Dome. There was an "Plaza” location outside and a location called the “Barn” up on the 2nd or 3rd level. Ralph Rinzler, who spoke bilingually, was the host for the Main Stage and the Outside Plaza, with Utah Phillips hosting in the Barn.

We worked seven days inside the Buckminster Fuller Dome, originally constructed for the 1967 World's Fair.

Our week was billed as a week of Blue Grass and Blues. Ralph taped every show which were 30 minutes in length, and to this point in time, that collection of tapes have not surfaced.

I did borrow two tapes from Ralph during the week we were there and made crude copies using Ralph’s and Joe Stuart's old shoebox cassette recorders, putting them side by side in a closet and making copies of two special shows. One was the noon show on Tuesday, when Jack had told me the night before to make sure I had a banjo handy tomorrow (he probably wouldn’t make the show). The other was my first bass break. We were standing behind the backdrop and Kenny asked Bill what did he want to start with. Bill turned around and said “Virginia Darling,” and he looked at me and grinned, then said “With the bass break.”
My bass break on the tape sounded a little like someone beating an old inner tube with a baseball bat, but I made it through it.

Mr. Sam McGee was performing the next week. He got there on Sunday before our last show.

Somewhere there is a treasure of recordings. I remember Keith Whitley and Ricky Skaggs of Ralph Stanley's group telling us of the best places to eat and things we need to see when we were up there. So they had already done a week there, and I’m sure Ralph Rinzler taped everything they did as well.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Phuzz Street Knuckle Busters

Under Construction>>>>>>> After arriving at Berea College in August of 1970 I lived on 4th floor of Pearson Hall... I had taken my banjo with me to school and played some on the floor, but hadn't met anyone else who played...but I kept hearing of a guitar player that was on campus. It took from August until late September for us to meet. Dr. Gary English got us together to take some photographs for publicity for the first Appalachian Music Symposium that would be held that November... Glenn and I along with Dean Louie Smith and his fiddle went with Dr. English out to Indian Fort Theater. I had several first that day. I didn’t know Glenn, had never known the delight of Dean Louie Smith either until then and had never traveled all the way out to the theater yet. As it turned out, Dean Smith didn’t play the fiddle but in photographs it really didn’t matter. Somewhere in one of the old year books I think there a couple of those photos. Beside the College Post Office I first met Glenn Lawson...Playing a 12 string guitar with a large Peace Symbol on it and looking very much like one of the Beach Boys.....

Bean Blossom Indiana, Bill Monroe's Brown County Jamboree Barn. November 4th 1977

Photo courtesy of Tony Estes The last edition of the Knucklebusters

Tony Testerman, me, Ted Harlan, and Ed Kellough

1986 The Knucklebusters with Patty Davidson, about 1984-85

Tony and I in Lil Abner. He was Mayor Dogmeat and I was Marrin Sam. So much fun

We did the play as a dark night performance during Wilderness Road.

I didn't know what I was getting myself into...I'd never been anything but a dandialion in a 3rd grade play and I had no idea that Marrin Sam had to sing, dance and only 3 in lines to Lil Abner and Daisy Mae....

Craig Bannerman, Daisy Mae Luttrell, Glen Lawson, Tony Estes

during the time of my student teaching in 1974. Actually they called themselves the Blackhawk Bluegrass Band, but everyone still reffered to them as the Knucklebusters..

We hit the big time. Bill even announced on the Grand Ole Opry the week before that we were going to be a Bean Blossom....

Friday, February 18, 2011

Wilderness Road Outdoor Drama

During the Summer of 1974 I had the pleasure to work the Wilderness Road Outdoor Drama. Distinguished playwright Paul Green from North Carolina had created the Outdoor Presentation for the Colleges Centennial in the mid 1950's.

"Indian Fort Theatre is built as part of Berea College's centennial celebration. The outdoor amphitheatre in the College Forest serves as venue for "Wilderness Road" by playwright Paul Green. The Wilderness Road drama originally ran in the 1950s as a major part of Berea's Centennial Celebration. The 1950s centennial celebration was the brain child of Dr. W.D. Weatherford who put his proposition before Berea College President Francis S. Hutchins. After President Hutchins agreed, a $100,000 outdoor theater was built, Indian Fort Theatre) near the Pinnacles and dramatist Paul Green was hired to write the script. Weatherford had several purposes which he asked Green to incorporate into his story. First was the desire to make America aware of the strong characters of the people of Appalachia. Second, the value of education to the young people of the mountains needed to be emphasized. And last, Berea College's unique role in supplying higher education for mountain youth through its work-study programs needed to become known across the country. The drama, which told of the entry into Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap by the Boone party and its journey along Wilderness Road, of the founding of Berea, and of the Civil War in Kentucky, was an immediate success and ran for several years."

Courtesy Berea College Special College Collections

During the 1973 season I got a call asking If I could fill as a replacement for Dewey Lamb who played banjo with his brother Lewis Lamb and his daughter Donna as on stage actor/musicians. He had the summer flu and I told them I'd be glad to, but I'd never acted before. The only thing I had ever done was being a dandelion in a 3rd grade play. They said Lewis and Donna will pull you thru it. I filled in for Dewey several nights and found I enjoyed it.

In the 74 season of the show I worked with Lewis and Donna as musicians.

From: Daily News Bowling Green Kentucky June 4, 1974
“This will be the third season for the revised version of Paul Green’s “Wilderness Road“, the story of a small mountain community caught up in the turmoil of the Civil War.
The drama at Indian Fort Theater in Berea Kentucky will begin June 26th and continue until September 1st with the last performance the only one on a Sunday.
Curtain time is 8:30 pm. CDT for each show.
New York actor Gary Poe heads the cast this season of “Wilderness Road” as John Freeman. Ellen Fiske, also a New Yorker plays Elsie Sims.
The character Freeman has some pacifist which conflict with the general thinking of the community. Elsie, a mountain girl, loves Freeman but her family doesn’t.
Berea College students make up a big part of the cast and Glenda White, known for her work on Kentucky outdoor stages plays Mrs.Sims
Authentic fiddle and banjo music will again be offered by the father daughter team of Lewis and Donna Lamb. Additional banjo help has arrived in the person of Doug Hutchens with credentials from Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass group and the Grand Ole Opry.”

When casting calls went out for the 1975 season I found that Lewis and Donna were not going to work the show that summer so Edd Kellough, Tony Estes and myself decided to try out for the roles for the on stage actor/musicians known in the Show as The Jones Boys; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I had always claimed to be a banjo player, so was Tony and Edd was a guitar man....I was going to learn to play the fiddle Tony on Banjo and Edd Guitar.......But fate stepped in.......and
as casting proceeded Bruce Green, noted old time fiddler and historian came on the scene and Dr. John Forbes from the Berea College Music Department also joined on bass. We had a great little 5 piece band on stage and on pre show we had a great little lady join us which was always a treat....

It was a wonderful summer. We did Wilderness Road 6 nights a week and two or three afternoon Pre-Show's; basically entertaining out at the front of the Theater as the audience arrived.

We also did a good amount of Promotional Performances doing TV in Cincinnati, Louisville, Lexington and Knoxville along with the Bluegrass Fair in Lexington.
Our little Lady Friend was none other than Debra Monk who was to go on to New York and become a Highly Successful and Awarded Actress in both stage and screen.(Pep Boys and Dinette, NYPD Blue, Greys name only a few)
She always did a wonderful version of the old Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs tune "I'll go stepping too". She also had a "memorable encounter with "THE" Colonel Sanders" one afternoon. Yes Colonel Sanders was quite real....I hope Debbie will chime in on Paul Harvey say's "The rest of the story".

Debra Monk, Doug Hutchens, Bruce Green, Edd Kellough, Dr. John Forbes, and Tony Estes as we performed as the audience arrived at Indian Fort Theater. Photo courtesy David Davis.