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.

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