Bill announced on stage that "today is Kenny Baker's Birthday".
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Bill announced on stage that "today is Kenny Baker's Birthday".
Monday, February 27, 2012
The following are some scenes of the different displays within the dome and photos from the monorail.
This was a dulcimer maker named McSpadden, from the Ozarks.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
#1. Ellis Family 1904 --Hats on.
Left to Right:
Back row: Sallie Ellis Roark, Peria Ellis, Drury Ellis, Mary Hutchens Ellis,
Lettie Corns (Hill), John Abram Corns, Rufus Ellis.
Front Row: Nellie Roark (Hutchens), Rufus Roark, Nannie Roark (Handy), John
C. Ellis, Lettie Rhodes Ellis, Maggie Corns (Hill), Verda Corns (Biggs),
Pearlie Corns, Emma Ellis Corns (Holding) Noel Corns, Louisa Corns Ellis
Florence Ellis (Griffin).
Thursday, February 23, 2012
After everyone drove away on the 28th of June, I just sat there. Thinking “I guess I’ve make it“! Here I am traveling with Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys…..I was in Nashville, a place where I had never really thought a lot about other than Bill living there.
I don’t know what I expected but somehow it began to fit into my first experience at the Ryman..
Seeing the oiled floors, creaking steps, dark brownish amber of the worn varnish on those old church pews. Reminded me of so much of old country stores where I grew up. Truly a different reality from the perception that I had created in my mind from listening on Friday and Saturday nights.
I remember sitting in the drivers seat looking out the front window of Bill Monroe’s Bus….My view was a gravel parking lot looking down a slight grade toward Dickerson Road with a little restaurant down (now known as the Country Western Bar and Grill
about a hundred yards to the left and a self service gasoline station an equal distance to my right.(1381 Dickerson Road Goodlettsville, now a Mapco station) I had made it….but what had I made it too.
By this time it was close to noon and I went down to the restaurant and had some lunch and started back to the bus…..My first thought was that I have left my keys on the bus…On the Saturday before Joe Stuart and Kenny Baker and I had gone into a hardware store in Lancaster Pennsylvania. Joe said to Kenny guess we need some new keys to the bus don’t we….he gave the person his key and had keys made for Dan Jones and myself.
I looked in both front pockets, pulled out all my change, I was thinking what am I going to do. I don’t have Bill’s or Joe’s phone numbers, Kenny was the only number I had in my wallet and I didn’t know how far he lived from there. Finally I found it, the sharp end had stuck deep into the corner of my front pocket. I went back up to the bus and decided I’d clean things up a little.
The way it looked from the back Photo courtesy Gregg Kennedy
This coach was PD 4501 Scenic Cruiser and had a similar door apparatus as most school buses, a handle that ratchets the door open then pulls it back closed. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grniAhzJ13o&noredirect=1 )(not ours but you'll get the idea) A deadbolt style lockset had been drilled and mounted on the door so the coach could be secured when no one was aboard. There were three steps up to the level where the driver’s seat, then two small steps up to the seating area. There were three sets of the bus seats left in front and past that area there was again two steps up before you got into the bunk area. There were two bunks on each side with enough space for everyone’s instruments to go under them sufficiently. This was followed by an area where everyone’s clothes were hung on the right side of the coach. On the left side was a small bathroom which had not worked in a long time and only used to keep the broom and odds and ends in.
In the back of the coach was Bills room. It was a modest area with a bed that’s head was on the left side of the coach and was across the width of the bus rather than long ways like the bunks up front, with some hanging space for his suit’s and a few drawers under the bed and a small night stand along with a window air conditioner. Ralph Lewis had actually installed a home air-conditioning unit in Bill’s area. Bills area was just that “his area” You just didn't see the band go into Bills room and was only there twice myself. Once when he told me to go back and look in the bottom drawer to get the money box for the gate at the festival at Ashland Kentucky and the 2nd time when he ask me if I would go back and sleep in his room with the money box on Saturday night at Ashland.
There was a little trash can under the handle that opened the door.
I picked up what stuff there was in the seats, emptied the trash can and took the piece of carpet used as a rug outside then got the broom and started trying to sweep the carpet. The carpet under the little rug was so full of dust that I worked and worked finally getting a good amount of pure dirt that had been tracked in from all parts of the country and from the looks of it for a long time. After the broom I had to go back and wipe down the dash and window ledges because of the dust I’d kicked up in the air. This took the most of the afternoon.
This would become my routine each week when we returned. To have 6 people in a coach 96 inches wide and forty feet long for extended periods things can get close but everyone in the group made the effort to keep things looking presentable when we were on the road. From time to time either friends, fans or promoters would want to come on the coach and all the band took pride in keeping the coach clean. Each time we would stop for fuel someone would always grab the trash can and empty it. By the time we got back to “Town” things had usually began to pile up There would be a few newspapers and there were always festival fliers, schedules or programs of one sort or another.
Kenny Baker cuttin up with the fiddle. Photo courtesy Gregg Kennedy
Then Wednesday about noon Kenny Baker came over and picked me up and we headed to Jenkins. After Kenny and I got to Cosby we took our clothes on the bus and Joe and Bill were sitting there and started telling Kenny how clean the bus was when they left Nashville, kidding and thanking me for the cleaning I’d done.
Friday, February 17, 2012
My father, Aubrey Hutchens, had never called dances before, but he had been to dances during his early years, and he began calling the square dances. I was just learning to play banjo and I used to sit and watch Arthur Hall week after week. Christmas of 1963, I got my first banjo, a “Beltone” that Dad got from Harold Cummins, who he had worked with at the Carnation Milk plant in Stuart.
Don Reno & Red Smiley were on TV each morning at WDBJ-TV, and Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs were on Winston-Salem's WSJS on Saturday night and the same show would be on WDBJ-TV in Roanoke on the following Monday night. In talking with Earl Scruggs in the late 1980s, he said they would "bicycle" the shows. This was in the days before UPS, when the fastest shipping method was by bus. They would send out the video tapes from Nashville and the tapes would go from town to town by bus. A station would go to the bus station, get the video, show it, then take it back to the bus station and ship it on to the next place, where it would be seen the next night, finally making it back into Nashville a week later.
Marshall Hall’s brother Cecil was playing a round and square dance at the skating rink in Stuart during this time. After a few years, for some reason Gervace quit coming to the Virginia-Carolina dance and joined Cecil at the skating rink, at which time Arthur Hall began playing fiddle at the Virginia-Carolina dance. At first, Dean Shelton, who had been learning to play the banjo, began picking with the Virginia-Carolina band. After a while, Arthur, too, began playing at the skating rink, and Marshall moved from the guitar to the fiddle for the square dances.
About this time, Doug and Larry Cobbler and I were just learning to play. They had a guitar and a mandolin and I had a banjo. Our parents, Richard and Mildred Cobbler and Aubrey and Lillian Hutchens, were at the dance each week and, before long, they began getting together to play Rook every week or so. Doug and Larry and I would go upstairs at our house or in the basement when we went down to the Cobblers'.
Before long, we were joining in from time to time at the dance. This was our first introduction to playing music. Soon, Doug, Larry, and myself starting playing more around the area, mainly at country stores and the like.
WHEO radio had opened in October of 1959 in Stuart, Virginia, and like most radio stations in rural areas, had some live music on it, especially on Saturdays. I’m not sure how many groups worked it, but I think Jim Eanes, with Roy Russell, worked it and I know that Gervace Pendleton and Arthur Hall had played with various bands on the station. In those days, it was live rather than pre-recorded. Besides, it was a great way to advertise the dance they would be playing that night.
During this era, there were many "round and square" dances around the area. There was one at Stella, Virginia, the American Legion in Martinsville, as well as the skating rink and the Virginia- Carolina Ruritan building. By the late 1960s, the Virginia-Carolina dance had about played out, but about this time, I had gotten to where I could play some on the banjo.
The first time I ever played out anywhere, except the dances, was the fiddlers' convention at the Collinsville Recreation Center. Camden Joyce played banjo with Cecil Hall and a band he had put together on Friday night, but "Cam" couldn’t play on Saturday night. Cecil asked if I could play with them. Cam was a great banjo player and I’ll never forget him playing the Friday night. They did “Just Because” and he really sounded good. On Saturday night, we only played one tune. I can’t remember the fiddler's name, but he played “Bear Creek Hop.” We didn’t place in the top 5 groups.
Then, by the next year, Doug and Larry Cobbler and I had met Henry and Louis Mabe. We heard about them and went over to see them on a Wednesday night, and then went to Boone's Mill, Virginia, to a fiddlers' convention and came in second that Saturday night. Henry was a good fiddler and Louis was a good mandolin player. Later that fall at Collinsville, we didn’t place as a band, but Henry won second on the fiddle.
The same stage where Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs played each year
(the week after they split up)
Cecil Hall, Louis Mabe, Henry Mabe, and Doug Hutchens....we were really into in it.....it looks like anyway. Louis Mabe, Doug Hutchens, Doug Cobbler in Collinsville
Meanwhile, during the year somehow I had worked my way into doing the radio show with Marshall and Cecil Hall’s Mayo River Boys. By the time I started playing with them, we didn't do too much live on the air, but we taped them, usually two at a time, every couple of weeks. At first, it was Arthur, Marshall, and Cecil and myself. Later Mike Hazlewood, a good mandolin player and singer, started doing the show with us. After that, we began recording the shows in Cecil's basement, and Doug Cobbler would either play guitar or bass with us.
Marshall Hall, Mike Hazlewood, Cecil Hall, and Doug Hutchens at WHEO, 1972.
Over the next several years, we entered various competitions around the area while doing the radio show. In 1972, we went to Berryville, Virginia, to a competition at Watermelon Park that Carlton Haney promoted. Marion Hall, Mike, and I did the singing and we got second place. That fall, we also worked Camp Springs for Carlton Haney, since we had done well at Berryville.Cecil Hall, Doug Hutchens, Mike Hazelwood, Marion Hall at Camp Springs, NC, 1972.
I went to school in Berea, Kentucky, in the fall of 1970, but continued to record radio programs with the group when I would come home every few weeks.
I had also started doing some radio at WMYN in Madison, Virginia, with Lee Kiser and Sidney Thornton in mid-1969. I continued that until about 1972, recording shows when I would come in from college.
Crossing the Cumberlands
I remember one night about midnight, heading home from doing some recordings with Lee and Sidney. I was listening to the Mac Wiseman Record Shop show on WWVA in Wheeling. I had just turned at Sandy Ridge, North Carolina, and headed toward home.
It was a beautiful clear night with a big full moon. I could almost see Bull Mountain, 30 miles away in the distance…….. about that time there was a lull in the program for a moment, then this slow, deliberate banjo tune started on the radio….It was eerie sounding and I pulled over to the side of the road to listen to it. After the banjo came the fiddle…I was almost sure it was Kenny Baker playing fiddle as I had spent some time around him in the past couple of years…then the banjo again, then the mandolin….when it ended, again there was an eerie silence, for it seemed a long time before another tune started.
I listened closely hoping they would tell what the record was, but they didn’t. It was nothing I had ever heard before…I thought it must be Bill Monroe, and the next week I sent 3 dollars to the Mac Wiseman Record Shop in Wheeling and asked them to send me the eerie banjo tune that was played on their show at about midnight the preceding Saturday night on WWVA. It was about two weeks and I got the record “Crossing the Cumberlands.” It had “I Haven’t Seen Mary in Years” on the other side. On clear, full moonlit nights, even these days when I’m driving, I’m reminded of that night. The recording was released on May 19, 1969, and this was the first time I had heard it.
Sometime the next week, someone told me at school that they had heard on Martinsville radio that I had won. Several days later we went to Martinsville, to the Coca-Cola plant, and sure enough they gave me this little box with a gift certificate in it for fifty dollars worth of records. That didn’t do me much good, as I didn’t have a record player. I simply took the certificate and put it in a drawer.
In the summer of 1963, I was trying to play an old guitar that my Uncles Bruce and John had pretty much discarded. The action on the neck was terrible. I would go through the old string boxes they had, find old strings they had taken off the good instruments, and I'd put them on the old guitar. I’d get in front of the mirror and pretend I was on stage somewhere.
Sometime during that summer, we were in Martinsville for some reason and I wandered into the Music Bar and mentioned that I had this gift certificate. The lady who ran the place was really nice and said they had wondered why it hadn’t been turned in. Fifty dollars in 1962 was a fair amount of money. After I explained that I didn’t have a record player she said I could use it on anything in the store…
Over the next few weeks, I saved the money I’d made in helping in tobacco, and on August 31st, we went to my Uncle Pete’s to prime tobacco (breaking two or three leaves from the stalk, getting them ready to be cured) and it started raining. We came back home and went to Martinsville. This time I took my gift certificate and purchased my first guitar -- a ZimGar. Never heard of that brand before or since. It was a big, pretty thing, but the action was high. Before long the neck started pulling loose and I took it back to the Music Bar. They gave me another one, and after a few months, the bridge came off. Again I took it back and got another one…I still have it today, but it isn’t any better than it was then.
I got that guitar on a Saturday, and that night at the dance, I saw one of the local boys for the last time. He was a few years older than me. I remember Kenny Collins coming in and going down stairs. I went down to get a Coke and he was sitting on the counter. On Sunday night, Kenny, Dean Shelton, and J.C. Corn had a wreck, and Kenny and J.C. were killed.
I ordered one of Ode's catalogs and parts list. You could buy everything from them. This was 1964 and I was 12. I didn’t have too much to spend, so buying was out of the question at that point.
Earlier, in the fall of 1963, when we were selling tobacco, I had an idea. Tobacco farmers usually graded their tobacco in two or three grades and then had a bunch that they threw out called "trash." I asked mom and dad if I could have the trash. With their help, I saved and worked up the trash for sale. In order to have a few hundred pounds, I had to save it all season, until all the good tobacco was graded, and with the last sale, I sent my trash to the market. In those days tobacco farming was an art, unlike today, where they treat it like hay. It had be "tied" in "hands" and put on a basket for sale. I worked on the trash and got it ready for sale and, to my surprise, I got $65 dollars for it.
A Bacon Belmont
In 1964, I got my next good banjo -- a Bacon Belmont.
A neighbor (Robert Hall) had a Gibson RB-100 that he wanted $75 dollars for, but the neck had been broken, and when I wrote to Gibson, I got a letter back saying that they would install a new neck for $67.50...Heck, I didn’t even have the $75 dollars for the banjo. A short time after that, Clarence Hall told me he had a Gibson RB-150 that someone had brought to him to sell for $150 dollars...It was tobacco-chopping time in the late spring and we were working in the field. I asked dad if I could borrow a hundred and fifty dollars until I sold the trash that fall.....One of the most hurt looks came on his face when he paused and said, "I just don't have it." I felt so bad that I had even asked. I just wanted to roll time back and never ask it. I've always remembered that hurt look on his face. Both he and mom would always give us whatever they could, but the remembrance of that look on dad's face always stayed with me. During the summer before he passed in March of 2009, he and I were talking and I asked if he remembered that time I wanted to borrow a hundred and fifty dollars for a banjo. Well, he didn't remember and I was so glad that he didn't.
That fall, I again asked mom and dad if I could have the trash, and I tied it for sale.
I went with my uncle John Hutchens who took the tobacco to the warehouse in Martinsville, Virginia, on a Saturday. While he was at the warehouse, I went up to the Patrick Henry Mall to the Music Bar. They had moved out to the Mall from Main Street, where I had purchased my first guitar.
They had a used Bacon Belmont banjo for $149.95. It was chrome and had pearloid on the resonator sides and had a hard-shell case with it. I had seen Larry Richardson playing a banjo similar to it on a TV show on Channel 8, High Point, North Carolina. I talked to the lady at the Music Bar and asked if they could do any better on the price. Finally she said she would take $129 dollars for it. I had my sights set on that banjo. I told them that I had some tobacco to sell on Monday and asked if they would hold it for me until then. I went back down to the warehouse and told uncle John. He went up with me to look at it, and after the tobacco sold on Monday, he was to go and buy it and bring it home.
I couldn’t sleep Saturday night or Sunday night. All day Monday, all I could think about at school was that that banjo would be mine when I got home.
When I got off the school bus, uncle John, mom, and dad were all sitting on the porch at the house. I bounced up the hill in anticipation, and when I walked in, uncle John said, "I’ve got some bad news." I had anticipated getting at least $130 or $140 dollars for the trash tobacco, but he said “It only brought 90 dollars and 38 cents," and he handed me the warehouse bill, showing me the tobacco sale amount.
My spirits immediately fell. I tried not to look disappointed, but I’m sure they could tell. After a few minutes, uncle John said, “But I went up to there and told them that that your tobacco didn’t bring what you thought it would, and they let me have it for $90 dollars.” I was overjoyed.
In the past few years, I started wondering: Did they actually let him have that banjo for $90 dollars or did he pay the additional? It would have been just like uncle John to have done it. He passed away a few years ago and I never asked him. I wish I had.
In the late summer of 1967, Cam Joyce decided to sell one of his banjos. He had a Gibson banjo he had gotten from Larry Richardson and a Style D Baldwin that he had ordered in September of 1966 and it had been delivered to Melody Haven Music in Roanoke in April of 1967.
The word got around that he would sell either for $600. Marshall Hall had said that he had it and might go ahead and buy the Baldwin. In thinking back, I think Cam probably had pawned it to Marshall for less than the $600.
Dad and I went up to Cam’s house and he said he would trade the Baldwin for my Bacon if I’d give him the $450 difference between them. I had been saving Kennedy half dollars in a microphone tube, so I took them to the old bank downtown in Stuart and turned $450 worth of half dollars in for cash and called Cam and told him I could do the deal.
This was the second Saturday in November when he brought the banjo down to our house and I gave him the Bacon and the cash and became the proud owner of a Baldwin Style D banjo.
Doug Hutchens with Style D Baldwin Serial number 519. Summer 1968. With a hand
During the summer of 1971, while I was working with Bill Monroe, I came home one weekend and Cam heard that I was home. He came down and asked if I ever sold the banjo, would I give him first refusal, to which I agreed. He said that his little boy, named Doug, too, always talked about that pretty banjo and if I ever sold it, he would like to buy it back.
The next summer Cam got killed in a truck wreck.
Years later, I was talking to Clarence Hall one night and he mentioned that Doug Joyce had asked about the banjo that I had bought from his Dad. He asked if I would be interested in selling it to him.
I had to think about this a little, but I decided that if Doug wanted it, I would sell it back to him for what his dad had wanted for it, $600. But if he ever sold it, I was to get first refusal at the same price. After a few years Doug Joyce called one day and said “I don’t guess you’d want this Baldwin banjo back, would you?” I said if you are going to sell it, I will buy it. The value had appreciated, but he sold it back to me at the same price. I still have it today, having hopefully done what Cam would have appreciated in letting his son have it until he was ready to move on.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
I honestly don’t know where I thought I was going to stay after I went with the band. Thinking back, I don’t think it ever crossed my mind. I was just caught up in the moment and not thinking, and definitely not planning ahead.
After we pulled in the parking lot beside a little restaurant and across from the Astor Court Motel at 1298 Dickerson Road there in Goodlettsville, Bill paid everyone, and Joe and Kenny were getting their clothes and instruments off the bus.
The motel was run by the Moores. Kenny Baker said that when he came to Nashville the first time in the 50s, he lived at the motel, so they weren't strangers to entertainers renting rooms. I would occasionally check in down there for a night, just to get a good hot shower.
Joe was the first to ask me where I was going to stay. Honestly, that had not crossed my mind. He invited me to go out and stay with him. I just said “I’m going to stay on the bus." I needed some time to digest what was happening. Baker, too, asked me to go out to his place with him. Again I said, “I’ll just stay on the bus.” Baker asked if I had any clothes that needed to go the laundry. I rounded up my white shirts and black pants that I’d worn over the weekend and he took them with him to his to the laundry. Then he asked me if I would like to go up to Jenkins, Kentucky, with him on Wednesday.
About noon on Wednesday, Kenny came out to the bus. He had picked up our clothes at the laundry. (In the tag of all my clothes, it had "Baker" written with a laundry marker. I kept those clothes for years after. I couldn't wear them anymore, just for the memories.) We headed up to Jenkins. He put me to driving and that was the first time I ever had been through Knoxville. I was amazed; I had never seen the highway up over a city. We hit town about rush hour in the afternoon with a little shower of rain falling. It was an interesting trip.
We went over to Kingsport, up through Gate City, Big Stone Gap, and Norton, then into Jenkins. Once we got past Kingsport, I was familiar with the road there, having driven it on the way from home to Berea the previous school year. We visited his mother and some friends around town before we headed out for Cosby on Thursday morning.
This was James’ first festival at Kineauvista Park, July 2nd, 3rd and 4th, 1971. Joe Stuart and Danny Jones had come down with Bill and brought the bus. (Jack Hicks wasn’t with them because he had gone back to Ashland with his folks the week before, after Columbus.)
James had a good lineup of talent: Lester Flatt, the Goins Brothers, Jim & Jesse, Don Reno, Red Smiley & Bill Harrell, Carl Story, and Clyde Moody.
The Bluegrass Alliance had been very popular at Bean Blossom two weeks before, so James had hired them for the festival. I really liked Courtney Johnson's banjo playing and we became good friends.
Courtney and I became friends and he gave me his address on the back of a card of the BlueGrass Alliance.
I had the opportunity to see some people for the first time there. For Friday night, James hired Bonnie Lou and Buster Moore. They had a Knoxville TV program and that was good local advertising. I had seen their "Jim Walter Jubilee" for several years, as it was syndicated in our area. I always enjoyed L.E. White and, especially, Bill Chambers' banjo playing. This was the first time I saw David Deese in person, too. I had watched him with Red Smiley on TV at Roanoke before he was drafted. I think he came up with the Jones Brothers, who were working with Carl Story at the time.
It was hot, hot, hot there that weekend. There was no shade where the stage was, so they put up a huge tent for the audience.
On the Sunday gospel show, I almost played banjo. Jack was late for the show, and Bill told me to get my banjo. The bus was parked way up on the hill, and it was only about ten minutes before we were to go on. About that time, Courtney Johnson had heard Bill tell me to get a banjo. So he came to the stage with his banjo, and I was getting it tuned up when Jack showed up at the last moment.
On our Sunday afternoon show, Lester Flatt was to follow us, and Uncle Josh joined us on the dobro that afternoon. He and Bill had picked some at a party at the house on the hill a couple of nights before. Bill had gone through the introductions, and we were getting ready to do “Sitting on Top of the World” when Bill invited Josh to join us, saying that he "was going to put in some blues." After that number Josh started to leave and Bill said 'just stay with us, we need all the help we can get'.
The band consisted of Kenny Baker and Joe Stuart on twin Fiddles, Jack Hicks on banjo, Danny Jones on Guitar and myself on the bass.
Josh played the remainder of the show with us, with he and Bill improvising a neat version of “Evening Prayer Blues.” I remember Bill told the audience to imagine a “colored meeting house and they would be praying every now and then, saying 'Praise the Lord,' and right on down.” Bill said that it was a Deford Bailey tune from years ago. None of us knew the tune, and Bill had to set the timing with the mandolin and we all followed. Josh and Bill had a great time.
Over the years many have thought that Bill didn't like the dobro, I don't think he had any bad feelings about the instrument. But the fact was, it just didn't fit into his music.
On Sunday afternoon, Bill recreated his version of “The History of Blue Grass,” similar to Carlton’s “Story.” Clyde Moody was there and did “Columbus Stockade Blues” and “In the Pines.” Carl Story was on the show. The Goins Brothers played, then Roland White did a tune with Bill. Jim and Jesse did a couple of songs with Bill, then James, who had just left the Blue Grass Boys about a month before to start his own group, sang with Bill. I remember they did “Tall Pines" (one of the first times I‘d ever heard it). Then Lester and Bill did their reunion tunes. They stole the show.
We stayed around until Monday morning before heading back to Nashville.
That morning, James was taking care of things and getting ready to leave when he realized that there was a huge banner over the highway that needed to be taken down.
The Blue Grass Alliance were still there, too, so Courtney Johnson pulled their bus over to one side of the highway and Tony Rice and I got up on their bus and untied one side of the banner, as Courtney moved the bus to the other side of the highway so we could untie the other side. We had to walk backward and forward on top of the bus, to keep from being pulled off by the banner -- just one more of those special, weird memories.
Jack went back to Ashland with his parents. Joe Stuart went over and visited some family from near Greenback, Tennessee. Kenny Baker had his car there, so that left Dan Jones and me to take Bill and the bus back to Nashville. Some friends of Bill wanted to catch rides back toward “Town" (Nashville). So there was Dan and I to do the driving from Cosby to Nashville. Surprisingly, we had no problems and Bill bragged on us. That always made us feel good, to get good words from him.
In 1967, the first time I ever played out anywhere except the dances was at the Collinsville Recreation Center's Fiddlers Convention. Camden Joyce played banjo with Cecil Hall and a band that Cecil he had put together on Friday night, but he couldn’t play on Saturday night. Cecil asked if I could play with them. Cam was a great banjo player and I’ll never forget him playing that Friday night.
They did “Just Because” and he really sounded good. On Saturday night, we only played one tune. I can’t remember the fiddler but he played “Bear Creek Hop.” We didn’t place in the top 5 groups.
Then, by 1968, Doug and Larry Cobbler and I had met Henry and Louis Mabe. We met on a Wednesday night in May and went to Boones Mill, Virginia, to a Fiddlers Convention that weekend and came in second that Saturday night.
Cecil Hall and Henry Mabe at Collinsville in the fiddle competiton, November 1968.
Henry was a good fiddler and Louis, a good mandolin player. When we competed at Collinsville, we didn’t place as a band, but Henry won second on the fiddle.
Henry getting his ribbon and check, November 1968,
Saturday afternoon there was a bad thunderstorm that stopped the afternoon shows. After the storm, everyone experienced the red Georgia clay. It stuck to your shoes like chewing gum.
The Saturday night show was an interesting one. Joe Stuart and I were sitting in the front of the bus when Bill came in. I immediately got up and moved over to make room for him, and as he sat down, he asked if I would mind if “That Corum boy” (Pete Corum) played bass tonight....At first, I didn’t know how to take what he was asking, but I said, "Sure." Bill continued that Pete had helped parking cars at Bean Blossom for several days in all the rain and hot weather and wouldn’t take a cent for it.....All he wanted to do was play bass on one show....That was fine with me. So, I was sitting up front in the bus while they were all in the back getting dressed.
In a few minutes Bill came out first....He looked over at me and said, “Aren’t you going to get ready?” I said, "I thought you said Pete was going to play bass tonight." Bill said, “Well, you and Jack can play twin banjos can’t you?” I said, "Well, I guess so," so I got dressed.
It began as a typical Bill Monroe show. Jack and I were swapping back and forth with banjo breaks. Three or four tunes into the set, Jack winked at me as he went in for a break. He promptly broke a string. I moved in and finished the break, and as he went by me, he said, “You take care of things out here.” Jack didn’t come back. It was Jack’s way of letting me play banjo. In a talented group like this, it would have been easy for egos to flourish, but this was a great bunch of guys -- no egos and everyone was always good to each other. Jack knew I loved to play the banjo. It was the same way in Montreal later in the summer, when Jack missed a show and Joe Stuart could have played banjo. But Joe said, "You go ahead and do it," knowing what it would mean to me. These guys were wonderful to work with. I can’t remember a cross word spoken between anyone in the band the whole time I was there.
Bill started inviting people to come out and play a tune on his show: Mac Wiseman, Red Rector, the Country Gentlemen, Rual Yarbrough and Jake Landers. Everyone who was on the show that day, I think, came out and did a tune or two with him.
A night to remember for sure.....
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
We pulled in just before noon on Friday, and I remember Joe saying that Rual (Yarbrough) and Jake (Landers), both of whom were good friends of Bill, were going to be working that festival. Shortly after getting the bus situated, we all went in different directions, checking out the grounds. The park had only been finished a few days before; the tracks of a bulldozer were still fresh in the roadway.
We parked in a little grove of trees, not far from the entrance to the park, next to a woven wire fence. Soon other entertainers began arriving.
James Bryan, Rual Yarbrough, William Smith, and Jake Landers.
On Saturday afternoon, Joe Stuart, Rual Yarbrough, and Jake Landers were sitting along the fence singing. Jake had his guitar, and Rual and Joe were singing harmony. Jake was already known as a good songwriter and was sharing some of his latest efforts.
Joe Stuart loved to sing, and while they were singing, Bill Emerson of the Country Gentlemen walked by, on the way to the stage…he stopped, turned around, and listened for a while. A conversation ensued and he sent back to the bus for a tape recorder, on which he taped “The Secret of the Waterfall.” It was subsequently recorded by the Gentlemen for "The Award-Winning Country Gentlemen” album. He also had Jimmy Gaudreau and Charlie Waller come by and listen to some of Jake's songs. One, “My Last Request,” Charlie said he really liked. I’m sure he never recorded it, but I would have loved to hear Charlie sing that tune. He could have done it justice.
James, Rual, William, and Jake.
I enjoyed my first trip west of the Mississippi. Some other great friends that I had seen at Bean Blossom a few weeks before were there, The Calton Family. Charles and Inez had two beautiful daughters, Randie and Brenda, and I enjoyed their shows.
( In doing some internet searching my heart is heavy to find that Inez passed....I called her several years ago and she said that she was having some health problems....I asked about the girls...Brenda and Randie.....Brenda was on the radio doing a commercial as we spoke and she held the phone to the radio....She said that she was undergoing treatment......I did not follow up...I'm so sorry it took this long to follow up....http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=Calton&GScnty=1449&GRid=70802792& )
After the festival, on Sunday night, we headed back to Nashville. Jack was really getting into driving. He had driven all night and, early the next morning, we were awakened by the engine racing. The bus slowed, then stopped. Everyone got up and went up front, then outside. Jack had already opened the tailgate of the coach. Joe and Kenny seemed to know what he problem was, so Joe started thumbing and went into town and, before long, he returned with a gentleman in a tow truck. We were pulled into Mayfield, Kentucky, where we spent a good portion of the day getting a flywheel pressed back on the motor. Then we headed back to "Town."
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
During the spring of 1969, I met Garland Lambert and Luther Chandler and we just kind of hit it off. Luther was a good mandolin player, and Garland sang and played guitar. I think it was at Star, North Carolina, where we first got together. Over the next several months, I played with them at various fiddlers conventions' throughout North Carolina.
"Henry" (I think, but can't remember his last name), Luther Chandler, Doug Hutchens, and Garland Lambert at the fiddlers convention at Star, North Carolina, in 1968 or 69.
One year, we even got on one of the recordings (about 1970) that Bobby Patterson used to do of the Galax fiddlers' convention. I had entered the Mayo Mountain Boys. Wayburn Johnson played fiddle and we did “Cotton Eyed Joe.” It was a good cut except for me choking as I went in for my break.Luther Chandler, Doug Hutchens, Henry, and Garland Lambert.
I played with them in 1970 at Union Grove. Luther insisted that I come and stay with him at his home. As in the past year, I had slept in the car for a couple of nights.
We got up on Saturday morning and ate breakfast at a restaurant -- the first time I'd ever eaten breakfast at a restaurant. I looked and looked at the menu, finally ordering a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich and hash browns -- still my favorite breakfast meal, other than a hamburger. Many places, they look at you weird if you order a hamburger at that time of day. But weird looks never seemed to bother me.
Joe Stuart was driving when we got there and it was mid to late morning. I was just waking up as the bus was being maneuvered back and forth into the trees along the creek. When I went up front and sat down, Joe was still in the drivers seat, starting the generator for the air conditioner, and Bill was sitting behind him. Shortly, Joe got up and went back into the coach and as he came out, Johnny Johnson was driving Lester Flatt’s bus and was turning and beginning to park near us. Joe made the statement, “They’ll all be over here in a little bit,” to which Bill inquired how he knew that. It seems that Joe had been talking to Josh Graves during the week, and Lester’s generator wasn’t working, and it was mighty hot on the bus when the “road air“ wasn‘t running.
Joe got off the bus, and in a few minutes, there was a gentle knock at the door. Bill said “See who that is.” I looked out and it was Lester and I told Bill. He said, “Just let him in.” I pulled the arm that opened the door and I moved back to the next row of seats as Lester came in and sat where I had been sitting, across from Bill. These two guys had “buried the hatchet” at Bean Blossom a week before, having not directly spoken in many years, yet they talked the next two hours as if nothing had ever happened.
I only wish I could have had the presence of mind to make a few notes of what they talked about. I remember the conversation began with Lester asking, “Where did y'all work last night?” For the next two hours, they talked about all sorts of things. The only thing I remember well was the idea came up of working some together. Bill said we could "go right across the country, all the buses together." Lester said we could call it "the Bluegrass Caravan." As Lester was getting ready to leave, to get dressed for the show, Bill asked him, “Do you think we could do a couple of numbers together this afternoon?” to which Lester said, “It would be my pleasure, Bill.” My chill bumps were plentiful and it was in the high 90s outside.
The crowd was large and many had heard of Bill and Lester’s reunion the week before in Bean Blossom. Anticipation was in the air -- would they would do it again? Then when Lester and his group came out at the end of Bill’s show and “Little Cabin Home on the Hill” was kicked off, the audience came unglued….
It was late that night before everything was over. Then we went over to the Astro Inn. Everyone went in and after a little while, I was tired and went back to the bus and went to bed. I woke up when everyone were getting back on the bus, but went back to sleep pretty quick. The next time I woke up, we were heading up the long hill going into Kentucky out of Cincinnati on I-71. Dan Jones had been driving. About this time, Bill got up. He was walking up the aisle, brushing his hair back with his hands, and saying someone sure did some mighty good driving last night. Dan had been in transportation while in the Army and could handle the coach with no problem.
Joe and Kenny were bragging on Dan and kidding him about how Bill could sleep so good with him driving. As I came up the aisle, Baker looked at me and said, “You grew up on a farm and operated machinery didn’t you?” to which I replied, "Yeah." He looked at Joe and said, “Looks like we might have us another driver in the band.”
Dan lived in Louisville, so we stopped there along the way. Dan called his wife and she picked him up at one of the exits and we headed on toward Nashville. We’d only gone a few miles and Kenny looked back at Joe and said, “Do we need to break in another one on this trip?" Joe just smiled, and for the next few miles they showed me how to change drivers while you are going down the highway.
The person getting ready to drive takes the wheel while the person who has been driving slides out of the seat, then the new driver slides into the seat while holding onto the wheel. When I got my school bus license a few years before, I don't think that was on the test. It sounds crazy and was a little awkward, but we made it, and from Louisville to just outside of Nashville, that was my first “seat time” driving a coach.
Back in those days I-65 didn’t go all the way to Nashville, so just before the interstate ended Joe again took the wheel and drove us on to where we parked the coach in Goodlettsville.
Jack Hicks wasn’t with us. His dad, Pat, and his mother, Jenny, traveled to many of the shows and whenever he could, he would go back to Ashland and then take the bus to Nashville the next week in time to go to the next shows.
We got back into Nashville on Monday morning the 28th about 10 or 11 o'clock.
Monday, February 13, 2012
I had just awakened and gone up to the front of the bus and Joe Stuart was sitting there.
Joe said "I wish you would look out there." Red had come out of the motor home that they were traveling in and had started up on the hill where the gospel show was to be held that morning. It was 3 or 4 hundred yards up to the building and Red was pretty weak at that time.
I had grown up listening to Don Reno and Red Smiley on their morning TV show on WDBJ in Roanoke, Virginia. Don and Red’s partnership dissolved in November of 1964. I had met Red a time or two, but not enough for him to know who I was or anything.
Red was carrying his guitar in one hand and his stage shoes in the other. He carried his D-45 Martin in a turquoise colored case. In the late 60s he and Billy Edwards had their cases "recovered" in a turquoise naugahyde material -- it stood out. He would take about 4 or 5 steps and put the guitar case down and switch hands. I told Joe, "I’m going to take Red’s guitar to the stage for him." I didn’t even have my shoes on yet, so I reached around and under the bunks and got my old work shoes and put them on.
I went on out and asked Red if he minded if I walked up to the stage with him. He said, "Sure," so I said, "Here let me take that guitar for you." We could only walk short distances, then he would need to stop to catch his breath.
We finally made it up the hill and into the back of the building. The other members of the band was already there tuning up, so I put Red’s guitar on a table and went back to the bus.
The Blue Grass Boys were the last act of the gospel show that morning, and Red was still there as we came off stage. I asked if I could take his guitar back down to the motor home. He said, "You’ve got your bass to take back." I said, "I think I can handle both of them." He just grinned and we walked back down the hill together.
We left Lavonia on Sunday night and drove to Ottawa Ohio, were we worked all week together. Bill Monroe and the Blue Grass Boys and Don Reno, Red Smiley and Bill Harrell.
On Monday afternoon, I was in the back of the bus and I heard someone ask Kenny Baker where I was -- it was Red. Baker hollered back to me that someone wanted to see me. I went up and Red asked if I had gotten that Georgia red mud off my shoes yet, I told him no. He said, "Get them and let's go down to the dock and see what we can do with them." Red and I went down and sat on the dock and took some sticks and gouged the mud off and washed our shoes. From that point on, Red always went out of his way to speak to me.
That week at Hillbrook Recreational Center was a great time. The crowd was sparse, to say the least, during the early part of the week. That was the first time I ever had Red’s D-45 guitar in my hands. It was a killer guitar.
The last time I saw Red was that fall at Myrtle Beach. We spoke as I was getting ready to head home and he said he would see me later.....Red, I look forward to shaking your hand again....
Friday, February 3, 2012
After working with Bill Monroe in 1971 I got to know Melvin and Ray Goins.
They were true "Old School Entertainers"
Sometime in the fall of 1978 after I moved to Knott County Kentucky, Melvin called and asked if I could help them with their TV shows over on WKYH TV in Hazard, Kentucky. Their regular bass player lived up in Ohio and it wasn't monetarily worth it for him to drive down just for the TV shows. They taped two shows every other Tuesday afternoon and the shows were played back on Friday nights.
Glen Duncan Fiddle, Doug Hutchens Bass
For the next several years,I would find some excuse to leave work every other Tuesday afternoon and run to town for "something". We would tape two shows and then I would head back to work to be sure to be back about quitting time. It only took an hour to do two 30 minute shows.
No stopping once we started the theme. Melvin did his commercials live. These guys were a pleasure to work with. They had been in the business since before it was a business and they knew how to make things happen.
Curly Lambert mandolin, Doug Hutchens bass, Buddy Griffith banjo
I usually played bass, but over the period of 10 years that I lived in Eastern Kentucky I played bass, banjo, guitar and mandolin....It just depended on who was with Melvin that week.
Glen Duncan Fiddle, Doug Hutchens bass, Tommy Boyd banjo, Melvin Goins Guitar
Tommy Boyd who was playing with Larry Sparks at the time on the dobro,,,Tony Testerman hidden on bass and Doug Hutchens on Mandolin
I will have to say again my admiration of the "First Generation of Blue Grass Entertainers". Melvin and Ray treated me as an equal...They had been at it for years, here I was a total new comer yet, they treated me as if I had played with them for decades.....Joe Stuart and Kenny Baker treated me the same way during the time that I worked with Bill Monroe.... I don't know if I would have welcomed new faces as they did.
I also worked many schools with Melvin and Ray....They probably introduced more school kids to Blue Grass Music than any other group, Eastern Kentucky, Southwest Virginia and Southern West Virginia..The Goins Brothers worked many a school and I've seen countless individuals that have told me that thier introduction to Blue Grass Music was the school shows that Melvin and Ray did. During the time I worked with them, once we worked 5 elementary and high schools in one day.....More on that later.....
Glen Duncan fiddle, Doug Hutchens bass, Tommy Boyd banjo, Melvin Goins guitar