Music has been around pretty much forever. Honestly, I don’t know of a person anywhere who has not had it in their lives at some point in time. Of course I don’t know everybody, so I suppose a life devoid of music would be possible, I simply have no knowledge of that particular individual.
When I was growing up my kind of music was country. Loved it then, love it now, although I don’t consider much of what’s on the radio today to be real country. In high school my tastes turned more toward rock and roll and my car was filled with the sounds of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Boston and the Doobie Brothers. Somewhere in the early 90’s I was introduced to bluegrass music and suddenly I had a new favorite. The lead guitars in the old southern rock were amazing, but in my mind they paled in comparison to the ultrafast licks on the banjo, mandolin or fiddle. Yes indeed, that high lonesome sound reached out and grabbed me…and I was hooked for life.
I had for years been a guitar strummer, but when I heard bluegrass I longed to be the banjo picker, so that’s what I started to learn. At that time I was living in southern California in the high desert town of Hesperia and I began a search for a banjo instructor. That led me to Apple Valley and the doorstep of a wonderful musician named Julie Wingfield. Julie, it turned out, was a multitalented individual when it came to music. She could sing like an angel and she was very, very good on the banjo, mandolin, guitar, piano…pretty much anything. She was also a very patient teacher. Julie was kind and encouraging, but she also pushed her students to be the best they could possibly be. Not only did she get me started on the banjo, but she also helped me to learn to play the mandolin, and she introduced me to the Southwest Bluegrass Association.
SWABA, that organization, used to have monthly campouts all around Southern California and we began to attend those. Additionally, through contacts with them my wife began to play the stand up bass. At these campouts folks would gather in small circles and pick tunes. Each person in the jam would take a turn and decide what song they would like to play with the group. Somebody would kick it off, the one who had picked to song would sing the lead, and everybody would take turns playing lead breaks between the verses. There was no amplification, no electricity needed, and it didn’t matter what level player you were, you still got an equal shake and were always welcome to join in. These circles were, and still are, called jams, and were 100% pure fun. It was not unusual for a jam to start in the afternoon, and still be going when the sun came up the next day.
Later on, as happens often, my wife and I got together with a couple friends and formed a band. Our main function was to play for tourists who rode a train called The Blue Goose from Yreka (California) to Montague and back, a distance of about 17 miles round trip. We would meet the train and play as the folks departed, then go from shop to shop in town and play tunes while the folks browsed the wares, then play again as the passengers boarded the train for the return trip to Yreka. What we played were train songs for the most part, but we did also squeeze in some more traditional bluegrass tunes at times. Playing in that setting was one of the most fun times of my life. Our band even recorded a CD…another fun project. The tune I have inserted here below is a cut off that CD called Molly Rose. To this day when my daughter Sarah plays that song my grandson says, “That’s Grandpa’s song!” Ya gotta love that.
I am playing the mandolin and singling the lead on this one and my wife if playing the bass. I hope you enjoy it.