Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Last Saturday my youngest daughter Elspeth brought five of her friends to the shop during the Ivory Bridge practice to listen her Dad play music. In spite of the style of music, or maybe because of it, the kids (all in the fourteen to sixteen year old range) loved listening. Here is a typical, world weary, ipod driven group of teens who were blown away to hear acoustic music played a couple of feet away. I forget the sheer power of music that is being performed at arms length from the listener. I always think that being a banjo player is about as dorky as you can be. At times like last Saturday, I remember how hypnotic music was when I was the age of these kids. I had heard acoustic Bluegrass, Folk, Blues, and Jug Band music when I was twelve. I had been exposed to it through my big brother Jeff who is six years older than I am. There was something compelling about hillbilly music; it was undeniably corny but it conveyed a certain lonesome, nostalgic, bluesy feel. I was hooked.

After I had been listening for a couple of years and I had something in common with Jeff that we could enthuse and talk about, he took me to a concert that he knew I would enjoy. We went early to the coffee house so we could get good seats and arrived about 45 minutes before the doors opened. There was only one other person there waiting to get in. We got seats directly in front of the stage, which was a riser about a foot tall. I was sitting square in front, about four feet from the chair that the performer was going to be sitting in. The performer was Doc Watson. Remember that this took place in 1967. Nowadays, Doc draws thousands of people to his performances. In 1967, a kid and his big brother could sit close enough to touch him. When I remember the impact that listening and watching Doc had on me, I can understand how Elspeth's buddies were blown away listening to the Ivory Bridge practice session. I was never the same after that night. I had bought my first banjo by then but didn't know much about how to play it. Suffice it to say I was inspired after watching and hearing Doc Watson at a distance of four feet for three hours.

A year after that night, Jeff put together a Doc Watson concert at Michigan State University in East Lansing. I took the running dog up to spend the weekend with him and enjoy the privilege of hanging out with an icon for a couple of days. Merle and Doc had been driven up from Deep Gap by cousin Jerry. Merle and Jerry schemed all weekend long about installing a still in a semi trailer so it could be driven around to sell moonshine and evade the BATF and the "revenooers". It sounded like a perfectly fine plan to me but I am pretty sure they never did it.


Post a Comment

<< Home