Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Gardiner Montana is the last stop before entering Yellowstone National Park at Mammoth. It is also the home of Robert Grosvenor, a  Forest Service employee, and one helluva banjo picker. For several years now Rob and his wife, Nichelle, have hosted a big jam called "Winter Pick."  Originally it was in their home, but quickly outgrew that and has moved to a popular Gardiner motel. It grows ever year and every one has a great time. (Bring a swim suit and take a dip in the river while there. Yellowstone does have thermal qualities you know.) Across the entire U.S. how many winter bluegrass jams have THAT feature?  Here is Rob's e-mail invitation:

Sent: Monday, December 08, 2014 10:05 AM
Subject: Winter Pick January 23-25
Folks- I hope everyone can attend Winter Pick in Gardiner this year.  No tolerance this time for entertaining family, or flying to Phoenix.  There are some of the original “Hard Core Bluegrass” members out there judging by the late night jams at the Fiddler’s Picnic and Itch-Kep-Pe last August.  Let’s get them fired-up for Gardiner.
 Same plan as last year.  Judy at the Super-8 has agreed to block-out Building B so we can keep all of the noise in 1 spot.  Nichelle and I have the Suite reserved with donations from last year and will also be providing lots of meats through the weekend.  I haven’t talked with all the wonderful support staff that supplies all the other foods and keeps the kitchen running like a clock but that will likely work itself out as we go. 
 Make your reservations and let them know that you are part of the music party and Judy can get you in Building B. 
 January  23-25.  Super-8   Ph#406-848-7401
I don’t have a lot of email addresses so please invite others as you see fit.  I only ask that they are good, friendly folks.  See you there.

Monday, December 29, 2014


ROGER'S NOTE: Ryan and Larry Cavanaugh once lived in Billings and attended the Lincoln Center jams. Go to U-Tube or Facebook to hear Ryan and his electric banjo. He has been influenced greatly by Bela Fleck another innovator on the banjo. It is much different than Scruggs style picking. 

 New bridge for electric banjo from Ryan Cavanaugh

| December 17, 2014 | No Comments
cavanaugh_bridgeIt may have appeal for only a limited sector of the banjo world, but pro-picker Ryan Cavanaugh has come up with a new bridge for use on electric banjos that dramatically enhances the natural banjo tone. They will only work on models with a bridge that sits on a banjo head like the Deering Crossfire or Gold Tone EBM, not fully solid body instruments.
The Cavanaugh bridge is made from metal, and it is designed to excite the magnetic field generated by the pickup installed under the head with greater intensity than a wooden bridge with metal inserts. Product testing indicates that an electric banjo using this bridge generates more volume and a far more natural banjo tone through the pickup.
The knock on these electric banjos has generally been that while they can function well in a high volume stage environment, they simply don’t sound like an acoustic banjo. It might seem initially counterintuitive that metal would offer a more transparent tone than wood, but consider that on a banjo like this, response is entirely determined by the reaction of the pickup. The more the magnetic field is disturbed, the more the pickup sends out.
At this point, the bridges are offered as an aftermarket update for the Deering and Gold Tone banjos.
Ryan Cavanaugh performing with Bill Evans' SoulgrassRyan developed this new bridge with his dad, Larry, who makes them for him. Since he performs often with Bill Evans’ Soulgrass show, which uses a jazz/funk rhythm section, Cavanaugh has been eager to get a more banjo-y sound from his electric banjo, and has been studying on the matter of late.
The Cavanaugh banjo bridge sells for $100, with $10 for shipping. They can be ordered online.


It has been reported that Little Jimmy Dickens of the Grand Ole Opry has been hospitalized and is in critical care in Nashville.  He recently turned 94 and performed on the Opry on December 20th.  He is only 4' 11" tall and to me his guitar seemed bigger than he was. Dickens has been on the Opry since 1948 and performed regularly. Many recall his tunes including, "Take An Old Cold Tater (and wait), "Country Boy," and "Out Behind the Barn." The old time country legends are slowly slipping away. 



Hello!!!!! Merry Christmas and New Year’s is just a few days away……we want to invite ALL of you to the 10th annual Blizzard Bluegrass weekend at Bismarck State College NEXT weekend January 2-3. Concerts each night are at 7:30 and the doors open at 6:30pm…..Saturday is the “Learn a bluegrass song workshop” from 2-4. Bring your instrument and play along with one of the country’s finest bluegrass bands Blue Moon Rising!
Friday we head to the Youth Correctional Center ( formerly SIS ) to have Blue Moon Rising band play to the 90 incarcerated youth. We are giving the center 2 brand new guitars for the youth to play. J
My band Cotton Wood will have 3 special guests Ashley and her husband Danny Stewart as well as fiddle player from Montana Reid Buckley!! Get out and hear some amazing bluegrass and if you come bring a toothbrush for our “brushing for bluegrass” campaign. We plan to take these to Guatemala to the God’s Child Project!!!!!!  Keep in touch and we hope all is well…….dates to remember are 25th annual Missouri River Bluegrass Festival at the Cross Ranch State Park are June 19-20 with Cotton Wood, The Special Consensus and the Wood Picks, Chuck Suchy, and other bands TBA. Bluegrass goes PINK is Saturday July 25th with a 5K fun walk/run at 0900 AM this year…..supper at 5pm with the Washburn area churches and the concert at 7:00 pm….wear your pink and support the Bismarck Cancer Center foundation…….but first we need to get through the BLIZZARD and we hope you can join us! Cheers!!!! Jill Wiese www.cottonwoodbluegrass.com

Thursday, December 18, 2014


I've been listening to my CD "Smoky Mountain Christmas," which features traditional Christmas songs being played instrumentally by bluegrass musicians. There are other CDs available by bluegrass performers doing these tunes, but almost no original bluegrass Christmas songs. The one big exception is "Christmas Times A'Comin', written by fiddler Tex Logan.  By all means go to U-Tube and listen to it played by Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys on the old Ralph Emery TV show. It is a classic. Have a great holiday season and pick and sing a few yourself.  

Monday, December 15, 2014


At the December 12 YBA meeting it appeared that there might be some possibility of using the Lincoln Center after January 1, 2015.  That would be dependent upon a security guard being on duty to open the door on Friday evenings.  The main reason for that possibility seemed to be whether or not there was an Adult Ed night class taking place then. After perusing the last program schedule for Adult Ed that appears to be highly unlikely. There were NO classes listed for Fridays at all and therefore very little likelihood of the building being open on Friday evenings. There was no reference to the guitar class that was ending December 12, 2014, at 7:15 PM. There were two general sessions for last Fall. One was for eight weeks and another for six weeks with time off between each. None of this sounds good for Yellowstone Bluegrass jams. We simply have to hope for the best from the YBA board, but any possibility of getting into the Lincoln Center on Friday evenings appears lost to me. Finding another site for jamming brings up it's own set of problems. If any readers have a solution to this by all means contact Sharon Karlson or another board member. They would welcome the help.                         

ALSO: Researching the scheduling of Adult Ed classes also sheds some light on the problem of finding YBA folks to teach music classes. Most classes meet at least two days per week and often for two hours or more. Total that up for eight weeks and we would be asking a member to volunteer for some 32 hours of teaching. Even half of that is a lot of time. Could any employed member do that?  It is even a lot to ask of retired or otherwise unemployed folks. It may appear that I have a negative attitude toward all of this, but I prefer to call it being realistic. And I still remember how difficult it was some 22 years ago in trying to find a place for up to 40 pickers to jam. Now, though,  we seldom have 20 show up and the board should probably consider this in finding any place to jam at any time or interval.  

Saturday, December 13, 2014


We had our annual meeting of the Yellowstone Bluegrass Association last night at our Friday night jam.  We went over the latest up-date information for the YBA's potential for becoming a teaching organization involving the Lincoln Centers' Adult Education Evening Program, and received many positive comments.  There is still much discussion involved before we do this, but will keep you all informed of future plans.
     Here are the new Board of Directors/ Officers for 2015
1.  Sharon Karlson........President
2.  Trent Indreland........Vice President
3.  Scott Moore.............Sec/Treasurer
4.  Wade Steinmetz.......
5.  Paul Dextras............
6.  Edd Tremblay...........
7.  Mark Millard.............
 Comments:  1)  Good job   2)  I thank all of the present members officers for their interest in keeping the organization going.  Good luck and keep it up.   3)  Wonderful job everyone, for what you do for YBA.  Many thanks!
There was 1 write in vote for Dave Nelson,  and 1 for Laura Steinmetz.   Altogether we had 40 votes
     Also,  thanks to Mark Millard,  the YBA will be set up with its own Facebook page as well,  so look for that in the near future.
Thanks everyone!  Its been a good year!   Lets keep pickin!

ROGER'S NOTE: There was so much feedback from the meeting that I believe Sharon Karlson said they should have more than one general meeting during the year. If that happens you can be assured she will e-mail us. She does an excellent job in communicating with the membership. 


Other tidbits from the 12-12-14 meeting include: Election of the board in which David Nelson left the board and was replaced by Mark Millard. Thanks for all your service David. Mark is a younger very enthusiastic fellow who urged the YBA to establish a Facebook page. He volunteered and it may already be up and running. This seemed to please Trent Indreland who has been in charge of the YBA website and would like to switch from the website, which seems continually out of date, to Facebook. Trent said it would be much easier to work with and he should know. He is the YBA's tech guru for both audio and visual which includes the internet. President Sharon Karlson has been frequently  sending out news via e-mails to members and said these are replacing the YBA newsletter. Pat Gum, who has been the "Clippings" editor, is traveling a good portion of the year and the newsletter has slowly slipped away the past couple of years. So don't expect to see another newsletter and don't bother to access the website either. Consider signing up for Facebook. It won't cost you anything and you may find the whole concept interesting.  More later. 


Last night, Friday 12-12-14,  president Sharon Karlson called to order the annual membership meeting of the Yellowstone Bluegrass Association. The general upshot seemed to be confusion. One thing was clear: the YBA board is still trying to retain usage of the Lincoln Building for the jams on Friday evenings. Their task is daunting. With a fairly new administration, School District Two itself is in a state of flux. It seems to be in a continual state of reorganizing staff at the administration building aka the Lincoln. The YBA has found there is no single person to communicate with regarding usage of that building for the jams. The current lockout is over security and one person is in charge of that. The YBA will not be able to access the building unless a security guard is on duty at the door and no one knows about that after Jan. 1.  District Two has no animosity toward the pickers and is not trying to kick the YBA out. The Adult Ed folks actually like the YBA. Besides Adult Ed still another clerk is responsible for booking the auditorium and someone else for the board room and another person for other parts of the facility. (These areas might be more desirable than the excellent bandroom which we have always used. This is because it is a long walk from the NW door to the SE bandroom. Hauling a bass or other instruments with two cases makes this significant.) All of this is why the task has become so daunting. As it currently stands the YBA may be able to keep using the band room IF it takes over teaching guitar and other string instruments for the Adult ED  Night Owls program. That would mean finding members who are qualified and willing to volunteer as teachers for several weeks. They would also need time in their personal lives to do this which is not easy for most working folks. Sharon also would want a non-board  member to be responsible for administering this teaching program. Several of us pointed out some of the difficulties in getting that whole shebang up and running. The YBA has trouble getting members to volunteer to serve on the board which is less demanding than agreeing to teach music for several weeks or to supervise that entire program. It is Sharon Karlson’s understanding that IF the YBA volunteers to teach the folk string instruments then the band room will remain available on Fridays. However, that is coming from the director of  Adult Ed. Getting access through the door is the domain of  another clerk which is a separate problem . THIS WOULD ONLY TAKE PLACE IN THE FALL OF 2015 ANYWAY.  Scott Moore also pointed out the many difficulties in finding an alternative site for jamming. This could include lack of a very expensive YBA liability insurance policy.  Do you find all of this confusing? Me too. I don’t think anyone left last night feeling confidant that Friday night weekly YBA jams would continue. At the same time there was a glimmer of hope for that due to all of  the boards efforts.  Watch for e-mails from Sharon with more information. I wish I could be more optimistic about all of this, but with my many years of experience I find that difficult to do. Any way thanks again to the YBA board and officers for all of their efforts. We wish them happy holidays and good fortune in the New Year. 

Monday, December 8, 2014


To those new to blogs the first post shown is the most recent one posted. In order to read earlier posts you may have to click on "older posts."  If you are responding to my YBA e-mail just scroll down and, if necessary, click on "older posts."


NOW FOR A SHAMELESS AD.  This will be a first for me on this bluegrass blog.  I have long tried to make very decent instruments available at reasonable prices for local folks who could not afford music store prices.  Mainly my focus has been on orchestra instruments for students.  I lent 13 violins, violas, and cellos to the Target Range school district in Missoula to help start a new orchestra program there.  I always have  new violins-fiddles available at reasonable prices. I now also have two new Loar LM-520-VS Performer F-style mandolins for sale. They list at $688 and you can find them on-line for $549.99. I can sell these for $450 which is an excellent deal. All these prices quoted are without case. I don't have hard shell cases for them because they are of varying quality and start at about $50. I do not recommend soft gig bags for nice mandolins. By all means google the LM 520 VS for total descriptions and reviews. They are only basically adorned, but play and sound like instruments costing $1,000 or more.

Want a very inexpensive  mandolin to just explore playing one?  I also have a new Johnson MA 110 A-style with oval sound hole and sunburst finish. This is a laminated instrument, but puts out very decent sound at a bargain price. This one comes with a Guardian $60 case. This is a great mandolin for an adult beginner or youngster for a total of $130. It would make a very good Christmas or birthday present.

If you are interested in any of these send an e-mail to gdaefiddler@q.com. Thank you.



That is the title of a FACEBOOK page of the IBMA.  It is from mandolincafe.com and is chock full of great tips for playing mandolin in a BLUEGRASS band and I am sure many local area players do not follow these. (Of course there are other playing styles for mandolins in other genre.)  A main theme in these four pages is to study how the great originals played: Bill Monroe, Jesse McReynolds, Bobby Osborne, the Louvin brothers, bluegrassers all. There have been many other excellent players like Jethro Burns, but he was a jazz mandolin player. That style does not work so well in a bluegrass band. You must listen to their recordings and learn to play note for note with them. Don’t try to jump ahead.  Listening to the masters is how David Grisman, Ricky Skaggs, Sam Bush, Doyle Lawson, Butch Baldassari and others learned. You have to get the sounds in your head if you want to play them on your instrument.  (That is true of fiddle, guitar, banjo, etc. as well.)

 G, C, and D are the three main chop chord positions for bluegrass mandolin. The G is one of the first and also the hardest chord to master (just the opposite of some other instruments). Don’t get discouraged if it takes some time. (Finger stretching exercises may help: Roger’s note.) With the chop chord the mandolin takes the place of a snare drum in other bands. IT SHOULD BE PLAYED ON THE 2 AND 4 BEAT. If you are playing on the 1 and 3 you will never be a bluegrass mandolin player. Listen to any GOOD BLUEGRASS CD and you will hear that percussive “pop” on the 2-4 beat. In order to get it DO NOT hold the strings down constantly on the frets like on a guitar. Your fingers should be RESTING on the chord you are preparing to play.  Then as you are moving the pick toward the strings to strike them, quickly depress the strings and let OFF as soon as the pick strikes all of the strings.  In other words you’re quickly dampening or muting the chord once it is played. Your ability to cut off the ringing sound defines the amount of “pop” sound you want.

Roger’s Note:  Try to read the entire lesson on FACEBOOK or by googling Mandolin Cafe.  It is available in an easy print version too. In this summary I have edited a lot, but tried to convey the basic message which you need to follow in order to become a GOOD bluegrass mandolin player. Thanks a lot Mandolin CafĂ©.

Friday, December 5, 2014


Tonight, December 5, 2014, one of the last two jams, and perhaps final YBA jam, will take place at the Lincoln Center. Next Friday, December 12th the annual YBA general membership meeting will occur. President Sharon Karlson points out that it will be a very important meeting and urges all members to attend. Any jamming will be limited to the time available after the meeting. Remember that entrance access is very limited so you must be there early. Scroll down to find reference to her earlier e-mail regarding how and when to get in.


Tonight, December 5. 2014, the Christmas Art Walk will take place in Billings, MT.  Various art related galleries and businesses will be open for evening viewing by the public. Some will offer refreshments and treats to the walkers. Two local bluegrass bands will be providing entertainment. At Gallery Interiors, 2702 2nd Avenue North "The Unexpected" will be performing. The group includes Ed Pierson, fiddle and mandolin, Dennis Anderson, guitar, and Peter Michelotti on mandolin or percussion.  "Song Dog Serenade" will be at the Western Heritage Center, SE corner of North 29th and Montana Avenues. Scott Moore, guitar, Paddy Moore, bass, and Nate Smallwood, mandolin make up that band. I hear that Nate has a new mandolin that really barks. All members of both bands also sing. They should add considerably to the enjoyment of the Art Walk.  

Thursday, December 4, 2014

JOHNNY LEE VINCENT OCT. 18,1940-OCT. 5, 2014

The SPBGMA has announced that Johnny Lee Vincent left us in October. Not many local pickers likely recognize his name, but nearly all  know of Rhonda Vincent and well as the hot group, Dailey and Vincent. Johnny was the father of Rhonda and Darrin Vincent. He came from a very musical family and was a good musician himself. That is undoubtedly where his children's interests and talents came from. Johnny was born to Bill and Erma Vincent in Button Ridge, Missouri and lived his life in Kirksville, MO, the home of the SPBGMA. The early Vincent family made their first recording with a young teen, Johnny, singing "Your Cheatin' Heart."  He was paralyzed after a car accident in 1964, but music became almost full time for him after that.  The Vincent house became a home for musical parties almost every night of the week. The name Johnny Vincent may have not been well known to bluegrassers over the nation, but his efforts have certainly been substantial through his offspring. Rest in peace Johnny Lee Vincent. You will be missed.


An all girl bluegrass band, "Della Mae" has made big waves on the national bluegrass scene in recent years. A founding member and current fiddler, Kimber Ludiker, is the daughter of a well known fiddle champion.  Five time national fiddle champion, Tony Ludiker, died recently of cancer at the age of 52.  He had moved from his longtime home in the Spokane Valley to Colorado, but came home to Spokane where he wished to live out his last days. I had known of him and had heard him play, however I learned much more from the story of his death on Facebook and the Spokesman Review article. He was only 52 and must have been battling cancer for quite some time. I didn't know his daughter was a founder and member of the all girl bluegrass group Della Mae or that he was classically trained and had been the concertmaster of the Couer d' Alene, Idaho Symphony. He was the first fiddler I heard play that ringing two string version of "Sally Goodin" with all those verses when he judged at the Polson contest  years ago.  His article said, "He went peacefully surrounded by family while listening to Benny Thomasson play ‘Sally Goodin.’" It must have been one of his favorite fiddle tunes. 52 is much too young to die today, but cancer strikes young and old indiscriminately. I lost a 13 year old daughter and a wife to that terrible disease myself. Barbara had her 59th birthday and 18 days later she was gone. That was in 2000. Life goes on for those of us surviving, but it takes awhile. Our condolences to the family of Tony Ludiker. May he rest in peace.

Sunday, November 23, 2014


The YBA being locked out of the Lincoln Building is not entirely surprising. For years I have cautioned YBA boards to keep this possibility in the back of their minds and to be thinking about alternatives. That has now finally occurred. At their board meeting on Friday, Nov. 21,  I presented two pages of suggestions to the YBA.  Following is an edited version of those pages:
First see my last entry  posted.  That was the introduction to those two pages. Then this was added:  No similar group holds weekly jams in which most all members participate although some smaller jams do occur. I encouraged creative thinking: YOU NOW HAVE GOT TO THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOX! I had obtained the Lincoln band room by doing just that. That makes me the guy who BUILT the existing Box and now the board will eventually have to come up with other ideas. Many people appear to have great difficulty doing that. It is probably one of those right brain left brain problems, but that is another story.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE LINCOLN JAMS: How Bob Massey and myself had started the bluegrass club.  After gathering a some pickers, whom I knew, we got organized. The first jam that night was in my kitchen.  Our biggest dilemma was where and when to pick.  We discussed our homes and and the basement of Bob's small church where he was the pastor. But what would we do if 40 or more people showed up? Bob wanted to stay out of bars. I came up with the idea of getting a school room and arranged that with  District Two in the Lincoln Bldg.  We arbitrarily selected Friday evening. No one at that time wanted to jam weekly, but preferred monthly or even less frequent jams. Having had experience with school custodians, who had to unlock a door for us, I said the jams had to be weekly as the janitors would never remember any odd date. It had to be part of their Friday routine. THAT IS THE ONLY REASON WEEKLY JAMS were ever born. I told the board that they would likely end up totally frustrated if they tried to organize these jams weekly elsewhere and there that there was  no reason they  had to have them that often.

NOTHING IS SACRED ABOUT EXISTING YBA ACTIVITIES. The YBA does not have to have weekly jams or even sponsor regular jams at all. No one attends ALL weekly jams. Pickers take advantage by just attending when they want to and ignoring other Fridays  If they really want to pick every week let them gather others of a like mind and set up their own weekly sessions.  

WHAT OTHER BG GROUPS DO.  Missoula based MRBA (about 215 members) has NO weekly or monthly jams. They do have three Ruby’s Winter  Jam Series w/jamming and a potluck in each of Jan., Feb., & March. The MRBA Spring Festival is a showcase of  bands in April near Stevensville with admission charged for all. The Hard Times Festival near Darby, organized by Mike and Tari Conroy,  is not an official MRBA activity and also has fees. Non-MRBA jams include weekly at the Top Hat bar, bi-weekly pickin’ circle at the Tangled Tones Studio and occasionally at the Missoula Manor Carousel Room.

B.A.N.D. of North Dakota holds jams in four locations around the state. The only  weekly jam is in Jamestown at a church. Monthly jams are held in Bismarck, Valley City, and Fargo. They list probable tunes and keys for each in their MONTHLY printed newsletter.

WYOMING: Has no bluegrass associations. Ed Capen has tried to copy the YBA weekly jams at a gas station in Thermopolis. Other jams are held at various times in Worland, Buffalo, Sheridan, etc. IDAHO is similar as is S. Dakota.
THE YBA COULD ENCOURAGE SMALL GROUP JAMS for those who want to jam weekly or whatever. I know of 2-3 person jams in Laurel and west Billings now. Bands with regular practices actually are having closed jams for their members as they try out new tunes.  There could be open jam groups in the Heights, Lockwood, central Billings, West End, South Billings, etc. They could start with just two or three pickers and be held in homes. These jams could be advertised in the YBA newsletter and website.

STILL WANT REGULAR YBA JAMS? And they could be held monthly. You are probably back to church halls, etc., or else move to an alcohol serving facility like fraternal & veteran’s clubs. Many members object to alcohol for personal reasons and would not attend.  And they wouldn’t have to be Friday evening,  They should be rather centrally located. They might have to rent one. How healthy is the financial statement? Probably not enough money for that.   What other choices does the YBA have?

 THEY CAN’T MAKE ALL THE PEOPLE HAPPY ALL THE TIME. Every organization has it’s chronic gripers and so does the YBA. If any don’t like the board's decisions let them run for the Board or just shut up. Cater to MOST of the members instead.

ONE FINAL SOBERING NOTE: Considering that the Lincoln jams have been the  heart of the YBA for more than 20 years is it just time to terminate the entire Yellowstone Bluegrass Association and let the bands and pickers fend for themselves?  I hope not, but maybe that is what will have to happen. Don’t give up without a fight.  I finished by thanking them for serving the YBA. 

Conclusion to this post:

I did not stay for the board discussions, but I expect they will still try to find a free facility in which to hold jams on Friday evenings from 7-9 PM. Having gone through that more than 20 years ago I can't imagine anywhere they would be welcome. When I arrived one man was encouraging them to ask the Elks Club for jamming space. Having played there several times with the Old Time Fiddler's Sunday dances I don't think they have a chance with the Elks. (The BPOE hires the Fiddlers for $250-$300 as a dance band. They bring in a large crowd and the Elks serve many drinks and  dinners to those crowds.) There is a very large ballroom there with a matching very large bar. Friday evenings they must have a huge crowd for dinner and drinks. It is also a private membership club with limited access and a very crowded parking lot for busy activities. All fraternal and veteran's clubs are having money problems today. None can be expected to be overly generous in giving their facilities away to groups which will pay nothing in return.  

I am afraid the YBA president, Sharon Karlson, and board will end up "banging their heads against a wall," in trying to arrange weekly or even monthly jams for the general membership. They could stop all this type of jamming and simply continue with the other existing YBA activities which have been quite good. With two showcases at the boys and girls ranch and two big jams with food at the Universalist Church each year, plus other picnics, steak fries, etc. the YBA is still doing more than most other area bluegrass associations. Added to non YBA jamming including the Columbus and Livingston summer sessions local area pickers have plenty of opportunities. If any members are dissatisfied let them find a good place for weekly or monthly YBA jamming. Good luck on any of that. Actually the very best YBA jamming has been at the two U. church sessions. Several jams are going at once and the best musicians are there and having a great time. The best pickers have largely shunned the Lincoln jams for years for one reason. They have been simply too boring for all but novice to intermediate players. The U. Church sessions have been much better.

Thursday, November 20, 2014


This message was e-mailed to Yellowstone Bluegrass Association membership by the YBA president:

"For those of you that come to Friday night jams,  I want to let you know there have been some changes at the Lincoln Center.  They have installed a security system on the main door, and to get in, there is a green button to push, to alert the security officer at the desk insideHe will then press a button that will ring a buzzer, to let you know the door is open for you to come in.
The next 4 weeks ( until Dec. 12th) they have a guitar class on Friday nights that goes until 7:15 PM.  So you can still come at 7PM, but we won't start jamming until after 7:15.  The security officer then is gone after 7:15, so there won't be any one there to open the door for you if you're late.  They no longer want us to let people in the back door
     I am sorry if these changes will up set anyone.  We will be having a board meeting this week about this, and if you would have some in put, or ideas, your welcome to come to the meeting.  It will be this Friday, Nov. 21st at 6PM at Denny's on 27th St. We will try and keep it short and sweet.
     Thank you all!   Sharon"

As the person who came up with the idea of getting a school building to jam in more than 20 years ago and then negotiated with the district to get bluegrass jams going in the Lincoln building, the message here is clear. THIS IS THE FINAL NAIL IN THE COFFIN FOR JAMS IN THE LINCOLN BUILDING. They will all be over after December 12, 2014. Now the YBA board and membership will have to start all over regarding what activities should be made available to the members. And there is NO reason that weekly jams have to be on that list!

Friday, November 14, 2014


Nashville, Tenn. (November 11, 2014) - Newton & Thomas are proud to announce the new single release, “Great American Heroes.

It was written by Mark Brinkman who shared his thoughts on writing “Great American Heroes” saying, “As my son, Zac, was joining the USAF I began thinking about ‘heroes’ and the moral fabric of our nation today.  I wanted to write a song to make a statement and honor the ‘real’ heroes in our lives. The dad that works double shifts so that his kids might go to college and have a better life than he did….the mom that keeps the family together, sacrifices personal gain for the benefits of her children…the teacher that can shape the life of a child and inspire them on to a lifetime of learning and contribution to society…and the men and women who put their lives on the line every day for our freedom. These are the ‘real’ heroes that we need to be lifting up! I hope the song helps to redefine the word ‘hero’ and focus on the people with hero qualities - sacrifice, selfless, caring, courage, giving, love, fearless, etc.”

Amen to that message. We all need to keep everything in perspective as our national political scene continues to appear chaotic. Let's focus on the positives and the real heroes all around us in this great nation.        Roger 

Thursday, November 6, 2014


James King to require a liver transplant

James King at Rockahock Campground, October 2014 - photo by Teresa A. SmithIt looks like James King, one of the biggest hearted people in bluegrass music, is going to require help from his fans and friends to battle through his current health crisis.
Over a brief hospitalization this past weekend in Roanoke, VA, he was informed that his liver function is such that he will need a liver transplant in the near future. Fortunately, his kidneys are doing well, but there seems to be no option left but the transplant to deal with the liver problems.
Needless to say, James is feeling a bit frightened and alone facing such an ordeal, especially as he is uninsured and facing straightened means after missing much of this year dealing with repeated hospital stays and poor health.
He will be appearing this weekend at the Southern Ohio Indoor Music Festival, so be sure to give him a pat on the back and a good word if you’ll be in attendance. Others can share well wishes at his Facebook page.
Like a lot of road musicians, James has led a hard life, which has taken a toll on his body as well as on personal relationships. But there are a lot of people in the bluegrass community who will line up to help where they can.
James King is a fine man who loves bluegrass music and bluegrass people. He has given us a lifetime of sincere, soulful songs and we owe him a debt of gratitude. Efforts to help raise funds for the transplant are getting underway, and we will report what we learn about ways we all can help.
One bit of good news is that he qualifies for Veterans Administration benefits owing to his service in the Marine Corps. He will be traveling soon to the UVA hospital in Charlottesville to start the testing and other procedures leading to being placed on the transplant list.
Hang in there, buddy. We’ve got your back!

Sunday, November 2, 2014


IBMA Announces TV Broadcast of 25th Annual International Bluegrass Music Awards

The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) announced plans to air an edited version of the 25th Annual International Bluegrass Music Awards on U.S. television. The Awards show, filmed live on October 2, 2014 in the Memorial Theatre at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts in Raleigh, North Carolina and hosted by Lee Ann Womack and Jerry Douglas, will be part of American Public Television’s “Music City Roots” series in 2015. The syndicated series aired in 71 PBS markets across the United States this past year.
A one-hour edit of the Awards show is expected to air in late February or early March 2015.
"In many ways, we really raised the bar at this year's Bluegrass Music Awards,” said Amy Reitnouer, who co-produced the October 2 live show with Chris Stuart. “This broadcast will not only put bluegrass music and the IBMA on a national stage, but also set the standard for our Awards shows in years to come."
The Bluegrass Music Awards is part of IBMA’s five-day World of Bluegrass event, which took place September 30October 2 in Raleigh this year. Preliminary attendance figures for World of Bluegrass 2014 are estimated to be more than 180,000 people.
“It’s been an IBMA goal since our first Awards Show in 1990 to share this fabulous showcase of some of the year’s best talent with a wider television audience,” said Nancy Cardwell, Executive Director of IBMA. “I can’t tell you how excited we are—after 25 years of dreaming about this—to announce The International Bluegrass Music Awards, Presented by Music City Roots, in conjunction with senior producers Todd Mayo and John Walker of Heng Dai Media. The one-hour version of the 2014 Awards Show will air in national PBS markets where Music City Roots is already a favorite, and cities across the nation are welcome to contact their local PBS stations to request the show.”
“This special episode will air in our second season, and we are thrilled to give viewers nationwide a glimpse into that magical night of performance and celebration,” said Mayo. “We appreciate our partners - WNPT in Nashville and American Public Television - for distributing the Music City Roots series.”

ROGER'S NOTE: MT has two PBS stations in Missoula and Bozeman with satellites all over the state. This top bluegrass show should be made available here.  Watch PBS schedules and  we should contact our stations to request this show as listed above. I have seen this show in person and it has excellent music and general entertainment as well as the actual awards.  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


“AirPlay Direct is proud of our on-going strategic partnership with the IBMA.  This year was no exception.  We are particularly proud of our involvement and co-sponsorship of the IBMA “Momentum Awards” for 2014.  Listed below are the winners of the various IBMA “Momentum Awards”.  Each artist “Momentum Award” recipient was also awarded an AirPlay Direct “Marketing & Awareness” package to promote and market their music to APD’s 9,200 radio station members globally.”  
                                        Robert Weingartz, Chairman & Creator – AirPlay Direct
IBMA Momentum Award Winners for 2014:
  • Instrumentalists of the Year:  Dominick Leslie (mandolin), Jake Stargel (guitar), Cory Walker (banjo)
  • Vocalist of the Year:  Jesse Gregory (Jesse Gregory & Faultline)
  • Band of the Year:  The Barefoot Movement
  • New Festival or Venue of the Year:  Bluegrass Situation Showcases at Bonaroo & Americana Music Association
  • Industry Involvement of the Year:  Ashlee-Jean Trott, Music City Roots / Bluegrass Underground
  • Mentor of the Year:  Tim Surrett

Saturday, October 25, 2014



(This began with a discussion of actual Kentucky bluegrass, which many treasure for their home lawns, and a bit of the history of the state of Kentucky and then on to the following.)

Happily, the least offensive nickname stuck, so “The Bluegrass State” it is. It’s fortunate too, because the moniker also gave its name to a style of music that became the essence of Americana. It’s credited to Bill Monroe, a Kentucky native whose band, The Blue Grass Boys, helped popularize that music and bring it to the masses. The music didn’t originate with Monroe and his musicians; its roots were in the traditions that Irish and Scottish settlers brought with them when they resettled in Appalachia. Early old country ballads such as “Cumberland Gap,” “Pretty Polly,” “Barbara Allen” and “Cuckoo Bird” were adapted and transformed over the decades, adapted into tunes that could be plucked, picked and played on banjo, guitar, fiddle and mandolin, making for a communal sound ideally suited for informal gatherings on the back porch in the company of neighbors, friends and family. With multi-part harmonies and shared vocals tossed back and forth, bluegrass evolved into a uniquely American form, an original root of Americana, a popular offshoot of both folk and country and a style tagged as hillbilly music due to its specific demographic appeal.
Nevertheless, it took Monroe to put a name to it, a name that offers homage to a particular place where the music was born and bred. He made it a commercial form of old time mountain music and adapted it for the radio. He also wanted something snappier and more focused than the music he grew up with. Once he made it to the Grand Ole’ Opry, his music was broadcast over the radio to most of the population of the eastern U.S. Though it certainly was something rural folks could identify with, others began taking note and its popularity spread well beyond those original realms.
And that’s why we should all give thanks to Mr. Monroe . . . 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


The International Bluegrass Music Association may be going downhill fast. Shortly after the close of the 2014 World of Bluegrass in Raleigh, NC, IBMA executive director Nancy Cardwell has announced her resignation. She has served since 2011 following the resignation of longtime executive, Dan Hays. Hays was in charge during the development and growth of the IBMA over some 20 years of leadership. His departure left some questioning the financial stability of the IBMA. Now the timing of Cardwell's resignation seems to suggest that the 2014 WOB may not have been the booming success that was claimed.  What does all this mean for both the IBMA and bluegrass music generally?  Only time will tell, but it does not sound positive to this blogger.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014


Entertainer of the Year – Balsam Range
Vocal Group of the Year – Balsam Range
Instrumental Group of the Year – Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen
Song of the Year – ‘Dear Sister,’ Claire Lynch, written by Claire Lynch and Louisa Branscomb
Album of the Year – ‘Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe,’ Noam Pikelny, produced by Gabe Witcher, Compass Records
Gospel Recorded Performance of the Year – ‘Won’t It Be Wonderful There,’ Dailey & Vincent, from ‘Brothers of the Highway,’ written by Mildred Styles Johnson, produced by Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent, Rounder Records
Instrumental Recorded Performance of the Year – ‘Thank God I’m a Country Boy,’ Special Consensus with Buddy Spicher, Michael Cleveland and Alison Brown, from ‘Country Boy: A Bluegrass Tribute to John Denver,’ written by John Martin Sommers, Compass Records
Recorded Event of the Year – ‘Wild Montana Skies,’ Special Consensus with Claire Lynch and Rob Ickes, produced by Alison Brown, Compass Records
Emerging Artist of the Year – Flatt Lonesome
Male Vocalist of the Year – Buddy Melton
Female Vocalist of the Year – Amanda Smith
Instrumental Performers of the Year
Banjo – Noam Pikelny
Bass – Barry Bales
Fiddle – Jason Carter
Dobro – Phil Leadbetter
Guitar – Bryan Sutton
Mandolin – Adam Steffey

Tuesday, October 7, 2014



Howdy Bluegrass fans and friends! Check out the "featured bands" in this here poster. We'll be teaming up with 7 other bands in an all out effort to raise some cash for our friends at the Yellowstone Boys & Girls Ranch on October 24. Y'all come and show the kids that we care!

Saturday, September 27, 2014



Message from your IBMA Membership Committee Chair below:
Greetings IBMA members!  Thank you for being members of our great organization!  World of Bluegrass 2014 In Raleigh, NC is upon us!  You are cordially invited to attend an exclusive performance and enjoy light refreshments!

    The IBMA membership committee is proud to present multi-instrumentalists and banjo virtuosos Ryan Cavanaugh and Rex McGee.  They will be performing:
Friday, October 3, 2014
Time: 1-2 PM
Location: the Flatt Room (304) RCC
 First Floor
for your enjoyment!

Please make time to drop by, enjoy the music, and catch up with fellow IBMA members!

NOTE:  Ryan Cavanaugh lived in Billings with his father when he was about 14-15. They came to several YBA jams at the Lincoln building then.  He was extremely talented on the banjo even at that age. He than moved back with his mother in North Carolina where his interest in bluegrass banjo had begun. Mark O'Conner played in some Montana fiddle events when he was 15, but he lived in Washington state at that time.  We have had a lot of very good pickers in this state, but not too many other well known or famous old time and bluegrass musicians have been this connected to Montana. 

Friday, September 26, 2014


I am writing this post on Friday, September 26, 2014 and the planned bluegrass campout south of  Red Lodge starts today with tomorrow being the main day. It will be challenging for sure. The weather forecast calls for 80% chance of rain and a high of 50 degrees  for Saturday.  That is not surprising for this time of year as this campground is located along the base of the famed Cooke City highway which Charles Kuralt termed the most scenic in all of the U.S. The campground elevation will be about 5600 ft. The boys who came up with this event have planned well. David Nelson reports they will have several canopies and propane heaters to protect pickers from the weather. He is also grilling two 15 lb. turkeys. Several of the rest of us will bring side dishes. I doubt that I will break out my fiddle under these conditions, but will take my bass along as well. Besides, Tom Finnicum, a very fine fiddler and one of the planners of this event, will be there. I wouldn't miss the Saturday festivities for the world. I just want to experience this very unique bluegrass campout. Will you be there, too?

Thursday, September 25, 2014


40th Annual Bill Monroe Hall of Fame & Uncle Pen Days Festival

Bean Blossom, IN  -  The 40th Annual Bluegrass Hall of Fame & Uncle Pen Days Festival will be held September 24-27, 2014 at the Bill Monroe Memorial Bluegrass Music Park & Campground in Brown County, Indiana. The 4-day event includes a stellar line-up of over 30 bluegrass bands, instrument and vocal workshops, jam sessions, camping, food, vendors, and fellowship.  Tickets can be purchased by phone(800) 414-4677 or at billmonroemusicpark.com.

The Bean Blossom Hall of Fame committee reflects a minimum of 50 people who have an intimate knowledge of the bluegrass genre. This year they have selected Dwight Dillman as this year’s Hall of Fame Inductee. Dillman, from Peru, Indiana, worked as one of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys in 1974 playing banjo. In 1998, he purchased the Brown County Jamboree Park from James Monroe and renamed it Bill Monroe Memorial Music Park and Campground. Since then, he has made significant improvements to the park that plays host to numerous festivals and events every year. One of those major events is the the Annual Bill Monroe Memorial Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival - recipient of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s (IBMA) Bluegrass Event of the Year Awards in 2000 and 2013. Dillman has received other recognitions throughout his career, including being named Bluegrass Promoter of the Year by SPBGMA.

This year’s line-up for the 40th Annual Bluegrass Hall of Fame & Uncle Pen Days Festival includes some of the top names in bluegrass music:

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


Following is the latest from Edd Trembly.  Be sure to contact him if you are planning to attend. Barbecued turkey sounds delicious, but he and Dave Nelson need numbers to decide how much to prepare.

We'll be having a bluegrass campout in Red Lodge this weekend Sept
26-28 at the Parkside camp ground 12 miles south of RL on Hwy 212. It's
a beautiful spot and should be a lot of fun. Dave Nelson is going to
barbecue turkey so please let me know if you are going to attend. This
will probably be the last hurrah of the summer so come on down.

Edd Tremblay


Sunday, September 21, 2014


This is the latest on the Red Lodge Musician's Rendezvous from Edd Tremblay:


Will decide later in the week. It's a group decision depending on 
weather and bear activity. Will check with forest service on Tuesday.


Roger's Note: I hadn't considered bears as a potential problem before. That would be important for sure. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014


This is a reminder that Edd Tremblay's Red Lodge campout is coming up next weekend.  The current long range weather forecast looks very good for it's start. For any early birds this is beginning a day early on Thursday September 25:
                                            High    Low
 9-25-2014      Sunny             73       49
 9-26-2014      Sunny             65        44
 9-27-2014  Scat. T-Storms   55        37
 9-28-2014    Showers           49        39  

Take these predictions with the proverbial grain of salt as the weather forecasters can be wrong for sure.
If you do not have an RV and don't want to tent camp there are nice motels in Red Lodge and even commuting from Billings and the surrounding area is not out of the question. At any rate seriously consider attending this last outdoor picking event of 2014.


The Miles City Bluegrass Festival is taking place as I write this post from my  home in Billings. There are some very good bands this year including Gregg Cahill and "Special Consensus." They are up for two awards at the 2014 IBMA World of Bluegrass  next weekend.   Nevertheless  I am sure our Montana groups will give a good accounting of themselves.  "Milestown" the local group is back as is "Bluegrass For Breakfast" from Billings. They are a good band with a rather silly name (in my opinion.)


Martha Scanlan is a singer songwriter who lives along the Tongue River in southeastern Montana. Many area music fans have not heard her talents. She has performed gigs in Billings and Red Lodge and has been involved with a bluegrassy band "The Reeltime Travelers" in the past. She has a new recording project entitled, "The Shape Of Things Gone Missing, The Shape Of Things To Come." You can check out her performances on U-Tube. It will be worth your time for sure. Thanks to Ed Kemmick's "Last Best News" website for this information. You should check into his work as well. 

Friday, September 19, 2014


The YBA is sponsoring a music workshop on SaturdayOct 4th, starting at  2 PM,  at the Unitarian Fellowship Hallon Central Ave in Billings, MT.
     Steve Smith and Hardroad Trio band will be the instructors, and offer classes in:
       And whatever!
     This is a free workshop for all YBA members,  so take advantage of this!!   They had an excellent workshop here a couple of years ago.
Mark your calendars for this one and plan for a couple of hours

Thursday, September 18, 2014


Rest in Peace, wonderful George.
pry® Legend George Hamilton IV "The International Ambassador of Country Music" passed away late this afternoon at Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital (Nashville,TN) with his Family by his side.
"George IV" suffered a serious heart attack on Saturday and had been in critical condition from that time.
The Hamilton Family Greatly Appreciates Everyone's Prayers!

Sunday, September 14, 2014


This is from the IBMA on Facebook. Hey! It doesn't get any better these two!

See Noam Pikelny & Stuart Duncan at World of Bluegrass 2014 in Raleigh, North Carolina |www.ibma.org/world-of-bluegrass |http://bit.ly/wob2014-lineup

Thursday, September 11, 2014


Lil' Smokies bluegrass band will open  the latest music venue in Billings. The renovated greyhound bus station is scheduled to have it's first show on December
12, 2014.

THE PUB STATION  (2502 1st Ave North Billings, MT)
Doors at 8:00 / Show at 9:00   ALL AGES
No Cover / Free show

Hailing from the utopian garden city of Missoula, MT, The Lil’ Smokies exploded onto the progressive bluegrass scene in the winter of 2009 and haven’t shown any signs of fatigue since. Sharing the stage with heavyweights like Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Keller Williams, Greensky Bluegrass, The Emmit-Nershi Band, Yonder Mountain String Band, The Travellin’ McCourys, Sam Bush Band, Fruition, Infamous Stringdusters, Bradford Lee Folk and The Bluegrass Playboys, and dozens of others, The Lil’ Smokies have no problem captivating large audiences. With a unique blend of traditional bluegrass, newgrass, unique original compositions, and sheer raw energy, The Lil’ Smokies weave seamlessly through genres, leaving something for everyone. The Smokies have played the Trap Bar at Grand Targhee Bluegrass Festival (2011), the Bozeman Bluegrass Fest (2011), Sandpoint Summer Fest (2013), Wintergrass (2014), River City Roots Festival (2011, 2013, 2014), Northwest Folklife Festival (2014), the Northwest String Summit’s Further Stage and Main Stage (2013, 2014). This six-piece bluegrass ensemble features, Pete Barrett (guitar), Andy Dunnigan (dobro), Scott Parker (upright bass), Matt Cornette (banjo), Cameron Wilson (mandolin), and Jesse Brown (Fiddle).


Wednesday, August 27, 2014


A new recording with an all-star group by likely the best voice out of the progressive bluegrass scene has just been announced.

Compass Records Group
Out Now - John Cowan's Sixty. Available at Compass Records.
Also available at Amazon.comAlso available at iTunes.
Also available at your local record store
SIXTY, produced by fellow Doobie Brother John McFee, showcases John Cowan’s iconic voice and finds him paired with an incredible array of special guests including Leon Russell, Alison Krauss, Rodney Crowell, Bernie Leadon, Sam Bush, Chris Hillman, Huey Lewis, Bonnie Bramlett, Ray Benson and many more.

Friday, August 22, 2014


The Yellowstone Bluegrass Association has announced an effort to help relative beginners learn to play bluegrass music. It will be on  September 7th at the Catholic church in Billings Heights. Several good musicians are scheduled as instructors and the attendees will have an hour to learn two new tunes and then perform them before an audience. It sounds like a good idea, but similar efforts have not resulted in much success in the past. One example was a few years ago in dedicating the beginning of each Friday night Lincoln jam to one or two simple tunes for novices. That was a good idea, but my criticism was a decision to give them printed lyrics with chord changes. Then instead of really LEARNING the tune people just put them in 3 ring binders and opened them on music stands. No one ever learned to really JAM that way. There are no music stands around a campfire. Later an attempt was made to introduce bluegrass music in the local schools. Only the Catholic schools allowed them in and then they did not really produce any new pickers to the local jams. Regarding this new effort one aspect that I can't figure out is why they want to charge the attendees a fee of $10.  Why? Perhaps they want them to feel the instruction would really be valuable and worth the money. On the other hand it may simply discourage some from attending. Only time will tell. Let us all hope that this is a successful endeavor in spite of my personal reservations.


I was blown away this morning perusing Facebook and came across a new video announcing that Hot Rize, after a 24 year hiatus,  was issuing a new CD in September entitled, "Blue Is Fallen."  There they were, Tim O'Brien, Nick Forster, Peter Wernick and the rest sounding just like the Hot Rize of old. It apparently is a benefit for those hit by the devastating flooding in Colorado where these guys live or spend much of their time. The name "HOT RIZE" was obviously taken from the old B&W TV show of Flatt and Scruggs sponsored by Martha White Flour. The announcer would always say, "Martha White's got hot rise!" I always thought that Hot Rize grew out of the earlier band, "Country Cooking," but I could be wrong on that. After all I have always been into good food including that of the south and bluegrass country. Anyway I have both of those bands early efforts on vinyl which was the only medium readily available back in those days. Be sure to check out their new release. It is a good one.


No bands have signed up to play tomorrow, August 23rd, at the Blue Cat in Huntley, MT. This may mean that Saturday morning breakfast and bluegrass is gone once again in the Billings area. This is in stark contrast to the old Prairie Winds Cafe in Molt where bands were signed up for a year in advance. Most Billings area bands gave it a good try and apparently decided it was not a very good experience. We need to thank Wayne Long and Spur of the Moment and the management of the Blue Cat for giving it a good try. Apparently it is now back to the drawing board for bands needing a place to play.  The real concern is that if existing bands have few outlets for their talents they may simply decide to disband. Playing a couple times a year is hardly worth their efforts. As one who encouraged the development of bluegrass music in Billings more than 20 years ago, and also the formation of local bands. I can say that the breakup of existing bands would be a real shame.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Can you believe that singing sensation, mandolin picking, blonde bluegrass bombshell, Rhonda Vincent, originally looked like this! Face it guys. Those ladies really know how to wind us around their little fingers.  
This is from Bluegrass Life's Facebook page.  There is lots of good bluegrass info on Facebook. You should check it out.  

Throwback Thursday! Rhonda Vincent, Suzanne Cox, and Alison Kraussback in the late 1980s. Lots of talent and beauty in one picture!‪#‎BluegrassLife‬