Wednesday, February 26, 2014



Hello Everyone,
It has been decided to postpone the Mid-Winter Jam/BBQ until next Saturday, March 8th, due to the weather reports for this weekend.  Also, there will be No Jams the next 2 Fridays.  Let your family and friends know, and we'll see you all then on March 8th, still starting at 1PM.  Hopefully the weather will be friendlier by then!  I know I'm looking forward to spring, and also the JAM!
Thanks for your understanding, but we want ALL to be able to make it if they can

ROGER'S COMMENT: That seemed to be the most prudent thing to do.  My last post would still apply to any music appointments during potential bad weather.  We may be inside a lot, but that is no reason to get "cabin fever."  Get out your favorite instrument and learn some new licks. No matter the weather, Keep on Picking!"


This coming Saturday, March 1st, the annual YBA Mid-Winter Jam and BBQ are scheduled. My suggestion is to be aware of the weather and road conditions and as the Boy Scouts always said, "Be Prepared." According to weather forecasters Friday night is expected to be about 15 degrees below zero. On Saturday the HIGH should be only -9.  We already have a huge amount of snow and they predict 30% more on Thursday and 80% on Friday. It will likely continue on to another 40% on Saturday.  The conditions in Missoula for the MRBA February jam at Ruby's weren't even remotely close to that bad and it cut down on attendance considerably. Keep in mind that wooden acoustical instruments are quite fragile. Exteme cold or heat are equally bad for them. Never subject you favorite guitar, mandolin, bass or fiddle to any of these. I speak as one who has built all of these over the years. As an example an expensive guitar, which likely had a lacquer finish, will find the finish cracked due to the cold.  Some instruments will actually fall apart due to the heat or cold.   
My suggestions regarding the Mid-Winter Jam are these:

1. Check your e-mails daily for any announcement regarding the March 1st jam.
2.Have a shovel and bag of kitty litter in your car in case of getting stuck. Parking areas may have deep snow on Saturday. 
3 Run you vehicle late Friday and/or keep it garaged or plugged in for easier starting on Saturday.
4. Warm it up well in advance of leaving for the jam. Make sure the interior is warmed up before putting your instrument in.               
5. And of course drive very carefully.
 6, Be sure to wear foot gear appropriate for wading through deep snow, too.

Good luck and I hope we still have a good jam on Saturday. 

Saturday, February 22, 2014


IT TAKES AN ARTIST TO CREATE A SILK PURSE FROM A PIG''S EAR or so it goes and the 504 Art Gallery and studio is a good example. From the outside it is nothing to look at, just an old Quonset hut type building on North 20th just south of North Park. It is located in what was Billings original industrial area which is now being restored with new large facilities from the federal building, food bank and a large financial bank, Salvation Army, and others. However inside it is quite nice with a gallery area and other rooms for the artist owner and others. She has generously allowed the YBA to jam there for a short time. It is unknown how gracious she may continue to be if the Lincoln Building becomes unavailable for an extended period of time.  There were 10-12 pickers at the Friday February 21st jam. There are about 15 nice padded chairs available for groups this size. The group on the 21st consisted of long time members of the YBA with no newcomers, unlike a typical group which shows up at the Lincoln. The only drawback to this facility is a lack of acoustical properties and why not?  Art galleries are intended for visual and possibly tactile enjoyment, not for auditory musical performances. As the photos show the floor is concrete and the walls and ceiling are finished smooth and hard. As a result some complaints were made about difficulty in hearing the other pickers. That is due to the sounds reverberating in all directions from those hard surfaces. My chair was away from any walls and the sound seemed OK there. Those sitting right next to the walls probably had the most acoustical problems.

Now a correction from President Sharon Karlson's  last email. There will be NO jam at the Gallery next Friday.  As the big YBA all day jam is next Saturday, March 1st, she queried the group on whether to also jam next Friday at the Gallery.  It was decided not to and just attend the Saturday event at the Unitarian Church on Central Avenue. Following are some photos from the 21st and I hope to see you all next Saturday weather permitting. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014


YBA president, Sharon Karlson, has sent this message to all current YBA memfbers:

Sent: Tue, 18 Feb 2014 17:17:20 -0500 (EST)
Subject: The Lincoln Center use

Hello Everyone,
I went down to the Lincoln Center today to talk with the staff re; Friday night jams.  They have resolved the issue with the asbestos ( it was in the tile flooring) and that has been removed, but now it is the issue of getting the new floor laid and ready for public use.  It's going to be another 2 weeks at least until  its open for use. 
SO... we  will jam again at Level 504 Gallery, located at 421 North 20th Street this Friday the 21st, and again on Friday the 28th at 7PM.  We had a good time last week there, and it's a perfect place to jam!

We have a target date to go back into the Lincoln Center on
Friday, March 7th.    I know this may be confusing, so just keep watch of emails and up-dates.  But this is the plan to keep on pickin!

Thanks everyone:)  See ya Friday"

Rogers Note: As previously posted Saturday March 1st has been scheduled for the YBA Annual Spring event to be held again at the Unitarian Church on Central Avenue. That would be a good time to join the YBA or pay your 2014 dues. This info should now be up to date for YBA members and guests.   

Friday, February 14, 2014

YBA president, Sharon Karlson, has informed current members that an alternate site will have the jam tonight, Feb. 14th at 421 North 20th. This may be the site for future jams until access is open again at the Lincoln building. It might be wise to bring a chair and if you need a music stand bring one also.


"Special Consensus" Greg Cahill's band which frequently tours our area is releasing a new album,  Country Boy: A Bluegrass Tribute to John Denver, on March 25th. The first track is "Wild Montana Skies" featuring Claire Lynch and mandolinist Rick Faris on vocals. I have watched a video of this and it is excellent with great dobro work, too.  According to Cahill:  “I’ve met so many people who were affected by John’s music and so many musicians who mention him as an inspiration.  It felt like a bluegrass interpretation of his songs would be something really special and might also serve as a way to connect more people to bluegrass music.” This new album has guest artists who are among the very top in today's bluegrass music.  It would be well worth tapping into this music for bluegrassers who are also fans of the songs of John Denver.  For more information contact:  

One newcomer to the YBA Friday jams has featured John Denver tunes in her singing. You can pre-order this CD from Compass Records for $11.99 which includes a signed copy and a free "iPick" sticker.  

Thursday, February 13, 2014


I had asked that question to several pickers in this area and they all just shrugged their shoulders. I got my answer last Saturday in Missoula.  There he was in the flesh, Jimmy Dodd!
James was devastated nearly a decade ago when the  first love of his life, his wife, was stricken with a deadly disease which first took both of her legs and later her life. The last time I saw her was at the wedding of Archie and Barbara Bott at the White Bird School House where she asked me to play "Faded Love" on my fiddle.  It is now great to know that he has recovered from that tragic event and moved on.  Jimmy shook my hand with a big grin and introduced me to his new lovely wife.  He said they had currently been living in Belgrade, but were planning to move to Missoula quite soon. If we want to see and hear him  growl out those lyrics and play his dobro or guitar again we will probably have to head to western Montana. Best wishes to you and your lovely wife, Jimmy.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014



MRBA Winter Jam on Saturday, February 8, 2014.

I decided to drive to Missoula last Saturday to visit my daughter and her two little girls as well as go to the February version of the MRBA winter jam series. The roads were pretty bad.  The Friday road report had been quite good with bare highway over most of the route although they always caution that conditions can quickly turn in Montana. And they did! The weather forecast seemed to suggest flurries, but that may have been my optimistic reading of them. It was great driving on bare pavement upon leaving Billings early in the AM. Around Greycliff, though, it began snowing heavily. The roads were still quite bare, but visibility was becoming a problem, especially when coming up behind a truck. Passing became rather risky. Returning on Sunday was much worse. The roads became covered in snow and the plows could not keep up. Even big rigs were seen that had slid into the barrow pit.  At my age I should have known better and in the future I will not be quite so adventurous.
 As far as the jam it was a lot of fun although attendance was somewhat down compared with other winter jams. Most blamed it on the weather although pickers were there from places like Ovando and Kalispell. This jam featured a planned "Slow Jam" at 3:00 PM. This was a teaching session for newer pickers. The leaders were teaching the 1 2 3 4 5 chord progressions from the music theory "Circle of Fifths" concept. Instead of learning that a tune in G, for instance, has the chords G, C, and D in a certain pattern it is more useful to think of them as 1, 4, 5.  Then if a singer or picker wants to play that tune in another key like A or C you already know what chords to play.  The Slow Jam group then went on to play a tune slowly until every picker could play it before speeding up. It was a good learning session for all the participants.

The MRBA jams have some very friendly pickers to jam with. The stress is definitely on bluegrass not country music in other forms. Those who only want to play classic or modern country songs do not last very long in this group. I like that approach which is gentle, but still firm. There were also some really good pickers including the Franks of "Two Bit Franks," and Chad Fadely plus others. Two Bit Franks performed at the Big Sky Big Grass Festival earlier this month with some of best bluegrass bands in America. Emily Frank was especially helpful in assisting other pickers with their technique and singing. Around 6 PM a very good potluck was served including roast chicken, beef enchilada casserole, fresh fruit and many different salads.  A separate dessert table had sweets from homemade brownies and cookies to carrot cake.

The final MRBA Winter Jam will be held on March 8, 2014. (BTW, daylight savings begins the next day. That should be figured into any travel plans. My personal feeling is that the daylight savings concept has outlived it's usefulness and should be eliminated in this more modern era. Now it is just a pain to have to change the times on most watches and clocks twice per year. Not to mention our personal biological clocks.)

Some photos from the February winter jam follow:


The annual Spring Old Time Bluegrass Festival and fund raiser will be held from noon until 11 PM at the Lone Rock School at Stevensville on Saturday April 12.

The dates for the annual Hard Times Bluegrass Festival near Darby are July  25, 26, and 27, 2014. This is a great event for a family camp out with good music on the stage and jamming nearby. 



This was forwarded by Ed Capen. Thanks Ed. The jam will be held on the second Monday of each month at Rocky Mountain framing.  Genre will be "Country, Rock and Roll, Bluegrass, and Gospel."  That will likely turn off any dedicated bluegrassers, unless they are motivated to gradually convert all those other picker- singers to true bluegrass music. That seems to be the current attitude of the Yellowstone Bluegrass Association in it's Billings jams.  Actually as a co-founder of the original Billings bluegrass club I can testify that going back more than 20 years ago that was the situation back then in Billings, too. We had to tolerate a lot of general country music until local musicians caught onto how real bluegrass is performed.  I recall telling the second association president that "Bluegrass is based on old time mountain music. We don't have many hillbillies in Billings, but we  have lots of cowboys playing country-western music." We still don't have many genuine good old boys from the southern states, but bluegrass has made a definite foothold in this northern rocky-plains region. Hurrah!   



The Seventh Annual ISBA "Spring Super Jam" will be held on May 16 to 18, 2014, at the Lewis and Clark Resort in Kamiah, Idaho.  Kamiah is four hours south of Spokane and three hours west of Missoula, MT. Traveling from Billings one would have to take the Missoula route. That goes on Hwy. 12 to Kamiah, the route that has seen many protests about the huge rigs hauling big equipment parts to the Canadian Oil fields. Central Idaho is impassible from east to west. There are two huge wilderness areas there, the Selway-Bitteroot and below it the Frank Church River of No Return. Idaho is similar to two separate states, the northern panhandle and the southern Snake River route  from Idaho Falls to Boise.  Kamiah is in a beautiful area and is along the route that the Lewis and Clark expedition traveled and were fortunate that Sacajawea found her Shoshone brother, who provided  a guide to help them through the mountains. On the western side they came upon the Nez Perce who lived in the Kamiah country.  Some warriors wanted to kill them, but an old woman intervened saying she had been treated well by white men. There they obtained horses and were able to move on toward the Columbia River basin. Other wise they would have perished and disappeared into the mists of our history of the western United States.   Meriwhether Lewis, William Clark and President Thomas Jefferson, all white men, are given most credit for the expansion of the United States to the Pacific a movement also known as our "Manifest Destiny."  Actually two native American Indian women, Sacajawea and the older Nez Perce woman, made the success of the expedition possible. They deserve more credit that they usually get. Behind great men there are great woman - not always their wives or mothers. 


Information will be coming later on the annual bluegrass festival in Pocatello later in the summer.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Some comments from this blog.

Several have commented favorably. Thank you all. Co-founder, Robert Massey, and inspiration for the bluegrass club in Billings sent this from Georgia: "Roger, this brought back a lot of memories." Thanks Robert. Edd Tremblay has informed that the YBA Winter Jam is scheduled for March 1st. Good music, good company and good food. Better put that on your calendars. Hope the weather and roads will be better by then.

Reason for closing of YBA Friday jams

YBA board member, Edd Tremblay, has explained that the Lincoln Jams are closed due to an asbestos problem in the building. An e-mail was sent out to paid up members. I had better pay some dues if I want to be informed about YBA matters similar to this. Thanks Edd. I hope that clears it up for any others who did not receive that e-mail. BTW, it is not surprising that there is asbestos there. I attended junior high there in the late 1940's and my parents had gone there when it was Billings High School back in 1930. Asbestos was a common construction material and was used as insulation around heating pipes as well as in plaster and later ceiling tiles. It is cancer causing if fibers are inhaled including other respiratory problems, too.

Monday, February 3, 2014

For New Viewers

Following is a copy of my first post which is listed below. It will help explain this blog in helpful terms. Thank you for looking in and please give me feedback about this format and it's content.

First Post

A New Site With Bluegrass Music News From Billings, MT and Elsewhere Including WY, ND, SD, ID and National BG Topics.

For quite some time I have published "Roger's Bluegrass E-Letter" which was sent as an e-mail attachment to a list of bluegrass enthusiasts. Several problems developed including difficulty in updating new e-mail addresses, if I even had them, as well as deciding which formats to use for the attachments.  Some folks did not want to open any attachments as some could be harmful to their computers, although mine were quite safe. For that reason I have decided to start a "blog", short for web log, in which my posts can be entered at any intervals, even daily at times.  Likewise viewers can check them out at any time by clicking on this new bluegrass blog.  In a blog the latest post will be listed at the top and earlier posts will be below based on their date of entry. It will be like keeping a journal of bluegrass activity.  Readers will now be able to go to this blog at their convenience and it won't be cluttering up their e-mail any longer. People should also be able to comment on any of my posts and I hope many of you will. Any suggestions for improvements or other BG topics will be most welcome.

I hope you find this new site to be worthwhile enough to check it out periodically.  Let me know what you think, either on this blog itself, or by e-mailing me at Thanks for reading this first post
on Roger's Bluegrass News.


This is a little late to consider attending however you may be interested in the events scheduled this weekend in Big Sky, MT. BTW, you would need a healthy credit card account to take all this in as well. It does show that great events can be held here in the Big Sky State.  Following is the PR release from the website:
Welcome to  Big Sky Big Grass! 

 Big Sky Big Grass is Montana's premier winter bluegrass event taking place against the backdrop of majestic Lone Peak in Big Sky Resort's Mountain Village.  What could be better than a weekend of skiing powder by day and dancing to live Bluegrass by night? The largest winter Bluegrass festival in the Northern Rockies features some of the country's finest artists trading licks that will keep your toes tapping, ski boots and all.  



Regional Bluegrass Activities

This Missoula based group is in the midst of the annual Ruby's Winter Jams. These are held during the months of December, January, and February on the second Saturday of each month at Ruby's Inn and Convention Center on North Reserve in Missoula. It is very near the Reserve Street exit from US Hwy 90. The February jam is on Feb. 8 and the last one on March 8, 2014. They begin at 2 PM and continue until late in the evening. An excellent pot luck is about 5:30 PM each Saturday. They are very worthwhile to attend. I made it to one last year with my Missoula daughter and her two little girls. She impressed jammers with her musicianship. I was run ragged after the two year old who must have been training for a marathon and also kept crawling under the tablecloths of the potluck.  I will add that we all slept good that night. Memberships in the MRBGA are available very reasonably for $10 individual or $l5 per family. Contact the secy/treasurer Jim McCauley at

 February 6-9 at Big Sky, MT.

In Western Montana pickin-n-grinnin is on Saturday, February 22, 2014, from noon til?? (Double check on this new date.) Dinner for $5 donation, too, at the The Office, 511 Main.  Bill and Charlene Anderson host this annual event. Billings picker Bruce Lee is a regular at this jam and has gone for several years.

Open jam. Pine Creek Cafe. Thursdays 8:30 -10:30 pm (406)222-3628

Recurring jams at the Southside Exxon on most Fridays at 6 PM. Info from Ed Capen.

                                              NORTH DAKOTA
Frozen fingers Old Time Music Festival in Minot, ND, February 14-16. The Rough Riders bluegrass band will be performing. No  more details at this time.
Regular monthly jams in Bismarck and Valley City. Weekly jam in Jamestown.

Big time festivals include WINTERGRASS in Bellevue, WA.
Minnesota: 2014 Winter Bluegrass Weekend is a festival of Bluegrass and Old Time Music and Dance at the Crowne Plaza Minneapolis West, Plymouth, MN Feb. 28 - Mar. 2, 2014. More than 40 groups will perform on 2 stages. Featured group will be Michael Cleveland and Flame Keeper. Last year nearly 3000 people attended. Many activities of all types. For more details go to

January 31st YBA Jam ? ? ?

In an earlier post I commented on the good turnouts for the January YBA jams in Billings. Well last Friday, January 31, 2014, I arrived at the Lincoln Center about 6:45 PM. No one was at the door. The previous two Fridays door openers were there about 6:30. After sitting in my car and seeing few other vehicles parked nearby after about 10 minutes I checked on the door and still no one.  The jams are scheduled from 7 to 9 PM. When 7 PM arrived and still no one showed up I quit and just drove home.  What is the deal, YBA? I was planning on making sure a fiddle was present at most jams in 2014, just as I did a couple years ago. A fiddle is basic to most well known bluegrass bands. Yes, there had been a snow storm last week and it was a bit chilly, but I had no difficulty with the plowed streets. Next Friday, February 7, I certainly won't waste my time and gas to head down there again. A round trip is 9 or 10 miles for me. We will have more snow and very cold below zero weather for much of the week. Has the YBA adopted some new "fair weather" policy? If so will some please clue me in?  I did see about 4 others trying to get in last Friday. Thank you for letting me vent on this subject. I told you a blog is a type of journal and this comment is an example of that.