Wednesday, March 26, 2014


In the Oscar nominated movie "Nebraska" Bruce Dern's character is traveling from Billings, MT, "to get his million dollars" magazine sweepstakes award in Phoenix.  His driving son talks him into a side trip to see Mt. Rushmore, where Dern criticizes the sculptures for not being "finished and having not being dressed."  It is too bad they weren't holding those bluegrass instruments as shown in the bluegrass festival poster below. BTW, having grown up in Billings I loved the opening scenes of driving down Montana Avenue along the RR tracks and seeing Dern being picked up on the highway entrance by Dennis McCave,  a local retired sheriff's captain, playing a deputy in the movie. It is unusual for a local extra to be given a speaking line and then listed as one of the actors in a movie, but there was McCave's name right up there with Bruce Dern and the rest of the cast. He had once been a patrolling deputy, but for many years he was the head jailer of the Yellowstone County Detention Center. The scenes of Dern's house were actually shot in Laurel although they claimed it was Billings. The movie was worth watching for those scenes alone to me. I never go to movie theaters any more and  waited until I could get it on Blu-ray for a buck fifty rental from Redbox. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Carol McConnell, president of the Black Hills Bluegrass Association, has announced that information is now available for the coming bluegrass festival in South Dakota.
                                      2014 Bluegrass Festival
There is detailed information at  This is another great outing for the entire family. There are plenty of activities for younger children and they would absorb some real bluegrass while having a good time playing with others of their age. It would be a good trip for many readers of this blog. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014


A Night for Tony Rice
Featuring Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder & Friends, Ry Cooder,
Tim O'Brien, Bryan Sutton, Stuart Duncan, and many more

Nashville, TN (March 17, 2014) --  Mark Newton & Steve Thomas are proud to announce they will perform at A NIGHT FOR TONY RICE to be held at 3rd & Lindsley Bar & Grill, 818 3rd Ave. S. in Nashville on Tuesday, March 25. Doors open at 6:00 pm and the concert will begin at 7:00 pm. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased in advance or at the door.  This can’t miss event will feature Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder & Friends, Newton & Thomas, Rambling Rooks, Dailey & Vincent, Ry & Joachim Cooder, Tim O’Brien, Bryan Sutton, Stuart Duncan, Luke Bulla Trio, Forest O’Conner.
Richard King, Sr. and his son Richard, Jr. are promoting the concert and all of the artists are donating their talent to their longtime hero.  The owner of 3rd & Lindsley is donating the space and all proceeds will go to Tony Rice.
Jeff and Terry Pinkham, who started the Tony Rice Foundation, are raising money to help with Tony’s living expenses. He has been trying to recover his voice and is also receiving treatment for arthritis. Anyone wishing to donate pay via PayPal or send a check or money order made out to directly to “Tony Rice”, P. O. Box 914, Odessa, FL 33556.  Additional information can be found at the Tony Rice Foundation’s facebook page.

ROGER'S NOTE: Tony Rice's voice and excellent guitar picking have influenced an entire generation of pickers to become bluegrassers.  I am sure any amount of help would be greatly appreciated.  BTW, Luke Bulla is a very good fiddler. About 20 years ago he toured our area with his parents and sister (Jenny?) as part of the Bulla Family Band. Luke was only about ten years old then.   I saw them at the local summer fair at Metra Park in Billings. Luke is now a fixture in the Nashville scene and like older fiddler Stuart Duncan is often a side man on recordings produced there.


I missed another Lincoln YBA jam last Friday night. So here are some of the reasons why: It all started at the big midwinter YBA jam on March 8. Laura Steinmetz said St. Paddy's Day was coming and would I play a jig or reel? I replied: "Oh, I haven't played any of that stuff for years." Then I decided to attempt a jig, "The Irish Washerwoman" which went OK on part A, but I fell apart on part B. Fortunately Dennis Anderson could pick it out on his guitar. The next week I decided to go back to playing Celtic stuff for the season. Then I dug out my Irish garb. I donned it and carried the Irish flag with the bagpipe and drum band in the Billings St. Patrick's Day parade that Saturday. The wind was blowing the big flag all around and I was huffing and puffing by the end of the parade not to mention the heavy flag pole trying to push my kilt off! You don't need to have that happen in front of a huge crowd of parade watchers.  I have been enjoying playing a whole bunch of Irish reels, jigs, hornpipes, polkas, and airs on my fiddle, thanks to Laura. It was all for my personal enjoyment at home. They weren't all perfect, but what the heck. Trying to avoid senility it can be quite a challenge when living alone and still entertain one self.  That was not a bid for sympathy. I am doing fine and as you can see from the photos I am very WELL FED. That has included not only corned beef and cabbage, but Irish garlic sausage, Reuben sandwiches, Irish bangers with eggs or mash, and Irish lamb stew. I also bought a couple 18 packs of Guiness, Harp lager, and Smithwick's Irish Ale at Costco. That is where the lamb stew and the bangers came from. I haven't even started on the Kerrygold cheese I got there. Maybe I'll try mixing a Black and Tan. They make them at Pug Mahon's pub.   I admit to being a confirmed culture freak and the best way to experience the music of any culture is to absorb more of it outside of just the music. That includes customs, celebrations, clothing and food. So here is an example with my Irish National Tartan kilt and Dublin knitted sweater:


I had hoped to get down early to the jam on March 21 in my Irish garb and play some Celtic stuff as other pickers were coming in before 7 PM.  I just plain chickened out due to the cold temperatures and wind. I am just plain sick of the cold this year and a kilt is not the ideal winter weather clothing. Sorry about all of that. Well the basketball tourney was not too bad to watch that evening anyway.  

Friday, March 21, 2014


The headliners for the 2014 St. John's summer concert series have been listed. The music will be good, but maybe a little short on bluegrass. The closest appears to be the Clumsy Lovers who will perform on July 24th. They are based in Vancouver, B.C. and are called a "rock, bluegrass, Celtic" band, certainly an eclectic mix. They have played in Montana venues many times in the past and any bluegrass can be expected to be of the "progressive" variety.  Other groups include Tom Catmull's Radio Static on July 10, John Floridis on July 17 and the popular classic rockers the Midlife Chryslers on the 31st. On August 10th a group from the the Magic City Blues will be there. Does anyone know whether local area bluegrass bands have applied as openers for any of these dates?  In the past both the original Rambling Laurels and a later version played there. At any rate the Thursday evening shows and BBQ on the green  have no cover charge and have proven to be very popular with local fans. The music is always good no matter what genre is being performed.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


The annual Montana Old Time Fiddlers Camp holds two sessions during the first two weeks of June. This year they will be on June 1-6 and 8-13. While most sessions stress fiddling there are also classes in guitar, mandolin and banjo. During the second camp one can also play old time music on your cello.  That instructor is an excellent cellist from the Missoula Symphony Orchestra.  You can read more information by clicking on  Scholarships are available. The local MSOTFA District 4 has sent one student of any age in past years. Check with a member of that group for more info. The Yellowstone Bluegrass Association takes the term "student" more literally. They have a scholarship available for anyone currently attending school from elementary through college. 
The 2014 International Old Time Fiddlers weekend will take place at the International Peace Garden from June 5 to 7 this year. Workshops will be held on Thursday and Friday with the Old Time Fiddle Contest on Saturday. At the recommendation of B.A.N.D., the Bluegrass Association of North Dakota, mandolin will be taught for the first time. Instructors include John Andrus (5-string banjo),  Adam Granger (guitar), Mark Kreitzer (Fiddle, mandolin), Alex Lamoureaux and Ann Schluter (fiddles). John Andrus also provides music theory principles and banjo tab in each monthly edition of the B.A.N.D. newsletter. This is a great feature for B.A.N.D. members. Gate admission to the International Peace Garden is also required. That means you will need a passport or a birth certificate (everyone) and a photo ID if 16 of older. For more info search

These camp slots can fill up so don't wait too long to register.  Of course there are many other music camps over the summer in other locales as well and some stress bluegrass music exclusively. If you do not want to spend so much time in a camp there are instrumental workshops at festivals, too. One that is in our area is the annual Big Horn Mountain Festival in Buffalo, Wyoming. In addition to the other festival experiences they have these type workshops and a state fiddle contest as well.  This one is within driving distance of many readers of this blog. Plan on having a picking good summer whatever you decide to do.          

Friday, March 14, 2014


Jim & Jesse Radio Shows album reaches #1 on AirPlay Direct
Nashville, TN (February 27, 2014) – Inducted in 1964, Bluegrass legends Jim & Jesse are celebrating 50 Years as members of the GRAND OLE OPRY this year.  On March 1st the Grand Ole Opry® will honor Jesse McReyonlds as he celebrates his 50th year as a member of the Grand Ole Opry®.  The success of their 60’s radio shows prompted Martha White Flour to bring them to Nashville to star on their early morning show on WSM.  In 1964 a life time dream came true for Jim & Jesse when they became regular members of the Grand Ole Opry®. 
Deep in the mountains of southwest Virginia still stands the white aging farmhouse Jim & Jesse first called home. Raised in the small community of Carfax, located near Coeburn, VA, the boys grew up in a family steeped in traditional mountain music.  Their harmony was exceptional, a rarity some say only brothers can produce. Jim's enhanced high tenor combined with Jesse's deep lead and unique mandolin style set this duo apart in the world of traditional music, now termed Bluegrass.
The year 2002 was a difficult one for Jim and Jesse. Jim was diagnosed with cancer and passed away on December 31, 2002.  His death ended the longest active professional brother duet in country music history - 55 years.
Jesse has carried on the Jim & Jesse tradition and has since gone on to play throughout the world with the Virginia Boys. And the beautiful music that originated from the brothers in the mountains of southwest Virginia back in 1947 is as timeless as ever.
The Jim & Jesse tradition continues to grow in 2014 with the release of the album RADIO SHOWS which is currently #1 on both the AirPlay Direct Global Radio Indicator Charts for “Top 50 Albums” and the “Top 50 Bluegrass Albums for the month of February.
Originally released in 1978 as a 2 record set on the Old Dominion label, RADIO SHOWS will be available for the first time on CD and digital formats on March 4th.  RADIO SHOWS was recorded in 1962 and contained mainly songs never before recorded by Jim & Jesse and The Virginia Boys, and were selected because of the heavy requests for them on their radio shows.
Rural Rhythm will be making these albums available for Jim & Jesse fans to enjoy again and bring their music to a whole new generation of Bluegrass & Country music fans.

ROGER'S NOTE: Thanks to my Nashville kids I have about 10 CDs of Jim and Jesse and the Virginia Boys. Their music is timeless and they have been one of the most influential groups in the tradition of bluegrass worldwide. This RADIO SHOWS CD would be great to have for any fan of bluegrass music. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Song Dog Serenade played a gig at the Yellowstone Cellars Winery on Saturday evening, March 8, 2014. This band has become quite active in the Billings locale and was formed by YBA officer, guitarist Scott Moore . He is joined by Paddy Moore on upright bass and Nate Smallwood, mandolin. They have now had the good fortune of adding the skills of current Montana State Open Fiddle Champion, Hannah King to their sound. They all have good singing voices making their lead vocals and harmonies exceptional. According to information the name of the band is derived from the unique sound, or serenade, of the coyote or song dog as native tribes once called them.  

Speaking of native American names the Elk River Ramblers appear to be re-uniting for a gig at the MRBA Festival in Stevensville in April. This group was formed by Stan and Annie Moser while they lived in Billings. They are listed to play the 10:30 to 11 PM slot to close out that festival.  Ed Pierson usually joins them with his very good fiddle skills.  Elk River was the name the Crow Indians gave the Yellowstone long ago.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014



Another successful mid-winter jam was held by the Yellowstone Bluegrass Association on Saturday, March 8, 2014.  Thankfully the weather had moderated nicely and the streets and highways were in good driving condition.  President Sharon Karlson did a headcount during the break for a meal and found about 40 people, however the total count over the day must have been more like 50 to 60 folks in attendance. We owe a very big thank you to Sharon and her work crew for doing a great job. The pickers seemed to have a good time with lots of grinning to go with all of the picking. The Unitarian hall has a large room for their meetings and several smaller rooms as well. All of them were full of musicians jamming away on their favorite tunes. It is always challenging to me on fiddle when pickers choose a tune in a key outside of my comfort zone (Keys A, C, D, and G). Those of us with a fingerboard rather than a fretboard don't have the luxury of just sliding a capo up or down the neck. We have to find the right position and fingering for keys like E with four notes sharped and B natural with five sharps.  I am fairly comfortable in the key of F with one note flatted and B flat with two flats. I'm not complaining as that is just one of the challenges of jamming with old friends and new folks, too. Actually it is good to have to increase our skill level no matter what instrument is involved. The catered BBQ  included very good shredded pork and an excellent beans dish. There was plenty of fresh fruit and veggies. Several people brought potluck dishes, too. Karen Schlosser and others had done some baking and the dessert area was full of grateful folks and their sweet tooths. It is always good to see pickers we have missed for some time and to meet new ones.  All in all it was a very fun filled jam. I left being totally played out and with a full stomach, too. I slept good Saturday night. Here are a few photos from the Mid-Winter Jam.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Well at least it is tough for yours truly.  Today is Ash Wednesday which means that the Mardi Gras - Carnivale parties are over for another year.  As much as I love bluegrass music I also enjoying playing a bit of Cajun stuff around Mardi Gras and then Celtic in preparation for St. Patrick's Day.  When the liturgical calendar makes Lent and Easter come early as it is this year it also makes only eleven days between Ash Wednesday and St. Paddie's Day. That is hardly enough time to eat the last of the jambalaya and get the corned beef and cabbage on the stove. Well, what the heck. Might as well just stick to bluegrass this year. That really ain't too bad. (BTW, I didn't make any jambalaya this year, but I had a huge pot of chicken and sausage gumbo cooked up to keep me warm through the recent cold spell. That weren't too bad, either.)