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.