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.