My first bluegrass band ever is still in business. The band members are separated by over 100 miles, so rehearsal is not an option – at least not very often. We do have a website, which I haven’t updated in, um, a while. There are many bands more adept at the bluegrass musical idiom, it is true. But we got….something. Over the years, we made a favorable impression on enough people that we get gig offers every year.
I know that compared to many hard-core CBA folks, I am still a hopeless neophyte at bluegrass, but I have been playing music a pretty long time. But there came a time when I needed to find something more…organic..than the music I’d been playing. (I allude to this in my Hooked On Bluegrass article. See http://www.cbaweb.org/News/Article/11948
) So, a would-be bluegrasser was born and immediately I set to form a band.
So, in the early 1990’s, I started with my old rock buddies and we got ourselves the bluegrass instruments and pored over David Bromberg, Tony Rice and Doc Watson records to learn this stuff. Like all baby-boomers, within minutes, we felt we had it! Sort of anyways.. We jammed and it sounds kind of like bluegrass.
Then I chanced to meet one of the most original characters ever – WP Shields. He was a cantankerous, braggadocious old fella who had real credentials as a fiddle champion and he tried to whip us into shape. He was the human embodiment of Foghorn Leghorn.
“Face the crowd, boy!”, he’d roar if we happened to stop facing the audience. We played the Fiddletown Festival in 1994 and it was a thrill. I think we did OK – it was mostly a fiddle festival and most of the other folks didn’t have a full band, so we made a denser bluegrass noise than most. We called ourselves WP Shields and the Bluegrass Brothers.
Over time, WP Shields began to wear on us. We were grateful for the fast-track bluegrass education, but he was coarse and country and we were soft, middle-class suburban young men. We reformed the band sans WP with the name Blue Moon Brothers. This was a nod to the rock band we had in the the 1970’s called “Blue Moon”. The inside joke is, we only rehearse once in a blue moon.
Well, this weekend we had one of those recurring gigs, and we started tallying up the times we had played for this yearly Harvest Festival event at a local nursery, and it turns out we’ve been doing it at least 20 years! We make new fans every year, even though our setlist has only changed maybe 10% in those 20 years. We bring comfort, familiarity, and deliver a good show every time. I am proud to be a Blue Moon Brother!