There is a saying that is often attributed to be an old Chinese curse, which goes something like “may you live in interesting times”. An associated version of that curse is “may you live an interesting life” and it turns out neither of these has any apparent roots in Chinese culture but comes from the writings of 20th century British diplomats. Ahhh regardless, I like these sayings because living an interesting life has some remarkably good upsides and sometimes catastrophically interesting downsides. But when it comes to Bluegrass it seems the balance is way on the good-side column of the ledger. I don’t know, maybe Bluegrass is a natural channel for all that misplaced good karma that gets lost like loose change in a sofa; just waiting to be found and bring a pleasant surprise to the kid that goes looking.
I recently had a discussion with a rather well accomplished Biotech executive and we were talking about the usual stuff, getting to know each other and trying to figure out if we wanted to work together, and it turns out he lives in North Carolina within driving distance of Raleigh. The light bulb in my brain goes on: “have you ever been to the Bluegrass festival in Raleigh that happens every fall?”. His response was, shall we say, very enthusiastic. It turns out that in the 70’s there was a Bluegrass festival not far from where he grew up in the northeast, where he heard the Seldom Scene. I have some friends that are Deadheads and have every album, every bootleg tape, and would go to every show they could afford or travel to. I can safely say my Biotech colleague sounded suspiciously like the Seldom Scene equivalent. I have never heard of a Seldom Scene-head, but he admitted to owning every Seldom Scene album. Now the thing I am really envious about is he almost certainly heard their original lineup, which included the dobro deity Mike Auldridge, something I will never get to do. I am now hoping I can pull off a business trip to the Raleigh area around the end of September to spend some time working with my newfound colleague, Bluegrass and Biotech. And, if I should wander into the CBA suite while there, so much the better.
Since I am a scientist by trade I have met a few famous scientists and know of even more famous scientists by reputation. It’s kind of like musicians; we personally know some famous Bluegrass musicians fairly well, we’ve shaken the hands of a few other famous Bluegrass musicians, and we have a list of famous Bluegrass musicians we’d like to hear or meet. With scientists however it seems like one credential to being a famous scientist is to have an untypical or at least uncommon surname. So when I was at this jam last month and met a professional banjo player at supper named Peter Pardee, I had to ask “are you related to the famous scientist with the same name”? Turns out that he was. The point here is the common thread, not of science, but of Bluegrass. To me this is so cool that we have this musical language and love of Bluegrass in common that transcends whatever else it we do in life.
Keep pickin folks. I hope to shake your hand soon. Please take your time to vote for Directors for the next CBA Board and consider Patrick Campbell who is standing as a write-in candidate.