Christmas time is past and gone, to adapt a phrase of Bill Monroe’s, and I hope you had
some great bluegrass music over the holiday period. Music found its way into my own
Christmas in some surprising ways. Our children with their families came over to stay,
and my daughter presented me with a Christmas parcel in the shape of an LP record. This
turned out to be a recording made at a British folk club in 1975 (several years before my
daughter was born) which she had discovered without my knowledge on sale on the Internet.
Four of the tracks were of a bluegrass band I had played in all those years ago, and the
live recording certainly brought back memories. When I put the disc on the turntable
(remember them?) our three grandchildren aged 2 -5 immediately started dancing to
‘Ragtime Annie’ and the other bluegrass tracks, which went straight to my heart. I had
never dreamed all those years ago that our music would still be around for my
grandchildren to dance to.
I also discovered that our grandchildren were already familiar with a number of
bluegrass/old-time tunes which have been used in a kids’ TV cartoon called ‘Hey Duggee’.
It’s all about a dog and his animal friends, and there are different types of music each
episode. ‘The Dancing Bug Badge’ episode features a band playing fiddle tunes, and it’s
currently available on the BBC website at https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/cbeebies/episode/b
07z2xwx/hey-duggee-series-2-13-the-dancing-bug-badge (I hope you are able to access this
from USA). You will hear ‘Cripple Creek’, ‘Sally Goodin’ and ‘My Grandfather’s Clock’
together with another tune which I can’t immediately identify (suggestions, please, it
sounds similar to ‘The Year of Jubilo’). Grandpa has been slated to play these tunes on
the mandolin the next time the grandchildren visit.
Another surprise gift, this time from a friend in USA, was an autographed copy of Casey
Campbell’s ‘Mandolin Duets’ CD. What a wonderful set of recordings! Mandolin players, do
not miss this one! The CD features eleven ‘name’ mandolin players, each duetting with
Casey Campbell, who gives his guests plenty of room for soloing. Back up is mostly by
discreet rhythm playing with chordal chops. Taste and technique are the hallmarks of
these recordings, with Casey joined by Sam Bush, Mike Compton, David Grisman, Ronnie
McCoury, Jesse McReynolds, Tim O’Brien, Bobby Osborne, Ricky Skaggs, Andy Statman, Buck
White and Roland White. There is a wide variety of tunes and styles – I think my current
personal favorite is Sam Bush playing the swing tune Jethro Burns wrote for him entitled
‘Sam’s Bush’. Another nice surprise is Buck White playing ‘Saratoga Blues’. (Now where
had I heard that one before? It turns out that Buck had written and recorded it for Bob
Black’s ‘Ladies on the Steamboat’ LP in 1979.)
I hope you have had an equally enjoyable and musical Christmas and that 2018 turns out
to be a great bluegrass year for you!