(photo credit Robin Frenette)
Mark Shutts is a name synonymous with bluegrass in Southern California. Everyone seems to know Shutts due to his large presence at local jams, every festival, or perhaps because Mark hosts live shows at his machine shop. In this somewhat barren patch of bluegrass land, “Shutts Fabricators” is an oasis in the desert.
Mark is known for loving bluegrass, motorcycles, sailing, and his most of all, his awesome family. But he is also known for being a metal fabricator and a business owner. At his former location in West Long Beach, Mark hosted many traveling and a few local bluegrass bands over the years. Mark would move all his machine shop equipment to one side, make coffee, provide cookies and chairs, and let us enjoy phenomenal music in a unique and grungy setting.
The bands got all the proceeds, at a price of $20 per head, it never amounted to big bucks, but they seemed grateful just to share the music. The listeners were treated to intimate shows that deserved an audience of thousands. But considering the fact that it might be a Tuesday night, or the band was on their way to another gig, Shutts Fabricators provided a great stop. It has been a win for the pickers and the grinners.
Often the band members would offer workshops before the shows, and that would be another opportunity for them, and a boon to us! Relationships were formed, music was learned and appreciated, and then Mark was told he had to give up the shop. His lease was up, but fortunately, ours wasn’t.
Mark found a better location for his business, and it happens to be an even better venue for live music! The new location is in Huntington Beach and has a good sized parking lot. As long as the weather agrees (and it has so far), outdoor shows are happening. The concrete buildings in a right angle provide a bit of an industrial amphitheater. The neighboring businesses have not complained, probably because Mark keeps good relationships with them, and also because it is just something cool and grass roots happening.
Bluegrass lovers are mostly there for the music, not the partying scene. We are respectful to the surroundings, and hopefully these shows get to continue. The outdoor space requires a little less prep for him, but there is still much to do to get ready. And he does it all for the bands, for the music, for the friendships. He offers bluegrass musicians a place to play, then extends every manner of hospitality.
Chuck Sharp met Mark Shutts in 2016, when he was traveling through California with the band “Kenny Stinson and Perfect Tymin’”. Chuck says, “Mark was the very first person I met in California. I walked into his shop pickin’ surf tunes like Pipeline and Walk Don’t Run on my little travel electric guitar. Mark joined right in and surprised me with his command of different styles of music, not just bluegrass. I came to California with the intent of playing some really good shows and left with a lifelong friend.”
Maria Nadauld, manager for the band “Special Consensus” says, “Mark Shutts has been booking my bands since December, 2016. When I call, Mark answers. He hosts them. He feeds them. He houses them. He books them on a week night so they can go make the “big bucks” at those fancy venues. He does everything he can to help traveling bluegrass bands – and not just mine. Always, of course, with the help of Judy Shutts, the woman behind the man.”
The California Bluegrass Association appreciates Mark as well. Board member Ted Kuster had this to say, “Mark is my favorite underground impresario. He really knows how to make good things happen with minimal resources, and he’s a great example of the open, welcoming spirit in California bluegrass. I wish we could clone him.”
If you have not had an opportunity to meet the legend, or enjoy a bluegrass event at Shutts Fabricators, there are two chances coming up very soon. “Nu-Blu” is playing on 4/6, and “Never Come Down” is playing on 4/8. The “suggested donation” is now $25 and worth so much more!
Keeping Southern California on the radar of traveling bluegrass bands, making it worthwhile for them to stop in Southern California, then welcoming and supporting them is not just a one-man job. We may not all have time or resources to volunteer, especially as Mark has. But at the very least, those who love live music can show up for it and show that California really does love bluegrass.