As readers surely are aware, there will be a CBA Founders Celebration remembrance event for Carl Pagter at the Fairfield Community Center on Saturday, July 22. Featured performers will be Ed Neff & Blue Lonesome, the Caleb Klauder-Reeb Willms Bluegrass Band, and a reunion of the Good Ol’ Persons. There will also be dinner, jamming, and some sharing of memories of Carl. Full detail can be found on the CBA website.
Every time I have seen the Good Ol’ Persons, I’ve felt like I was witnessing an important part of California bluegrass history. This version of the band made up of John Reischman, Kathy Kallick, Paul Shelasky, and Bethany Raine Sorkey reprises the four-piece ensemble from around 1978 which gives us all a chance to go back in time as we remember and say final farewells to our friend Carl Pagter.
Here are the Good Ol’ Persons at the 2015 Fathers Day Festival Reunion show.
I was honored to capture some thoughts from various band members and friends below.
This Good Ol’ Persons reunion should be fun. It represents a short-lived version of the band from the early eighties. Sally had left the band for a short period of time, which left us as a quartet- Kathy, Paul, Markie Sanders, and me. Then Markie left and we asked Bethany. Sally rejoined not too long after.
I didn’t know Carl very well, but I always enjoyed chatting with him at festivals. We shared a love of Old-time music and would exchange info on bands and recordings. He introduced me to one of my favorite bands/recording projects – Light and Hitch.
Bethany Raine Sorkey
I am looking forward to celebrating Carl’s love of bluegrass and old time music with friends old and new and to jamming and performing at this event! I remember playing with Country Ham and being impressed by Carl’s knowledge and enthusiasm.
I think the band started in 75 or so with my sister Sue Shelasky and I joined soon after that when she left. We’ve had a few reunion shows including the one at Grass Valley in 2015 and they are always great fun. We’re senior citizens now and go back a long way but we always seem to sound great and with one rehearsal, we sound the way we used to.
Carl Pagter was one of the first musicians I met when I moved to California. He invited me and Michael Drayton to a music party at his house and was always so welcoming and warm to young musicians. It will be an honor to celebrate his memory in Fairfield with a reunited version of the Good Ol’ Persons.
In 1980, I was looking for a bass player/singer to join the band, and Gene Tortora told me, “Well, there’s a woman who’s a wonderful singer, but she may be a better singer than you are, so I don’t know if you’d be interested. Her name is Bethany Raine.”
“Oh boy,” says I. “Yes, that’s just what I’m interested in!”
So Bethany came over and we sang some things together and it was great fun. We had close ranges, with her voice adding some higher notes, and we could match phrasing so well! Then John and Paul joined in and it was the start of the longest-lasting version of the band. Bethany brought her repertoire of swing, old time, British Isles music, and classic country to combine with John and Paul’s wide range of styles, and my original songs. This gave us more of the sound that became our identity. What fun it will be to revisit that four-piece band and have a good ol’ time.
Peter Thompson of Bluegrass Signal & Bluegrass Country
Hi Dave. Here’s my 2 cents. The Good Ol’ Persons are among the most influential bands in the history of bluegrass. They were one of the first bands to feature the songwriting, lead playing, and vocal harmonies of women, and these women weren’t part of a family band or married to someone in the band. The Good Ol’ Persons were also trendsetters in their incorporation of Latin, swing, folk, Cajun, and other musical genres into their bluegrass. And they did it all without having a banjo in the band during their most influential period.”
You might also like this from Murphy Henry’s Pretty Good For A Girl: Women In Bluegrass (Univ. Of Illinois Press, 2013)
“According to Kathy [Kallick]: ‘The band was never easily categorized and tended to piss off narrow-minded people for many reasons.’ Complaints from purists included women singing lead, women singing in nontraditional keys, no Scruggs-style banjo, no suits, and no hats. ‘So,’ Kathy says, ‘We didn’t call ourselves a bluegrass band. We said we played bluegrass and when we did, we did.’”
Readers can get information and tickets on the CBA page at https://californiabluegrass.org/founders-celebration/