The Jam Not Missed

Nov 2, 2022 | Welcome Column

A few years ago, I took a trip to North Carolina.  It was really for a family reunion, with a side trip to visit an old friend – in other words, NOT a bluegrass pilgrimage.  Nonetheless, I brought my guitar, hoping I could squeeze in a jam or open mic somewhere on the trip.

We (my wife and I, plus my daughter and my two granddaughters) had a pretty whirlwind schedule – 6 days total, including travel days.  I played a little guitar on the front porch, just to ensure that some North Carolina wind would blow into the wood.  But never, during the family reunion, did a chance for a jam emerge. None of the other family members were pickers, and no one at the KOA came up to me and said “Hey California dude, I like your style – let’s jam!”  

I did not despair.  Bluegrass was NOT the reason for this trip, remember?

After the reunion, we drove back across the state towards Winston-Salem.  Preliminary research revealed a lively music scene, including some open mic events and bluegrass jams.  However, some quick web searches are no substitute for a having someone on the “Inside” and I did – the aforementioned “Old friend”.  I should mention I use the phrase to denote a person I have known a long time (since 1965), not one who actually old, although that distinction becomes less important each year, it seems

We arrived in Winston-Salem on an afternoon, and hooked up with my buddy.  The granddaughters were tuckered out after staying up late with long-lost cousins, and the driving, so they and my daughter made an early night and the remaining adults hit WInston-Salem’s downtown that night, accompanied by our guide.  

The bad news: It was Monday night. It looked like a ghost town. My friend pointed out place and after place that had open mics or jams, on various nights of the week, but none – NONE – on Monday.  We still had fun – make no mistake, but the fun did not include bluegrass, or jamming.

I did not despair.  Bluegrass was NOT the reason for this trip, remember?

The next day – our final full day in North Carolina was spent seeing the natural beauty of the Tar Heel State.  And that day ended with a final big dinner out – right around the corner from our hotel. A great time was had by all, and after a heartfelt good-bye to my old friend, we drove, pleasantly stuffed, the several blocks back to the hotel to get packed and enjoy a good night sleep before the flight home.

We parked the car, and as we were walking towards the lobby, my wife remarked “Hey, I think I see some people jamming in there!”

Sure, enough there was a guy playing guitar and another playing mandolin.  They were surrounded by a bunch of people, and I heard the guitar player say “Man, we’re hitting the wall here!  We need some relief!”   I said “Got my Martin upstairs, can I help?”

They all said “Yes!”, and I bolted upstairs to get my guitar.  And so, on the final night of my non-bluegrass trip to North Carolina, i managed to get into a jam, and it felt great!  I take an instrument almost anytime I travel, and I have been very lucky to stumble upon jams where there seemed to be none. You gotta love how bluegrass is a music that’s always ready to burst out of any porch, coffee shop, or hotel lobby, anytime, anywhere!

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