The Jam

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When musicians hear the word “jam,” it’s not fruit preserves or traffic gridlock that comes to mind. When two or more are gathered together and making music, we call it a “jam.” We all know that a bluegrass jam is more fun if you have a full complement of instruments; a guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, bass, dobro and vocalists. If you are at a gathering where Tina Louise Barr (autoharpist extraordinaire) and David Naiditch (a master of the harmonica) are present, then you have a real bonus. Jams are more fun still if the musicians play fairly well and the vocalists are well prepared to sing their leads or provide harmonies.

Now, multiply the above by dozens of groups all gathered in one hotel for three days (or more) and you have the 48 Hour Jam in Bakersfield. It is one of my favorite events of the year and each year I attend, I find myself saying, “That was the best one yet!”

I attend most CBA events as a “consumer” and not a volunteer but I have a pretty good idea of what goes on behind the scenes to pull off an event of this magnitude. It’s like putting together a band; it takes a group of people with varied gifts and talents, working together despite their differences but having a common goal in mind. When we sit and listen to a good band, (such as Special Consensus), we are not aware of all the practice sessions, trials, tribulations and sacrifices it takes to put on an entertaining performance for an appreciative audience. The same is true for putting on the Great 48, there is a lot of work and sacrifice on the part of many people to bring about an event where we can all go home and say, “I can’t wait ‘til next year.” I tip my “Jimmie Rodgers Train Engineer Cap” to Larry Phegley and his team of volunteers. Thanks.

When we arrived on Thursday afternoon, there was a nice jam already underway in the hotel lobby. My friends, Mikki, Lucy, Dave Rietz, Larry Phegley, Brian Whitt and others were setting the stage for the rest of the week-end! A warm cookie is a nice welcome but some great bluegrass music is even better. From that moment on, there was a steady stream of pickers and grinners filling the hotel lobby. At that point, everyone is a grinner, and you could feel the excitement in the air, actually you could see it in the air. That’s all we’ll say about the air.

Within the first hour of arriving, we had stowed our belongings in our room, ate the warm cookie and I was sitting in a jam with friends. Things just got better as each hour passed. On Thursday evening, I broke away from the jamming to attend the Band Showcase. Many of my friends were competing in different bands and only one band could win so I was pulling for all of them. Congratulations, Grasskickers.

On Friday night we went to the Special Consensus performance. All I can say is, “Wow!” What a talented group of guys, high energy, great musicianship, wonderful vocal harmonies. Dynamic! Let’s not forget to mention The Roustabouts who opened for Special Consensus. I love this Bakersfield band and what a wonderful cause, the fight against Childhood Lymphoma and Leukemia.

On Saturday night, I was invited to attend the “Chick Jam;” an all girls jam held in one of the suites. What a beautiful time, fine harmonies and great pickin’ and pluckin’ in this hen party. It was funny when guys would come in and begin to play and realize that they were in a room with just women. It took some of them longer than others to notice. It never fails, when women get together, the subject of hot flashes comes up. One of my friends was furiously fanning herself and said, “Excuse me, but I think my inner child is playing with matches!”

I hope that many of you were able to attend a workshop on Saturday. Many thanks to a gifted group of teachers who were willing to give up a couple hours to share their expertise with others! I attended the bass workshop. It was very basic and informal which is just what I needed at this point and I found it quite helpful. I know you all are getting tired of reading about my bass playing, so sorry…I can’t help myself. It is so much fun and addicting.

I promised myself before going to the Great 48 that I would not stay up until 3:00 each morning; it takes longer to recover at my age. I found the key to keeping this promise is to start heading to my room around midnight so that as I worked my way back from jam to jam, I would make it to bed by 2:30 AM. I’m gaining on it. It was especially difficult to get up on Sunday morning to make it to the Bluegrass Church/Gospel Jam, but it was worthwhile. There were probably fifty people in attendance and about twenty of them were in the jam circle. It was a great way to leave the orbit of an event that was “out of this world” and prepare myself for reentry into the real world. I am blessed and grateful.

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