You know it’s a really good bluegrass kind of day when
…you fall into that perfect jam.
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Billy Lee Cox – Remington Ryde
Danny & Ryan Paisley – Danny Paisley Band
Mike Munford – Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen
Harold Tipton – Harold Tipton Band
...and me on my 1941 Epiphone B5 bass
Every Labor Day there is a one day Fiddlers picnic in New Holland, PA. It has been going on for many years. The jam is well known for its high quality pickers and attracts some very prominent professional musicians. On this very hot and humid Labor Day under the threat of rain Lonnie and I stumble upon a jam just beginning to form. It included Billy Lee Cox on banjo from Remington Ryde band. Mike Munford on banjo from the Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen. Harold Tipton of the Harold Tipton Band. When Lonnie and I strolled up and Harold saw my bass he said, “Jump on in here girl!” Well I did not need much encouragement as I have played with Billy Lee and Harold before in open jams and always have a blast. Mike Munford, yeah…there is a really great banjo player! So good that he is nominated for the 2013 IBMA banjo player of the year. That had my hands and knees a shaking at first. I have been around Mike at festivals but never played bass for him. Oh well…go for it, life is short. If I screw up its not like anybody gets hurt, the jam just won’t last very long if I suck.
So I jumped in, first song; Sled’s Ride, banjo tune…okay, okay…I know this song. Played it a dozen times. Yep, I missed a few chords…nobody stopped playing, no dirty looks, WHEW I am safe. Next song, Remington Ride, another banjo tune…okay got this, play it every Friday night. Yep…brain freeze. Played the A part three times…DAH…A part twice, B part twice. Okay, by the third song if I don’t improve I am going to get fired. Concentrate, play it like my life depends on it! Finally I found my groove. The jam was great and then it got even better. Strolling in is Danny and Ryan Paisley to add to the circle of music. By now my jitters were going away and the jam was hitting “the zone”. And then the rain came pouring down. Much to my surprise everyone move to the covered pavilion and kept an open space for me and my bass. The jam continued another two hours and it was awesome. Song after song, non-stop. Great singers, great instrumental breaks and everyone hung tight as the crowd of listeners swelled. It was the hottest jam in the park (or so I have heard other pickers talk about THAT “Super jam” up in the far corner of the park) and I was holding down the low-end grinning like a fool with my 1941 Epiphone B-5 named Ruben. At one point Billy Lee looked over and said to me “pickers live for a jam like this”…I am lucky girl!
Luck and the right place, at the right time. This maybe the best jam I get to play in for a very long time. Being an amateur bass player with no band or stage experience I am very fortunate these folks invited me to play with them. There were plenty of other, more experienced bass players in the crowd licking their chops just ready to jump in and replace me. I played so hard in the hot humid weather that I wore a whole in my skin that is just now beginning to heal. I would not change that moment for anything.
I am so proud of Lonnie for restoring my old Epiphone bass back to top playing condition. When I play this bass out among musicians of this caliber and bring joy to folks, it confirms we are doing good work and need to do more of it.
It was a really good day for bluegrass.