During my hiatus, this winter in Florida my wife Margaret and I traveled a goodly share of Southwest & West Central Florida to different Festivals. It seems that Florida like the Carolina’s and Tennessee are a hot bed of Bluegrass music and musicians. It was a lot of fun and a rewarding experience being able to listen to these different groups or bands if you will. One thing that particularly interested me was, how much cooperation there is among some of these bands.
There was one man that I met, Jimmie White, that plays in several bands at least three that I am aware of if not four. Band number one is “Bits of Grass” he plays Guitar along with his wife Tammy on the bass, his brother in law Clint Dockery on the Mandolin, Donnie Harvey on the Banjo, and Jason Baker on the fiddle. He also plays in a band called “Highway 41 South” where he plays the bass, as well in the band Sawgrass. He has put together a band called Rekindled Grass so you can’t tell, Jimmy loves Bluegrass music. The level the cooperation between these musicians is amazing.
At a Festival in Pioneer Park in Zolfo Springs, Margaret and I were watching a band called Swinging Bridge. They were a terrific band, great vocals. Their lead singer, Chris Bryson, has a really great voice, the Mandolin Player JR Davis sings Harmony, it was particularly great sound. At the end of the set, I went to the green room to talk to the Bass player and front man Alan Colpitts. Walking behind the stage JR Davis of Swinging Bridge walked out past me headed back to the stage, he was also in the Highway 41 South band, who knew. The Mandolin player was now a Guitar player, Donnie Harvey was the Banjo Player, Mark Horn the new Mandolin player, and a second Guitar player, David Beaumont. Another round of amazing vocals just a wonderful day spent with these bands.
The RV park we were staying at has a Bluegrass Stage and caters to the Bluegrass crowd. They host the Heartland Bluegrass Association of Florida who puts on a Bluegrass weekend every month. The February weekend was a lot of fun, the first band was Jimmie White and the Rekindled Bluegrass Band, then the Jam Band from the Hartland’s own Jammers and then a real treat to listen to. A Semi family band called Scattered Grass, featuring twin Sisters Moe the Bass player and her Twin Sister Spider Elisa on the Guitar, a Cousin on the Banjo and a Mandolin player just 4 pieces but a unique sound. The Cooperation of musicians comes into play here, again we were at the aforementioned festival in Zolfo Springs and low and behold a group called Cunning-Ham was performing and here were Moe Queen and sister Spider as part of that band too; I had seen them in Scattered grass a weekend before at Craig’s. Craig’s RV Resort and Campground, that caters to Bluegrass people and has a nice stage and area undercover for the audience.
As I say, all these folks seem to know each other and seem to get along well, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of ego involved here just a love of the Bluegrass music and playing same. They all play well together and fill in where they are needed or wanted. I hope to feature some interviews with some of these folks and play some of their music too. Hopefully you will catch the shows on the Airwaves or maybe on the Internet at KBEK.COM 11:00 AM on Saturdays, Central Time Zone, an hour later in the Eastern Time Zone or adjust to whatever time zone you are in.
We also spent some time on the Bluegrass Cruises with Danny Stewart. These Cruises are very affordable with an initial price point around 500.00 per person for a 5 day 4 nights Cruise to either Cozumel or Nassau. Next year he has added a third Cruise to Mexico from Long Beach, CA to Baja California also around that 500.00 price point PP. Danny always has a great line up of Bluegrass People both National and Regional. We have spent time with and interviewing Marty Raybon, the Gibson Bros, the Spinney Bros, David Parmley, Larry Stephenson, Little Roy Lewis and Lizzy Long, Nothin Fancy, and of course our own Monroe Crossing, there are more but these are just a few.
In fact, we brought our whole family on the Nassau Cruise this year. Marty Raybon so graciously helped my future son-in-law to “pop the question” to my youngest daughter during his opening set at the beginning of the Cruise. He ended the surprise with a wonderful love song dedicated to them while they were on stage with him, a complete surprise she had no clue it was coming. Marty has become such a wonderful friend over the last 5 years. As have a lot of the bands we have interviewed and come to know over the years we have been doing the show. If feels more like a Bluegrass Family, including Pastor Mike and Mary Rose Robinson who travels the Bluegrass circuit.
We hit a few of the bigger and growing festivals in Florida as well; Ernie Evans is building one in Brooksville Florida. We saw and talked to Marty Raybon as well as Gary Waldrup, Remington Ryde at Brooksville some of the other Florida bands were there too, but we could only make it for the one day. As well as a trip to Sertoma to see Blue Highway and Balsam Range. It has just been a great winter this year in Florida, it has been easier for my wife Margaret who is recovering from Ovarian Cancer surgery and the stress of Chemo Therapy. Without her support, none of this would be possible, she is my life partner and I love her to pieces.
Please check out the bands I have mentioned in this article, we will try and list their Web pages and most have Facebook pages, in any case google works well. We will post pictures and what we can on our website INSIDEBLUEGRASSRADIO.COM there is great music for you to listen to please purchase CD’s if you like what you hear. That is what supports the artists and allows them to continue to make the Bluegrass Music we all LOVE.
Tom Schuveiller, Inside Bluegrass