Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mickey Davis' Family Music History Spans 100 Years!

Fiddler Mickey Davis' Family Music History Spans 100 Years!

        Mickey Davis, of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Alabama, passed on this week to join that Angel Band. We will not focus on that event here, but rather we will show you photos and newspaper articles sent to us by friends of Mickey's who wanted to share them with the world of bluegrass music. From the days of the Champagnolle String Band of the '20s and '30s, to the Chitlin' Switch Roadrunners of the early '50s, to the Smithsonian National Fiddle Championship in '74, the musical Davis family has been right there!
       In more recent times, there were school demonstrations with Mickey showing youngsters how a fiddle works. There was the band known as Bluegrass Kun-Tree, which later changed their name to Union Kun-Tree,a celebration of the induction of Governor Mike Huckabee (R-AR), and even an introduction to President Ronald Reagan. Get this...Mickey went on to Mississippi to join the Jackson Symphony Orchestra! His "fiddle" became a "violin" at that point. Mickey and his pickin' family and friends have hung out with some pretty fancy folks. We think you will enjoy seeing some of the pictures from Mickey Davis' amazing life in music. I said ages and ages ago that Mickey's was the sweetest fiddle I ever heard. I'm sticking with that statement today.

*NOTE: The Pipeline Employees picnic photo and the Steps of the Arkansas Capitol Building photo--Both are split for some reason. Use the bar below to manipulate left to right and right to left. I apologize for that problem.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Few Years Ago and Even Today with Janis Ian, GRAMMY winner for Spoken Word Album of the Year!

"I learned the truth at seventeen / That love was meant for beauty queens / And high school girls with clear-skinned smiles / Who married young and then retired" -- by Janis Ian
       Janis Ian spoke the truth about teen angst in 1975, when her classic "Between the Lines" came out on Columbia Records. That same yearning still happens today, as young women search to find themselves and that perfect someone out there. . .somewhere. Good luck with that, girls.
       When I realized that Janis was going to be signing her book, Society's Child, at Parnassus Books, I knew exactly what my next move would be. I had to find the album in my collection and take it with me to ask her to sign it (the signature is on the brim of her hat). She was so kind and gracious to everyone who had bought her book, and to a few of us who still had that thirty-eight year old album. 
       Janis Ian had a painful sense of right and wrong even as a very young woman. She had somehow survived the turmoil of the Sixties and early Seventies. I am reading her book, and there are a bunch of folks I would like to sock right in the nose even today. She didn't sock anyone in the nose, but she stood her ground and made her way all the way to the present time. What an amazing woman! 
       Thank you, Janis, for your music, your book, the signatures, and the time you spent with me and my friends! Who could resist your wonderful smile?
        CONGRATULATIONS! Janis Ian takes the 2013 GRAMMY for the Spoken Word Album of the Year!

       For more information about Janis Ian and her career:

Meeting Janis Ian (Society's Child) was a wonderful experience!

Betty, Janis, and the Randy Cannon family are a force to be reckoned with!

Claire Lynch Band Fills BPACC to the Brim

Claire Lynch on her Gallagher guitar--photo by Lee Cagle
       Claire Lynch and the Claire Lynch Band are drawing rave reviews and filling venues as never before! Claire recently found time in her busy schedule to play the Bartlett Performing Arts & Conference Center (BPACC), Bartlett, TN, for the first time in a long time. She had been a regular during the days of the Lucy Opry at Harvester Lane and at BPACC for many years. Claire was back! It was a sell-out with a waiting list. Fans were more than welcoming! She brought along her band, three of the most talented vocal and instrumental musicians working in bluegrass music today. MATT WINGATE plays guitar, mandolin, and bouzouki with extraordinary ease. His vocal harmonies fit perfectly with Claire's voice. BRYAN McDOWELL plays fiddle and mandolin and has the awards and accolades to prove it. Again, his voice is a good fit with Claire's voice. MARK SCHATZ is the upright bass player, and what a bass player he is. He describes himself as one who sings and plays bass and body. The body comes in when he hambones and does a little buck-dancing with Claire. Did I mention that Mark also sings? Yep!
       Find out more about the projects and schedule for the Claire Lynch Band at

Bryan and Mark hangin' out together
Band backing Claire and Mark in a hot little buck-dancing number

Claire and Matt after a great show at BPACC
Bryan goin' after that fiddle as the band assists

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

From South Africa to Southwest Memphis = Graceland


     January 8, 2013 may not ring a particularly loud bell with you; however, it's today, and it's the 78th anniversary of the birth of  The King of Rock-n-Roll. Yes, Elvis Presley would be 78 years old today!
Can you even envision it? Throngs are gathered to light candles, eat birthday cake (legend has it that Elvis loved birthday cake, and he preferred them to be home-made birthday cakes), and buy Sharpie(r) pens to write upon the walls surrounding Graceland. They do it every year--twice a year! They will repeat the same scenario on August 16, 2013, except with flowers, rather than birthday cake. And Elvis Aron Presley will have been gone 36 years by then.

     Over this past weekend, I had the chance to watch Paul Simon's "Graceland: Under African Skies" on public television. It's the 25th anniversary of that incredible creation. It was a moving, life-changing event just to watch it on television. Paul Simon and black South Africans took their lives in their very hands to create the music and the resulting videos. Just imagine Ladysmith Black Mombaso, Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, and others, working hand-in-hand with Paul Simon to tell the story of apartheid and what a little freedom can do. Trust me when I say that it's a long, long way from the 1960's and the music of Simon & Garfunkel.

     I didn't know Paul Simon's version of "Graceland," and I sadly confess that I hardly know the Graceland that is maybe 45 minutes from me. The two Gracelands are no doubt linked together by music and their extreme ways of life. I need to see the "Graceland" DVD and hear the music on CD again, so I have ordered it as a set. Not cheap, no. But worth it to have such a moving experience again. I really can't believe what I saw and heard, so I expect to enjoy it all over again, maybe even more this time.

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     I was wide-awake after seeing "Graceland: Under African Skies" (who could sleep after that?), so I hung around the TV to see what Sunday morning's "Song of the Mountains" from the Lincoln Theatre in Marion, VA, had to offer at 4:00 AM. Tim White's wonderful production featured our own West Tennessean, Jimmy Fortune, of the world-renowned Statler Brothers. Jimmy Fortune can often be seen in Jackson, TN, at their Thursday evening jam at the Railroad Museum of the Old Country Store, and his performance on "Song of the Mountains" was mighty fine!

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     Rest in Peace: Music Highway Crossroads at Exit 80A, just off I-40 in Jackson, TN. The famous little hang-out for bluegrass, blues, old-time, and rock-a-billy musicians, suddenly closed during the last few days of December 2012. Head music-maker, Steve Patterson, just had a way of drawing folks together for pickin' and a cold Coke in a glass bottle! The great and the near-great had appeared at Music Highway Crossroads over time. We're sad to see it go! If the photo appears out-of-focus, so are we! Sniff!

"Turn out the lights--the party's over!"

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Year's Eve and Old-Time Music in Carthage, TN

 Grand Dame of Carthage: Fite, Ligon, Westmoreland, Ingram Home of 150+ years
     What's this about a bunch gettin' together in Carthage, TN, and bringin' in the New Year with a little old-time pickin'? Y'ain't kiddin', are ya? Naw, I ain't kiddin'! Jes' come on soon's ya can!

      Time moves too slowly for some in Smith County, TN, and a little too fast for others. Either way, the Cumberland River keeps on rollin', the chimes at the Baptist Church keep on chiming, and old-time pickers keep on a-pickin'.

      The Gallinippers ripped it wide open all night and clean into New Year's Day, along with their pickin' pals. They know more old-time tunes than anybody else I know!
Settin' the Strings on Fire
A Real Parlor Pickin'

Brief Pause for a Photo Op
Nobody parks a hat here but the Chief  Gallinipper

Load up and hang on for  Sutton's  Store in Granville
Chief & Miz Gallinipper