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Blue Ridge Mountains

Byron On August - 1 - 2012

Well, here we are in Elkins, W. Va. at Augusta Heritage’s Bluegrass Week.   We stopped in Lexington, Ky. to visit with the owners of the Old Town Violin Shop to see if they had anything I needed.  We did manage to do some trading before we got back on the road.

Davis & Elkins College sits among the Blue Ridge Mtns. above the town of Elkins, and their Augusta Heritage Foundation hosts 7 weeks of camps during the summer months.  Bette and I were here last year and agreed to return if John Rossbach found time for me to get in some golf.  John asked me to teach some intermediate fiddle classes, while fellow fiddler Darol Anger is teaching the advanced students.  We enjoy picking some together as well.

On Tuesday Doyle Lawson appeared as a special guest.  John arranged a very interesting sit-down interview with the week’s special guest, an informative and inspirational time for the students, after which Bill Emerson, Carl Jackson and I joined Doyle on stage for some good old bluegrass pickin’.  Wednesday afternoon Carl and I played a round at the local golf course.  Thursday evening is a public concert performed by all the camp’s teaching staff.  We really enjoy this opportunity to pick with each other.


On Saturday, Bette and I will drive to Asheville, N.C. to the campus of Swannanoa College for another week of teaching fiddle at their camp.  I am looking forward to joining up with old friend and fellow Country Gazette member, Alan Munde, among others.  This will be my first time at Swannanoa, so I really don’t know what to expect, but I have already checked out nearby golf courses.

End of our West Coast trip

Byron On July - 22 - 2012

Well, I last left you in Port Townsend, Wa.  Bette and I had a leisurely drive south thru the state, a wonderful evening with the Allan and Carol Jobe (our neighbors back home) and their friends, and an early start the following morning into Portland, Or.  We stopped first at the Violin Shop of Greg Kerr.  It was a beautiful place and I found a really wonderful French violin that Greg was happy to do some trading for.  It has an amazing tone and I just fell in love with it.  We went on into downtown Portland to see the Apple Music stores.  I say “stores” because it was 3 in 1.  There was a large electric store front, a medium acoustic store front, and a small percussion shop in between.  Wow! there must have been 1000 guitars in the electric side.  I’ve never seen so many in one place!  The acoustic store was really nice too, and had some nice vintage instruments, but I had run out of things to trade and room in the van.  So we left Portland behind and began the long drive back home to Guthrie.

On the way we stopped and picked 5# of cherries, visited Dave and Mary Daley in Boise, Idaho, stopped to see Peter Prier in Salt Lake City, had brunch with Bret and Tasha Jones in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and finally drove in our driveway just after dark Wednesday evening.  We met Dave Daley at the Fiddle Tunes week in Port Townsend and he invited us to spend the evening at their home if it worked out.  It did — we drove in to Boise about 7pm Monday evening.  Remember, I had picked up that nice French fiddle in Cheyenne, Wy. that Peter Prier or one of his luthiers had repaired.  I was hoping I could catch him in his shop Tuesday to get his assessment of the violin.  He was there and we had a really nice visit.  Stopped also in SLC at Intermountain Guitars to visit briefly with Leo and Kennard.  Mid-morning Wednesday we met Bret and Tasha in Cheyenne for a quick catch-up.  Bret had served as Guthrie’s City Manager for several years and Tasha had been the event coordinator for the bluegrass festival.  Their twin daughters had just been married in a double ceremony, and Bret is hard at work as the state’s budget director.  It was really good to see them again, and it was good to get back home, too.

I played my new French fiddle from Greg Kerr’s shop at our following Saturday evening show, and really loved it.  We had a full crowd and only about 8 folks admitted to being from Guthrie.  We really appreciate everyone who enjoys coming up to hear us play around and cut-up.  There’s lots of that!  The next journey is to the Edgewood Music Festival just outside Albuquerque next weekend, followed by a couple of weeks at music camps in W. Va. and N. C.  Until then …..


With Peter Prier in his workshop.

A week of Fiddle Tunes

Byron On July - 8 - 2012

We arrived in Port Townsend mid-afternoon on Thursday and found Fort Worden, where they were currently holding “voice tunes” week.  “Fiddle tunes” would follow and that was where I was scheduled to teach.

Since we were but a ferry ride from Victoria, Bette and I grabbed our passports and spent the day in that beautiful city and their famous Buchart Gardens.  The following day we took a car ferry to Seattle and visited three very different music shops: David Stone Violins, Dusty Strings, and Emerald Guitars.  A nice full day there.

Sunday I played golf nearby then we moved from the barracks to Officer’s housing for “fiddle tunes” week; met our housemates, Nancy and Terry Katz, Paul and Claudia Anastasio, and Tina Pilione (Cajun accordian).   The camp sold out, approximately 400 fiddlers, and the main emphasis was more toward Cajun and old-time (mountain or Appalachian) fiddling.  At the evening’s orientation I realized I was the only bluegrass fiddler here. They also had teachers from Irish, Celtic, Mexican, and French-Canadian styles.  I had 50-60 students in my first Monday morning class which dwindled some as the week wore on.

Every evening they had Showcase Concerts where the staff performed 5-6 tunes for the campers.  I was scheduled for Wednesday evening, July 4th and by then I had found some terrific pickers to join me in a bluegrass band: Nancy Katz on bass, Rich Levine and Eric Thompson, rhythm and lead guitars, and Craig Korth, banjo.  Afterwards there was an amazing fireworks show from the beach which Bette and I watched from our bedroom window.

Dos Okies

Dos Okies owner Larry and I on my birthday.

Friday was my birthday and I received calls and emails from lots of folks during the day.  The camp was having Cajun food and dance in the early evening, so Bette and I drove to town to have some BBQ at Dos Okies and met Larry, originally from Watonga and an OU grad.  Had some guys (and gals) join me later to play for the Square Dance from 10pm to midnight.  My Band Lab class performed, along with all the others, Saturday morning and did a fine job.  I was scheduled for the big public performance in the Pavillion (built for a blimp) on Saturday afternoon.  Again I coerced my bluegrass band to help me: Nancy, Rich, Eric and Craig.  What fun we had and made some fine music as well.  Bette and I have met lots of really nice folks, done some great picking and had a wonderful time. 


Nancy Katz on bass, Rich Levine and Eric Thompson, rhythm and lead guitars, and Craig Korth, banjo

Bozeman, Montana

Byron On July - 7 - 2012

Next stop on our trip was a visit with friends in Bozeman, Mt.  We stopped in at Music Villa, a very nice shop with a great selection of both acoustic and electric instruments.  Called old friend, Larry Barnwell, who came downtown to lead us to his home.  He and Debi had graciously offered to put us up for the night, and asked if we would allow him to invite some friends over for a jam session.  That sounded wonderful to us.

I met Larry in the early 1970s when he was picking with the Monroe Doctrine band.  Then he moved on to build instruments for Gibson with Steve Carlson and Bruce Weber.  The facility was located there in Bozeman.  Steve’s company, Flatiron, was bought by Gibson who decided in the 90’s to move the mandolin making division to Nashville.  None of them wanted to move to Tennessee, so Steve and Bruce each started their own company and Larry became a traveling rep for Gibson.  He subsequently moved over to the Martin company and has been a very successful rep for them for the last 13-14 years.  All that to explain a little about these long-time good friends of ours who live in this area.

Larry and Debi had invited several of their picker friends who were interested in jamming with me: Ray and Nancy Padilla, Mike Parsons, John Lowell, Mike Singer, Lisa Barrett and Steve Carlson  The evening was beautiful, picked on the back porch until the sun went down, then moved to the living room.  No one wanted to leave, but it was a Tuesday, and Wednesday was a work day.  I guess it all broke up about midnight.

The following morning Bette and I, Larry and Debi and their dog, Reuben, took a brisk walk up on the ridge overlooking the city.  What a great way to start the day! It was a really beautiful morning, crisp and clear, but we could see the smoke drifting in from the fires to the south.  Larry then lead us to Steve who gave us a tour of his latest venture — part making. He  also has just bought Zeta violins, and is working hard to get them back up and running.  Wow, we were impressed with his knowledge and his enthusiasm!  Great tour, great ideas, great business.

Steve Carlson

Steve Carlson with Bette and I.


We left there, drove about 12 more miles and stopped at Bruce and Mary’s shop where they have been making Weber mandolins for quite some time now.  I had called Bruce a couple of weeks ago, and he disappointedly said he wouldn’t be in town, but that his son would show us all around.  We pulled up into the driveway of the old schoolhouse where the business in housed, and Bruce was standing outside — as if he had been waiting on us.  Seems he changed his plans at the last minute, and we were delighted to be shown all around by the owner himself.  We had another great tour of his facility, even saw the mandolin-in-process I had ordered.  We spent far longer in the Bozeman area than we had planned, but we had such a good time that it was really worth it.