Mountain Music's 2008 Journal
February 2008, Nashville, TN
We left Old Forge on Wednesday, January 30th, heading for Nashville and our first SPBGMA (Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music of America) convention. After driving through some of the worst lake effect snow we have seen (they even closed down the NYS Thruway), we finally arrived at our favorite restaurant, Vittorio's in Wickliffe, Ohio and after a great meal we went on to the Hampton Inn in South Columbus, Ohio for a good night's sleep. Checked into the "Sheraton Music City Hotel" in Nashville at 6:30PM Thursday and got settled in. After a great buffet dinner , including turnip greens, hush puppies, meatloaf w/mashed potatoes & gravy with red cake for dessert, we did a quick once around to get oriented. We hung out in the lobby for awhile to check out a few jam sessions and then stopped by the expo hall and said hi to Team Martin. (see "first Impressions") Friday was spent at the Trade Show. We had the opportunity to visit with our friends from C.F.Martin, Deering, & Saga. We also met some nice folks from Darrell's Banjo Shop, Darrell & Juanita McCumbers. They have an impressive inventory of classic vintage instruments at very fair prices. We ran into the Lindsey family, ex-upstate New Yorkers, who now live in Kentucky. They just bought their first "Band Bus" ~ congratulations are in order. We also got to see the Piccininnis from upstate NY ~ Nick has a "New Look". He is very busy playing with the Delaneys and his own band, Blue Lightning as well as working on his first solo album. Friday evening we grabbed a cab and went over to Darfons for dinner. It's a really neat, trendy restaurant with great service, good food, and a pleasant ambiance. Our wait person, Taylor, was attentive and helpful. Izzie had the Strip Steak & BBQ Ribs with a baked potato and Al had New Zealand Lamb Chops with Rice. We both enjoyed the Merlot that Taylor recommended. After dinner we went back to the hotel to catch some of the evening showcase performances ~ Wow! what a night! First we were treated to Phil Ledbetter's great new band, Grasstowne. Next it was the Country Gentlemen, followed by the Larry Stephenson Band. Then JD Crowe & The New South and finally Ronnie Reno & The Reno Tradition. What an evening ~ a great setting, super sound, and absolutely fabulous performances by some of the finest in the business! At the end of the evening I could not help making some mental comparisons to many IBMA showcase performances we have attended over the years. The first impression I felt was the sense of respect the audience displayed to the musicians and to the music. There was a serious attentiveness and an obvious understanding of the significance of what they were a part of ~ almost a reverence, but also a critical understanding of the music and the performances they were watching. There were other interesting observations I couldn't help noting. Things like the fact that the auditorium and the stage were well lit. The sound was outstanding and the sound people were on top of it! What a treat! I have had to walk out of IBMA showcases because the sound was so bad. And finally, I believe the musicians really connected with their audience and played at their very best. I have heard all of the bands I listened to this evening, but have never seen them play as well as the did in this venue. SPBGMA is doing something very right. We started the day Saturday with another hardy southern breakfast. Izzie had fresh fruit, scrambled eggs, sausage, french toast, & a bagel with cream cheese. Al had scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, and biscuits & gravy! After recovering from breakfast we went down to the Plantation Ballroom to watch the 2nd Round of the International Band Championship. Fifteen bands made it into the final round ~ including The Lindsey Family, and they ended up as one of the winners, walking off with 9th place and a cash prize of $200.00! Its always exciting to see folks you know do so well (see photos). Sunday morning we were up early and after another Tennessee Breakfast we were on the road to Harrisonburg, Virginia for the night. After an 8 hour drive we arrived at the Hampton Inn in Harrisonburg. We had dinner at "L'Italia" a very pleasant little Italian restaurant, just down the road from our motel. We discovered that our waitress, Ashley, is a Junior at James Madison University majoring in Special Education. Bright and early Monday we hit the road for Nazareth, Pa. for an afternoon at C.F. Martin Guitar. (see photos) We were greeted by Cassandra Frantz, company receptionist, who has been a Martin employee for over 36 years! She had placed our name on the company Welcome Board that is at the main entrance to the lobby. Sherry Schoonmaker, our inside rep, welcomed us and introduced us to Keith Marsh, currently the Staffing Manager for C.F. Martin, who gave us a private tour of the factory. Keith has also been with the company for many years and has worked in almost all production areas in the factory. He was a fabulous tour guide ~ full of information about all the new applications of technology Martin has introduced. He knows the history, the products, and has an intimate knowledge of changes in production methods the company has adopted over the years. If you haven't taken the Martin Factory Tour in recently, I would recommend you visit them soon to see all the changes. Be sure to save several hours to go through the new Martin Museum and the 1833 Shop. We want to thank our Sales Rep., Ralph Chreiman; Bob Fehr, head of the Custom Shop; Keith Marsh, our tour guide; and Sherry Schoonmaker & Cassandra Frantz for making our visit so memorable. After a good night's sleep at the Hampton Inn in Clark's Summit, Pennsylvania, we headed back to our home in Old Forge, NY on Tuesday morning.