Re: [Harp-L] Bluegrass Harmonica
I know a guy who was a Bluegrass Boy. He used to play square dances with my grandfather back in the 1950s. His name is Bill Duncan. He became a member of Bill Monroe's Bluegrass Boys in 1960, when he replaced Porter Church on guitar.
He tells me that he never had any problems with Bill whatsoever, except this time Monroe broke a string on chance. Bill D. wanted to help out, so he replaced it. Monroe sat down, got the F5 out, took the A string out of the envelope, carefully unfurled it, laid the string across his lap. It was like a ritual. Then Monroe goes to take off the string and realizes there is a new string on it. Fire brews in Monroe's eyes, looks up and yells "who the g...d..mn hell's been messing with my mandolin!?!?!?!"
Musically, Duncan never had any negative comments from Bill. I got the impression they had complete musical freedom. But, Bill Duncan was already an acomplished and talented musician, he was the lead singer for the Harmony Mountain Boys, they were big and he was a regular on Ernest Tubb's radio show.
He does tell this story about how he, Bill Duncan, was talking to George Jones, who was just offstage, when they were onstage at the Grand Ol Opry. Bill kicked off a song in Bb, Bill Duncan quickly slaps on a capo, but does so on the wrong fret and now the guitar is in key B. Monroe picks up on this quickly, changes key. Kenny Baker fiddles his part in Bb like it's supposed to be. After the show, you know, this is the Grand Ol Opry, Duncan figures he's in for it. But Monroe was cool with it. Those things happen. He wasn't cool with Baker, and gave him a chewing out. He told Baker "I pay you to be world class musicians, when that guitar kicks off in B, you better fiddle in B."
The real reason Duncan didn't stay a bluegrass boy was money. He could make a lot more at whatever plant he was working at, so he did.
For obligatory harp content... I was playing music over at Bill Duncan's house. I was playing mandolin, because here I was playing with an actual Bluegrass Boy. A REAL bluegrass boy, who played on stage at the Opry with Bill Monroe. I was really nervous about playing harmonica - I was younger then. I played the mandolin for a while, Duncan finally looks over at me and says "Why don't you hand me that mandolin and blow on them harps for a while."
I bring up that moment anytime I hear flack from bluegrass police about harmonicas. Actually, I probably only bring it up on this list, because I have never had any trouble about harmonicas at bluegrass jams. I think I only actually have to bring it up when people talk about bluegrass police hating harmonicas... In all my years of playing bluegrass, my experience with harmonica-hating bluegrass people has been the same as my experience with Bigfoot - I have heard people talking about them, but never actually seen one.
From: Cara Cooke <cyberharp@xxxxxxxxx>
To: harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx; Bluegrass Harp list <bluegrassharp@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 12:12 PM
Subject: Re: [Harp-L] Bluegrass Harmonica
Bill Monroe's point of view was 'I employ you, so you do as I say. I am
the leader of the band'. He was responsible for training up a great many
wonderful bluegrass musicians. He had focus on what he wanted and, through
his determination toward that goal, he taught a lot of young, talented
musicians how to be better than they were when they first started working
for him. He essentially operated a boot camp for future bluegrass
legends. It was an honor to be asked to be a Bluegrass Boy, and it was an
opportunity to put your future on track, even if Bill had hired you to play
some instrument other than the one you wanted to play. With "Bluegrass
Boy" on your resume', you often got audience and opportunity. However,
Bill was a hard drill sergeant. Many young players didn't make it through
their first year. The opportunity to work for Bill always netted a good
result somewhere along the line, though.
Bill's point of view was not unique in music or business, so if Vassar
insisted on playing what Bill didn't want him to play, I expect he was
fired. He was not the first or the last to be in that situation.
On Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 8:05 AM, Bart van Strien <knuppel@xxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> I agree, but nah ... Monroe probably couldn't
> Although he did manage so see the crazy energy in Earl's picking in the
> early early very first live gigs. The MC's would just announce the band as
> 'Bill & Earl'. I bet he didn't like that very much either. But hey, I'm
> just guessing
> "harmonica is not a bluegrass-instrument ...." => So f***** what?
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Richard Hunter" <
> To: "Bart van Strien" <knuppel@xxxxxxxxx>; <harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx>
> Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2012 2:50 PM
> Subject: Re: [Harp-L] Bluegrass Harmonica
> well, for sure he does! But isn't that wonderful? Surely Mr. Monroe
>> could have figured out how to use all that crazy energy...
>> Regards, RH
>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: Bart van Strien <knuppel@xxxxxxxxx>
>>> Sent: Dec 19, 2012 8:38 AM
>>> To: Richard Hunter <turtlehill@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx
>>> Subject: Re: [Harp-L] Bluegrass Harmonica
>>> Funny story bout Clements
>>> But ... knowing Clements fiddle playing, I bet that it was a bit more
>>> just one chord he played different. Sometimes he tends to really get
>>> way out there .. ;-)
>>> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Richard Hunter" <
>>> To: <harp-l@xxxxxxxxxx>
>>> Sent: Monday, December 17, 2012 6:52 PM
>>> Subject: Re: [Harp-L] Bluegrass Harmonica
>>> eskeene@xxxxxxxx wrote:
>>>> I heard a possibly apocryphal story about Vassar
>>>>> Clements playing a 6th chord on the fiddle while performing with
>>>>>> Monroe turned to him and said, "That note isn't in this song", to
>>>>>> Vassar replied, "Well it is now."-whereupon Monroe fired him on the
>>>>>> saying, "It may be, but you're not."
>>>> My bet is that Monroe needed Clements more than Clements needed Monroe.
>>>> Regards, Richard Hunter
>>>> author, "Jazz Harp"
>>>> latest mp3s and harmonica blog at http://hunterharp.com
>>>> Myspace http://myspace.com/**richardhunterharp<http://myspace.com/richardhunterharp>
>>>> Vids at http://www.youtube.com/user/**lightninrick<http://www.youtube.com/user/lightninrick>
>>>> more mp3s at http://taxi.com/rhunter
>>>> Twitter: lightninrick
>> author, "Jazz Harp"
>> latest mp3s and harmonica blog at http://hunterharp.com
>> Myspace http://myspace.com/**richardhunterharp<http://myspace.com/richardhunterharp>
>> Vids at http://www.youtube.com/user/**lightninrick<http://www.youtube.com/user/lightninrick>
>> more mp3s at http://taxi.com/rhunter
>> Twitter: lightninrick
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