Ever since getting the idea and wanting to start a regular correspondance (blog) with Bluegrass friends and acquaintances, I see that other folks have a “title” for their blog. So borrowing an idea from an old friend, Mitch Scott, I’ll name this blog “The Warrior’s Path”. Many of our friends will remember Mitch as being, not only a Warrior River Boy, but a partner with me for the first ten years of our travels, 1984 through 1994. We started a “Fan Club” for a few years back in the 90’s and we used “The Warrior’s Path” as the title for the Fan Club Newsletter. I found a few of the old newsletters
recently while going through some stuff and really enjoyed reading them, they were really good, imHo ! We had a great Fan Club president and she did a great job, Shirley Clark was her name, she lived in Virginia and was a great help to the Band handling that time-consuming job. Her job re-located her and she had to give up the fan club chores, and sadly, the fan club, too.
“The Warrior’s Path” does seem a perfect title, it has been “a
long and winding road”, as they say, with so many fun, funny, scary, humbling, exciting, tiring, and every other adjective you can think of, situations imaginable. Around twenty seven years and closing in on two million miles of travelling here and there, mostly there !, and still being Blessed to have the health and opportunity to still be at it! I noticed on my Facebook page this evening a friend’s post and picture showing The Bear Bridge Band and the WRB’s playing a finale together at the Weston Playhouse in Weston, VT. back in 1994. It brought back really great memories, I remember how the Town Square looked in Weston, that beautiful old Theatre with it’s balcony and how good the music sounded in that room, how we’d met the gentleman, Fernan Parker, who would book us regularly at the Playhouse for the next number of years and always package us with the Bear Bridge Band,
Robert, Lillian, Tex and Dave, some of our oldest and dearest friends.
The old theatre would fill up with great crowds each year. Every time I see an old friend, see a old photo, I think of things that happened at that time, place, etc. Weston was the first show we ever played with Bill Sage, he played fiddle with us at Weston in early 1995. I got some pictures from that show. But the back story about Bill working with us that day is an interesting one I’d love to share. We had just lost a four year member, Tommy Chapman, on fiddle. Tommy and his wife were expecting they’re first child and he really needed to be at home more than he had been in the previous four years. During the late eighties, we were having the opportunity to travel and work just about all the time and we were doing everything we could to establish ourselves in the business. Performing in 35 states and travelling seventy five thousand miles per year were par for the course, and by the 1990’s , we were continuing at that pace and were fortunate enough to have our music recorded and distributed by the largest independent record label in the business, Rounder Records, of Cambridge, MA. We had recorded our second Rounder project in Sturbridge, MA. a few months earlier, at Longview Farm (another great story for another time), the record was out and doing well, it wasn’t the best of times to replace a fiddle player. Tommy had been in the band around four years and certainly was a favorite to the crowds we played . So, we’re going to Weston, VT. and need a fiddle player on real short notice. I call my buddy in Lanesboro, MA., Robert Fraker, who works in the Bear Bridge Band, and ask him does he know any fiddlers up in that part of country that might could do the date with us, Robert says; “I
know a guy that plays your style and could come in cold and make yall “like it”, and that would be Bill Sage. We knew of Bill, we knew that he had a long history working with the best of the Baltimore, MD.
Bluegrass scene in the 1960’s, had worked as a Bluegrass Boy in the early sixties with Bill Monroe, had worked with Red Allen on the Wheeling Jamboree, had been a member of Del McCoury’s early Dixie Pals, had played fiddle on Del’s “High On A Mountain” record (a killer recording !), and was now a member of White Mountain Bluegrass Band (a very popular and a crowd favorite in The New England States and
to overseas Bluegrass audiences) for the last few years.
Robert said he would call Bill and see if he could fill-in with us
on the date. Well, long story shorter, Bill was able to do the date with us, and Rob was right, Bill definitely made us “like it”. I remember Mitch saying after the show, “I’ve never heard or played ‘Fire On The Mountain’ THAT fast” (the band exhales Ditto!). Bill came into the band as a regular member a few months after that date and worked with us for around the next six years. He was a great fellow and musician, we had countless fun experiences together for the next few years. Bill was a part of many of the Ray Davis “Basement Recordings” that we would do in the mid-to-late nineties. We have some recordings that Marty Hays and I did with Bill, Lloyd Douglas and Tommy Freeman, (the writer of “Today’s The Day I Get My Gold watch and Chain”, “The Brambles, Briars and Me”, “Tennessee Line”) in the late 1990’s in a Cullman, AL. studio that I’ve never got around to mixing and releasing. I hope to in the near future !
The first couple of trips we made to the West Coast and western Canada were in the late 1990’s when Bill was a bandmember and they seemed to be heavy-laden with vehicle breakdowns, (we missed our first- ever California date due to breakdowns and bad weather, OH WHAT A WILD STORY THAT WAS). We had started this tour in Memphis with icey roads, then to southeastern Louisiana with a breakdown, an older gentleman at the show got us going again (I just saw the man last month when we were in Louisiana, he said ‘Do you remember me?”, I said “I sure do, you got us back on the road a long time ago”.) Next to Houstan, TX, where the weather and roads had gotten bad, so we creep to West Texas and the weather is so bad the police block the interstate, we chose I-10 West to get to California in January because we thought it being the southern most route west, the weather would be good, WRONG! So now we’re sitting at a truck stop for a day listening to the radio, wondering if we can make California. We hear a trucker say we can go on a two-lane north of I-10 for a number of miles and get back on the interstate further west.”Go west, young man” was calling, so we took it real slow (Bill always drove when the roads were bad, he was THE BEST on ice) on the two-lane and finally got back on the interstate heading west. The roads looked good and we were starting to make good time again and was getting across New Mexico when our ride “just died like you had pulled the plug”. WOULD NOT crank, we were sitting on the side of the road somewhere in New Mexico, with that….”if it weren’t for bad luck, we’d have no luck at all, kind of feeling”(LONESOME)”, so we get in touch with a tow truck, he comes and gets us, tows us to the next town (his town, his garage and his motel, and we’re NOT talkin’ The Hilton), we get some rooms, call the first California date’s promoter, tell him our troubles and that we won’t be able to make the first date, go across the street to the restaurant and have some supper. You know how certain feelings you have at certain times , you never forget. Sitting in that restaurant in New Mexico with Randy Lindley that night looking out that window is engrained in my mind and memory as one of the worst road memories and helpless feelings that I had ever had (at least up to that time,LOL). Nothing but trouble and weather stress from Memphis to New Mexico, we’re going to miss the first California date and we’re not Real sure when we’re going to be gettin’ outta here. As I said, the tow man had a garage in town and he told us his son was a great mechanic, fresh out of jail with a new attitude and would start working on our ride in the morning. “OK, sounds good!” we say and head to the room. We get up early the next morning and walk over to the garage, hoping for brighter news to start the day, and sure enough, there’s the man’s son standing in front of the van with what looked to be every conceivable part that WAS under the hood and a good many parts from underneath lying on the garage floor. We look at him (and he don’t look like the type of fellow that should be OR would ever have had the burning desire to excell in the customer service business, or any other legitimate vocation, OK!), he looks at us, lights a cigarette, and says “I can’t fix this thing!, your gonna have to get my old man (solidified my initial hunch of their tight and loving Father-Son relationship) to tow you to Phoenix (Arizona, that is) to a Ford Dealership. We look back down at the pile of parts on the floor that once was our van and say, “Sounds good, Sir ! Thanks for giving it a shot, we’ll just throw these old parts in the van. Is Daddy up yet? Oh, by the way, is that “Helter Skelter” playing on your boom box?” (just kidding about the song, just wanted you to get the mental picture).
Hey Everybody, This one is getting epic-like, I’ll post for now and continue with the rest of this mini nightmare (I mean adventure !) in a few ! Hope you’re enjoying the blogs, would love to hear you’re comments. Best for now, David