A Musical Memory

RedIf you're interested in bluegrass trivia, I was looking through some old photos and came across this one from 1987, which shows me as a temporary member (for one set) of the Johnson Mountain Boys. Band personnel are (l-r): Richard Underwood (banjo), Earl Phillips (bass), David McLaughlin (mandolin), myself on guitar, and Eddie Stubbs (fiddle). (Click on the picture for a larger version.)

Red with JMB

You might ask how a member of one band could get mixed in with another, but in this case it was simple. David's father, a scientist, had hired the JMBs to play at a big party he was putting on at a professional meeting. The boys asked me to provide the sound system. So that afternoon, I loaded up our sound equipment. I thought about putting in an instrument, but decided that I wouldn't have a chance to play it and it was just too much stuff to bring. So I drove to party site a couple of hours away, over in the DC area, and got everything set up for the band.

The JMBs' first set went well, but Dudley Connell, their incredible lead singer, had a sore throat and wanted to sit out the rest of the evening. So the boys asked me to play guitar and do some singing. Trouble was, I hadn't brought my guitar, so I had to use Dudley's. It was a really good guitar, but... Dudley was a lot less big around than I was, so the strap was really short. The guitar hung on me up about six or eight inches higher than I was used to playing it! But "The show must go on," as they say, so I played Dudley's guitar and sang.

In this photo, Cousin David and I are belting out some three-chord bluegrass standard. The audience was all partying and not paying too much attention to the band, but we had a good time. And I learned a lesson: When doing sound at a show, at least TAKE A GUITAR!