Tag Archives: Dale Crider

Red Henry

Red Henry

Chris, Jenny (his fiddle-playing girlfriend), and I drove down to Florida recently for the Will McLean folk music festival, and we had a great time. It was a long way for us to go, being held not far from Tampa, but it was certainly worth the drive.

The festival is named in honor of Florida's pioneering folksinger and songwriter, Will McLean. A highly individualistic and creative person known as "Florida's Black-Hat Troubadour," Will influenced many other musicians and blazed the way for the rest of us who followed after.

We arrived at the show on Friday afternoon and promptly started warming up--we had a set to play at 7:00. And the set went great. We played a mix of bluegrass and Florida Folk material, and our friend Ron Johnson posted our two-guitar harmony arrangement of Will's song "Osceloa's Last Words" on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iW-TmL-PCKE . (Red Henry and Chris Henry--guitars, Jennifer Obert--fiddle, Barbara Johnson--bass).

After performing it was time to pick, and pick we did, until late at night. On Saturday Chris and I led a well-attended mandolin workshop, playing some music and answering lots of questions, and selling a good many CDs and Murphy Method DVDs afterwards. Then we backed up our friend Dale Crider on his afternoon set for a lively crowd. There was more picking that night, and Dale showed up to sing lots of our old bluegrass favorites from when we were learning to play in the late 1960s.

On Sunday we backed Dale up on another set, and then played our own show at 2:00 on the Main Stage. We had a terrific crowd which (I say modestly) gave us a standing ovation, and then we sold some more CDs and DVDs before hitting the road. We won't get rich playing at folk festivals in Florida, but you know what? We'll be back!


P.S.-- Next shows:

Gamble Rogers Music Festival, May 1-2, St. Augustine

Florida Folk Festival, May 28-30, White Springs

Red Henry

Red Henry

Well, Folks, last time I left you with a description on playing at the Hahira bluegrass festival. (A YouTube clip of us on stage, featuring several numbers, has been posted here.)  This time, we'll talk about our Sunday concert at Dale Crider's Pithlachocco Stage on the shore of Lake Newnan near Gainesville, Florida.

"Pithlachocco?", you might ask. "What in the world does that mean?" Well, it's an old Florida Indian word meaning "the place of the long boats." Recent discoveries have revealed that Indians in ancient times made thousands of canoes on the shore of the lake. So Dale Crider, when he started his excellent concert series there, named his stage for those "long boats." It's an outdoor stage and the weather was pleasantly cool. We and the audience were all comfortable and ready for a good time.

After one or two schedule changes (never expect everything to happen on time), we kicked off our first set at about 7:00. For this show, "we" (Red and Chris and Their All-Star Band) were myself on mandolin, Chris on guitar and mandolin, Barbara Johnson on bass, and Jenny Leigh on fiddle. We'd had plenty of time for rest since our festival sets the day before, and all were ready to go.

Now, there's a big difference between playing at a bluegrass festival and performing for an audience that just likes music. We didn't play as many of our old bluegrass standards, but we put several great Florida songs and other interesting numbers into the set instead, songs like "Osceola's Last Words", "Big Jim Folsom", and other favorites from our CDs. Also, of course, the audience was much more ready to listen to stories than the bluegrass festival crowd had been, so we told them about several adventures of Clermont Hosford and others, and, as always, some of the stories were true. The people really liked all the songs and the stories, so we played and played and sold CDs and visited with the folks and had a great time.

Bob Raisler taped the entire show, and has kindly posted quite a few of our songs on YouTube. Check out several of them here. (The stage was not nearly as dark as it looks! Just tilt your computer screen until you can see us!)

. . . . .

Not many bands play both bluegrass festivals and folk-music concerts. Maybe it's because they don't enjoy both, or because they just don't have both kinds of material worked up. But we play both kinds of shows, and sure like it!


P.S. Next time: Recording with Dale on Monday!

Red HenryIn my last blog, I left you all hanging on the edge of your seats with a promise to talk about recording with Dale. Well, it was an experience we'd all looked forward to, and it was every bit as rewarding as we'd hoped. But you have to understand some things about Recording with Dale. We've recorded with him for probably 35 years, so we're used to it. But he is a very creative person, and his mind almost never works in a straight line!

Chris Henry and Dale Crider in Dale's swamp.

Chris Henry and Dale Crider in Dale's swamp.

We woke up at his house on Monday, the day we'd be recording, and Christopher had to set to work figuring out Dale's computer-based recording system. Actually, it turned out that first Chris had to figure out which of Dale's computers even had his recording program on it, and then Dale didn't know how to run the program, but Chris started working on it. So the software was in capable hands. Now, for the hardware: microphones, preamps, and the mike cords and stands.

Dale, being Dale, didn't store all his recording gear in one place. I suspect that that would be too much of a logical system. He had his microphones in one house, and his mike stands and cords at another. So he and I started off for the other house, about a quarter of a mile away, to gather that equipment.

We took Dale's cute little electric golf cart that he uses for these short trips between houses. Well, that was fine, but part way there, the golf cart started to run out of juice. Dale said, "I left it charging, but something must have gone wrong." So we turned around-- the cart barely made it back into Dale's yard-- and he said, "I'll take the truck."

Dale's truck is a beautiful, rusty, dusty, early-1950s GMC. I'd seen it sitting in Dale's yard and wondered whether it actually ran, or if he kept it around as a Scenic Ruin. We got into that vehicle and Dale said, "I wonder if it's gonna start. It's been weeks since I ran it." Well, Dale pumped the gas and turned the key, and the truck actually started! The engine roared.

Now we headed out the same way as before, along Dale's driveway out of the swamp. You have to understand that Dale's house is in a swamp. He loves the swamp. His long, narrow driveway is built right between the swamp he lives in and an old canal next to the lake. We had maybe two feet of extra space on each side before we dropped off into... well... Of course, since this is Florida, the swamp is full of water moccasins and snapping turtles, and the lake is full of alligators (there were some cute young ones visible, sunning themselves on floating logs). The trouble today was that Dale hadn't cleaned his truck windshield for several years, and we were heading right into the sun, with sharp drop-offs on each side. The sun was blinding on that dirty windshield. And if we dropped off the driveway to the left, we'd be in the swamp with those water moccasins and snapping turtles. If we dropped off to the right, we'd be in the lake with the alligators, and I didn't even want to meet one of those young ones. But Dale, who's lived there and used that driveway for almost 40 years, kept us on the road.

As we pulled into the yard of the other house, the truck's engine started to skip. Dale said, "Sounds like there's water in the gas." After he shut the engine down he decided he'd better see if it would start again, and... no luck. The engine ran for a second and stopped. "Oh," Dale said. "Looks like it's out of gas."

Jenny Obert in Dale's swamp.

Jenny Obert in Dale's swamp.

This didn't faze Dale. He simply walked back to his house and brought over his car. We loaded the mike cables and stands in the trunk, and drove back to his house. By this time, Chris had figured out how to run Dale's recording computer and was starting to set up for our recording session. Dale was short on preamps, but by experimentation and ingenuity, Chris finally got five microphones working: one each for Dale and his guitar, me and my mandolin, Chris and his lead guitar, Jenny and her fiddle, and Barbara's bass. These five channels would be plenty, with clever mixing. Chris had all this working only about two hours after he's started from scratch. Good job!

Barbara had arrived well ahead of time, so now we had everybody there and were ready to record. Dale had a stack of his original songs to go through, and started right in with some trial recordings. He and all the rest of us were in good practice from the four-day festival we'd just played, so it took no time at all to start getting good cuts.

But you need to understand some more things about Recording with Dale: for one thing, he never sings a song the same way twice. This is because he's always in a creative process. He keeps thinking of new lyrics every second, and so a new song's words change every time he sings it. And he'd never go all through a song twice the same way-- he'd never repeat the same verses, instrumental breaks, or ending--because to him there would be no point to such a boring procedure. To him, the song is all process, and the process is what's important. So, how do we record with someone like that, who won't be singing it the same way twice? We use our wits, and hang on. We stay on our toes, and arrange our parts in the song as we go, try as many takes as we need to for everything to come out right. Jenny hadn't ever recorded with Dale before, but she picked up on the system right away. And since Dale's so good at what he does, and we could all play pretty well ourselves, in a few takes each song came out great!

Christopher had the greatest challenge. He was doing the recording as well as playing lead guitar! This are usually the jobs of two or three people, but he did extremely well. Our music sounded really good in the playbacks.

We must have recorded nine or ten songs that day, running from about 11 in the morning to midnight. It was some of the best fun I've had lately. After Dale had gone through quite a few of his original songs, he had some others he wanted to record as well, and we went right through them, getting a presentable take (one that could be polished up into a CD version) in two or three takes each. When we finished up it was midnight, after all, and I sacked out so I could drive back home to Virginia the next day.

Now Dale's been sending us some of his mixes, and they're sounding Mighty Fine. Nothing like that Dale Crider Swamp-Grass! I'm already looking forward to recording with him again!

Red HenrySunday was a busy day for us at White Springs, and was going to be a long one. So, when I rolled out of the car at about 7:00, I went looking for coffee. Once that was found, it was time to wake up and get ready to play, including some picking, starting at about ten. Now, the Florida Folk Festival runs about ten stages, and we had a show to play at 1:00 at a stage called the Seminole Hut. That's not as peculiar as it sounds! The hut is a good venue with plenty of cool cover from the sun, solid cover from the rain, and a chance to play without a sound system and get close to our audience-- always a plus.

The morning was beautiful, with blue sky and not a drop of rain. Once warmups, visiting, and picking were accomplished, we all proceeded over to that Seminole hut, which is at the other end of the festival and most of a mile from the campground. The hut overlooks the grounds of the old, original Florida Folk Festival as it was in the late 1960s, when I first began going there, so I experienced in a bit of nostalgia as we arrived.

1:00 arrived, and we hit the stage-- or, rather, we stood up in front of the crowd. I like that. There's nothing quite like being close to the audience, so that the band and the listeners can really see and hear each other and trade energy. We had a packed crowd, of ages from about 9 on up. And like us, the people were ready to enjoy the show.

We started our set off with "Centerville Road", a high-energy, original mandolin tune. As we all took our breaks, the tune sounded really tight. The folks really liked it, and recognized all the instrumental breaks. A good start! Then I indulged in a few seconds of reminiscences about the great musician Chubby Anthony, the writer of the next song, and how I'd first seen him in 1968 within sight of the place we were standing, before launching into his song "Foothills of Home". Since we've been playing that one for years, it sounded good and tight.

Christopher's turn came next, and he sang his excellent number "Listen to the Lonesome Train". The crowd really liked it. Then John Hedgecoth regaled the audience with a fine rendition of "Ain't Gonna Work Tomorrow", dedicating it to our cousin Dan Buie, who was in the audience. (It was Dan's birthday.) The crowd was really warmed up and responding well. Then it was time for a fiddle tune.

In the campground we'd discovered that Bill Monroe's little-played tune "Brown County Breakdown" sounded real good when we played it, so I put it here in the show. The tune is in E and is a bit unpopular, I suspect because few people have discovered how it good it can sound when it's "tight," but the number really came together as we played it that Sunday. More great crowd response.

We had time left for two numbers and a little extra, so I informed the crowd about some exploits of our legendary hero Clermont Hosford and then sang Will McLean's song "Abraham Washington", which was written about the first execution in the State of Florida. (Don't worry, the song comes out well.) Then it was time for our finale, and we played our favorite closer, Red and Chris at the Seminole Hutthe title tune from my CD "Helton Creek". That was a good show! The people liked us, and we sold quite a few CDs afterwards. (Here's a photo from that set, showing how close we were to the audience and how they were almost in the middle of the musical action.)

After that show, on the spot, John had to leave and drive to Nashville. We wished he could have stayed, because we had some more plans for the afternoon and evening. First of all, at 4:20, our friend Dale Crider was playing a set at the River Gazebo stage, and we wanted to back him up. So shortly before that time We all went down to the river bank and sat down in the small stage building. Good thing we did! The bottom suddenly dropped out overhead, and there was an absolutely deafening rainstorm falling on the metal roof overhead. So much for hoping Sunday would be a dry day!  But Dale took the stage, with us behind him, and he carried the crowd away. First of all he sang two of his signature songs, "Mangrove Buccaneer" and "Gospel Snakes". Then, thunderstorm or not, Dale had the people all howling to his "Tallahassee Wolf" song. Good job, Dale!

Dale Crider et al at the River GazeboAfter the set the rain slacked off a bit, so we ran for the cars. The weekend wasn't over yet. Dale, Chris, Jenny, and I all drove from the festival down to Dale's house at Windsor, Florida. We had music to play the next day!


Next time: Our recording session with Dale, on Monday!

Red HenrySaturday was our biggest day at White Springs, and I'd actually had plenty of sleep--six hours or so. We all started picking---warming up for our show---by about 10:00 in the morning, because our set was scheduled for 11 on the Old Marble Stage, the festival's old, historic main stage.

The rain held off for the morning, so we ran through quite a few songs and tunes. Then, somehow, we hit on a particular Bill Monroe number called "Stoney Lonesome". Recorded by Bill in the 1950s, the tune is named after a place in Indiana, and not many people play it now. But it's an absolutely amazing number if you get it to sound right, and this weekend we had the folks to do that: John Hedgecoth, who'd played a stint on banjo for Monroe and is a national authority on Bill's old tunes; me, and I like to play Monroe stuff; Chris, who's been studying (and recording) Monroe-style tunes for years; and fiddler Jenny Leigh Obert, who's been studying Monroe and Kenny Baker, one of his great fiddlers, fanatically. So when we tried playing "Stoney Lonesome", it worked. It sounded RIGHT. Everybody was aiming in the same direction, going for an in-depth Monroe sound, with the spirit and drive Bill and his fiddlers put into the tune to begin with. So we added the number into the show.

I'd thought, when I first saw our 11:00 set time on the festival schedule, that it was way too early to draw a crowd. "Who's going to be there at 11?" ---but I was wrong! We had a big crowd, and they were very nice to us. We kicked things off with Monroe's "Toy Heart" and Chubby Anthony's "Stay Out of Your Way", and then veered into some more obscure and original material sung by Chris and John. The audience ate it up, enjoying every instrumental break. And now, it was time for "Stoney Lonesome". We played that tune for the very first time on stage, and it worked great. We finished up with "Helton Creek", and the audience really liked it all. And there wasn't a drop of rain!

After the set, we went back to the campground. Now it was time for some relaxing and more picking until 3:00, when we planned to back up our friend Dale Crider on his own set. But this weekend being the rainiest I remember lately, it started to rain. In fact, it was raining hard by about 1:00, and showed no signs of quitting at the 3:00 show time. So John, who'd brought his big van, gave us all a ride over to Dale's stage, and each of us made a mad dash to get under cover.

We were all pretty wet by the time we got under the tent and Dale started his set. The rain was coming down so fast that the sound men had to turn off the system, and we played all-acoustic. But this didn't faze Dale Crider, who's an understated but great natural showman. He simply carried on, and had the whole crowd singing along with him on Will McLean's "Hold Back the Waters" and his own "Tallahassee Wolf". The rain was pouring down a few feet away, but Dale pulled off a great success.

Chris and I had a mandolin workshop scheduled for 4:00 nearby, but as Dale's set finished we saw that the rain had really set in for a while. John carried us over to the workshop tent, and about a dozen dedicated, determined mandolin students showed up. We played a few mandolin tunes, answered a lot of questions, and tried to be heard over the downpour. I think the students learned something to take home with them, and we sold some CDs and Murphy Method DVDs. That sure helps with the gas money.

About suppertime the rain finally stopped, thank goodness. We clustered under an awning in the campground, and spent the evening talking and picking. Dale Crider, old game warden and coon-hunter that he is, regaled us with a hilarious story about "Coon Dogs A-Go-Go", an official Florida Game & Fish Department event at Daytona Beach in 1970. (No, I'm not making that up. You'll have to hear the story from Dale.) Finally we all got into some high-powered picking which went until after midnight.

It was a good day.

Red HenryA friend from our Florida days, Jinx McCall, has just sent us some remarkable photos she took between about 1977 and 1980. Here's a look at a short-lived group, the Florida Bicentennial Bluegrass Band:

Florida Bicentennial Bluegrass Band

The band was short-lived only because it existed just to commemorate the nation's Bicentennial. We performed from about 1976 to 1979.

The leader of the group was our friend Dale Crider. In the picture he's playing his fine old Gibson guitar, and no doubt singing one of his great original songs. On bass is Linda Crider, a good singer and musician, who was then married to Dale.

On mandolin and banjo you'll no doubt recognize Murphy and myself, a few years younger than we are now. We were primarily performing full-time with our own group, Red and Murphy & Co., but we took time to play any gigs that Dale had to offer. The Florida Bicentennial Bluegrass Band (like the Bicentennial itself) didn't last for many years, but we had a good time!

RedWhen you see bluegrass musicians picking, performing, and teaching, you might assume that they'd been doing so all their lives (and in our case, it actually has been most of that time). But I didn't get into bluegrass until I was 18 years old, and I just found a picture of two of the friends who helped point me in that direction. And as you might guess, this isn't a new picture. In fact, it was taken in about 1969. The two people in this photo are my uncle John Hedgecoth, with the banjo, and Dale Crider, playing his Martin guitar.

John Hedgecoth, Dale Crider

John was a few years ahead of me growing up. He'd always had musical talent, and he got into the folk and bluegrass scene in Florida in the early 1960s. Dale was a few more years ahead of both of us, but he'd been playing since he was a kid in Kentucky, and by the 1960s he'd moved to Florida and was one of the finest singer-songwriters there.

Time doesn't stand still--- not for long, anyway. Here's a photo of us performing together last year at the Gamble Rogers Folk Festival in St. Augustine:

John, Dale, Red, Chris at Gamblefest

(John Hedgecoth, Barbara Johnson, Dale Crider, me on the fiddle, and Chris Henry on mandolin)

Dale was playing one of his festival sets, and we were all backing him up. As you can see, everybody was having a good time, and our bluegrass crowd had spread to include members of the younger generation. Now, when you've played music with someone for over 40 years, you might think you'll have them figured out. But not with Dale and John! They both keep coming up with musical surprises.

We can all take a lesson from that. Once you know a tune, learn another one. Keep learning. Keep picking your old tunes, and figure out new ways to play them. Keep your musical mind active, instead of getting in a rut. That's how to play real music!