A sweeping success

Performing on the road has its great moments and even a few that are less great. Needless to say there are often things to laugh at along the way.

One of my devoted readers said that I have been too serious of late and needed to spread some cheer so here is one of my favorite experiences along the way. Maybe it will bring you a smile.

I was introduced to a large hall of about 1,000 folks gathered to see our show. We were in the midst of singing “Little Girl of Mine in Tennessee” when a older feller about six foot tall in tattered blue coveralls and carrying a broom sweeps his way across the stage in front of the band, facing the band, all the time paying no mind to the crowd behind him or the band in front of him.

His slightly slumped appearance, along with his total disregard for his surroundings and his intense concentration on his task, began to draw some scattered giggles from the audience.

I imagined many were wondering what I or he would do next.
As I realized he was not just passing through but had decided to set up housekeeping in front of us, I stopped the tune and said, “Excuse me, were trying to do a show here,” and the feller replied “A show?”

He turned slowly towards the audience and waved as he smiled from ear to ear, saying “Hello, hello,” not hardly missing anyone as he greeted the crowd.

“Do you mind, these people paid a lot of money to see our show,” I said.
He walked over to me at the mike and looked out in the audience.
“These people paid money to see you?” he asked.
“Yes, they did,” I said.
“Miracles never cease,” he said.
“Yeah,” I said, before realizing what had passed. “Heyyyy.”
“I use to play in a band, a big band. We worked all over New York, Chicago,” he said.
“Really what did you call your band?” I asked.
“The broom boys,” he replied.
“The broom boys,” I said
“Yeah, we really cleaned up,” he said.
“Did you sing with that group?” I asked. He said, “Yes.”
“Would you like to sing with us?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I’ve got so every time I sing I cry,” he said.
“Then why do you sing?” I asked.
“So I can cry,” he said.
“Why do you cry?” I asked.
“Cause I can’t sing,” he said.
“Do you think I could join your band?” he asked.
“Well I don’t know. All these boys had to go through an interview,” I said.
“I can do that,” he said.
I agreed and started by asking, “What’s your name?”
“I was named after my Ma and Pa,” he said.
“Alright, what was their name?” I said.
“Pa was Ferdinand and Ma was Liza,” he said.
“So, what did they name you?” I asked.
“Ferdiliza,” he said.
“Where were you born?” I asked.
“Kentucky,” he replied.
“What part?” I asked.
“All of me. You didn’t think I came in pieces did you?” he said.
“Why did you leave Kentucky?” I asked.
“Couldn’t bring it with me,” he said.
“Where do you live now?” I asked.
“I live with a friend,” he said.
“Where does you friend live,” I asked.
“He lives with me,” he said.
“Where do you both live?” I asked.
“We live together,” he said.
“Where were your forefathers born?” I asked.
“My what?” he asked.
“Your forefathers. Where were they born?” I asked.
“I ain’t got but one father,” he said.
“Everybody has forefathers,” I said. “Mine came from Scotland, Germany and England.”
“Well if I got four fathers, three of them ain’t never been home,” he said.
“So do I get the job?” he asked.
“Well, I don’t know let me think on it,” I told him.
“OK, but don’t hurt yourself,” he replied.
“Hey, that’s no way to talk to someone if you want a job,” I said.
“Your right, I better get back to work,” he said.
I stopped him and asked one more question.
“When you say things like that, doesn’t a still small voice tell you you’re doing something wrong?”
“No, its usually a big loud voice. Have you met my wife?” he said.
“In the future I hope you are more careful about where you try to clean up,” I told him.
“Oh, I will be next time. I’ll bring a bigger broom,” he commented as he glided off stage.

Comedy has always been a key part of performing in live shows: the antics of clowns in circuses; the banter and quips of comics in medicine shows and vaudeville; to the jokes we hear offered in sitcoms today. Country comedians are a special breed; I am honored to in my life played both the comedian and the straight man roles of the comedy team with many funny people. There is nothing funnier than two people working off each other’s comedic timing in front of an audience. I put together this comedy routine originally for the talented comedic actor Sonny Shroyer. I hope that a couple of the lines brought you a smile. © 1992 Peach Picked Publishing. Used by permission.

Grand Master Fiddler Championship crowns 2018 master

I have been honored for many years to serve as the celebrity host of the Grand Master Fiddle Championship, now held at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.
I have watched had the honor of watching a new generation of fiddlers come of age as I have watched from the wings or the podium. One such young fiddle from Birch Tree, Mo. has competed for several years, each year becoming a little better. Three times he came in second to other fiddlers but this year he advanced taking the top position becoming the Grand Master Fiddler. His name is Trustin Baker. Trustin took home $1,200 in cash, a $500 gift certificate courtesy of D’Addario, a Grand Master Fiddler plaque, and will appear on the Grand Ole Opry in 2019. He also won the Charlie Bush Traditional Fiddler Performance Award presented in honor of late director Charlie Bush.

Grand Master Fiddler Champion Trustin Baker (second from left) of Birch Tree, Mo. of receives his award, from left, GMFC Director Ed Carnes, GMFC Host Keith Bilbrey, GMFC Host Randall Franks, and GMFC Director Howard Harris. (GMFC Photo: Michelle Mize)

“I can’t hardly believe it,” Baker told me after receiving the title. “It’s been a contest I have wanted to win ever since I started playing the fiddle.”
Among his winning tunes in this competition were “Grey Eagle,” “Gardenia Waltz” and “Black and White Rag.”
“I think maybe I am becoming more consistent with my playing,” he said. “I am looking forward to playing the Grand Ole Opry.”
The two-day 47th annual Grand Master Fiddler Championship is the nation’s premier championship event held on Sept. 1 and 2, 2018.
I am honored to walk in the footsteps of former celebrity hosts Porter Wagoner and Roy Acuff continuing the tradition of the Grand Ole Opry’s fiddle event now coordinated by the founder’s son Howard Harris and fiddler Ed Carnes and a non-profit board.
“It seems with every passing year we surpass the previous one with the level of talented fiddlers who participate and the amazing enthusiasts who fill the seats,” said Howard Harris, GMFC President. “Fiddlers came from coast to coast to add to the legacy of fiddling at our event. The amazing skills shown brought hours of applause and cheers from the audience and yielded some tough decisions for our judges.”
The Grand Master Fiddler Championship, Inc. is a Tennessee non-profit and a U.S. IRS 501(c)(3) charitable corporation, formed to educate about and perpetuate fiddling as an art form and cultural treasure.
Fiddlers competed for over $15,000 in prizes.
In honor of its founder, the organization presented the Dr. Perry F. Harris Award to Dr. Robert “Roby” Cogswell, retired Tennessee Arts Commission Folklife Program Director and guitarist.
WSM All Nighter’s Marcia Campbell and Keith Bilbrey of “Larry’s Country Diner” and “Huckabee” joined me in co-hosting the event.
The other top winners included in descending order: Ridge Roberts of Granbury, Texas; Andrew Lin of Lexington, Ky.; Billy Contreras of Nashville. Tenn.; Ivy Phillips of Chapmansboro, Tenn.; Matthew Lin of Lexington, Ky.; Wes Westmoreland of Temple, Texas; Joel Whittinghill of Bowling Green, Ky.; Mari Black of Cambridge, Mass.; Karissa Nugent of Fort Worth, Texas; Mark Ralph of Whitesville, Ky.; Kerry Varble of Salem, Ohio; Benjamin Lin of Lexington, Ky.; Bill Jones of Covington, Ga.; Jason Andrew of Whitewright, Texas; Noemi Turner of Otis Orchards, Wash.; Cody Stadelmaier of Fort Collins, Colo.; Blakeley Burger of Louisville, Ky.; and Josiah Colle of Batesville, Ark.
The Grand Master Traditional Champion is Tyler Andal of Nashville, Tenn. who won $300, a $500 gift certificate

Tyler Andal won the Grand Master Traditional Fiddler Championship at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on Sept. 1. From left, GMFC Celebrity Host Randall Franks, GMFC Director Ed Carnes, Andal, and GMFC Director Howard Harris. (GMFC photo)

courtesy of D’Addario, a Grand Master Fiddler plaque.
Andal, who has been playing 18 years, said it is one of his favorite competitions and divisions. He said the most impactful tune that he presented was “Lost Child.”
“It’s really exciting to me to get to play with people that know what is going on,” he said.
“It’s a lot of fun to do it with friends like Mr. Rob Pearcy that back you up in the competition and make some groovy dance music.”
Other winners in descending order are Giri Peters of Nashville, Tenn.; Tessa Dillon of St. Albans, W.V.; Clelia Stefanini of Nashville, Tenn.; Henry Barnes of Washington Court House, Ohio; Andrew Magill of Asheville, N.C.; and Hillary Klug of Shelbyville, Tenn.
The Grand Master Youth Champion is Leah Bowen of Sparks, Nev.
She won $300, a $500 gift certificate courtesy of D’Addario, and a Grand Master Fiddler plaque. She has been playing for four years. Her winning tunes included the Tennessee Wagoner and Rose of Avenmore Waltz and Black and White Rag.
“It’s not really about the winning,” she said. “Winning is great, but it’s about being with the people and the guitarists.:

GMFC Directors Ed Carnes (left) and Howard Harris (right) presents Grand Master Youth Champion Leah Bowen of Sparks, Nev. (Photo: Randall Franks)

Other winners in descending order are Miles Quale of Alameda, Calif.; Emilie Miller of Otis Orchards, Wash.; David Lin of Lexington, Ky. Teo Quale of Alameda, Calif., Jane Eby of Whitehouse, Ohio; Kate Ward of Kuttawa, Ky., Devon Waite of Goodlettsville, Tenn.; Christiana Nugent of Fort Worth, Texas; and Nathan Pedneault of Fort Worth, Texas.
Winning guitar accompanists are Drew Miller of Otis Orchards, Wash., Rob Pearcy of Smyrna, Tenn.; Jonathan Trawick of Portland, Ore.; Elijah Baker of Birch Tree, Mo.; Jim Reina of Conroe, Texas; and Todd Varble of Salem, Ohio. Miller who took first, won $200 and a certificate.
As a fiddler since the age of eight, whose instrument has taken me places I could never imagine the music it played would open doors from coast to coast, from backstages to board rooms allowing me to become known around the world. It is exciting for me to see their youthful dreams coming to fruition and watch the dream grow even bigger for their futures. I am honored to be watching  these talents from the wings!
Like https://www.facebook.com/grandmasterfiddler or watch on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/GrandMasterFiddle or Livestream https://www.grandmasterfiddler.com/videos/ For more information, visit www.grandmasterfiddler.com.

I walk behind the mower, therefore I am

When I began my working experience, I always looked forward to the arrival of warm weather.
I could hear my wallet growing exponentially with each inch rise of the green, green grass of home.
Well, maybe more like the neighbors’ grass since I didn’t get paid for mowing our yard.
When I was about 10, I saved enough money from my allowance to buy a second hand push mower and then set out to find willing partners in my desire to become a millionaire before age 11. Well, that is a slight exaggeration, I was mainly hoping for a few neighbors who would give me $10 every couple of weeks to mow their yards.
I amassed a pretty good list of clients which kept me busy as long as my allergies didn’t get the best of me.  Al Weidenmuller was the first I think agreeing to my business proposal, but I had to learn how to deal with raking magnolia leaves prior to each mowing; next was Ed Mikell – with more Magnolia leaves.
Then as I progressed down the street, I picked up the Neils, occasionally the Reeds, who had Zoysia and I learned to hate that type of grass because it was so hard to push. Also sometimes the Grosses.
The list grew overtime and eventually I had to enlist my father to help get me to and from in his truck as I press on beyond walking distance.
I found the time behind the push mower a time to think, dream, write songs along to the rhythm of the engine in harmony with hits hum.
As I look back, sometimes I wonder where that youthful exuberance went for the activity. I kept up the business until I finished college, even adding other landscaping tasks and working sometimes miles from my home. Eventually though, I slowly weened my customers off my services as I wanted to focus on finding my fit in the professional world after earning my degree.  Leaving me with just the task of mowing my own yard.
Through the years, I have liked the task less and less, giving me the understanding of why so many were willing to accept my eagerness to mow. My late mother use to draw great joy from hopping upon the riding mower and going full speed around the task as I weeded and pushed. She looked forward to it, possibly because it was something she could accomplish with her failing health and see a positive outcome.
Sometimes now I am even blessed by the kindness of a neighbor who will knock mine out with his. I am so happy when I see his kindness and as happy when I return the favor to him.
Sometimes I miss that young boy and young man who looked forward to the inch by inch progress of the green growth, as I sit on my back porch, I look more forward to the end of the growing season and often quip, I should do like Hollywood – just kill it and paint it green so it stays the same.
No matter where you are in your synergy with the mower and the grass, I hope you find your bliss with the endeavor and make joy in the fact that I walk behind (or ride upon) the mower, therefore I am.

Are you the player or the pawn?

Through out history people have often enjoyed classic games of thought and strategy such as chess.
It was one of the many games that fascinated me as a youth and how many hours were enjoyed with fellow enthusiasts in competition with each other.
It was a good training ground for many of the experiences which we face in life. These may include strategizing for success in life, business, relationships and of course in battles.
Prior to the presence of the internet, there were only a handful of players in most people’s lives – family, co-workers, bosses, and friends. On average the close circle for most were less that 20 with another 30 folks who might float in and out. This allowed most of us to keep a good handle upon the interactions and impact others might have upon us and on those we might affect.
With the advent of social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others we now extend our circle. The sky is the limit. However, many folks follow or friend us get the opportunity to cross our welcome mat and sit down with us metaphorically in our living room. They see what we want them to and we see what they want us to. We build relationships without ever actually shaking hands or being in the same room.
I want to pose a question for you. When looking at those that you regularly allow to engage with you in social media, are they folks you would bring into your home? Introduce to your family? Trust them to watch your children, or anything that you value in life?
Does your presence in social media allow you to be a pawn for others or is it allowing you to be the player using others as pawns? Neither situation is ultimately a good one. If other’s postings make you depressed or move you to an action or an emotion which you would have not otherwise experienced, you may be acting like a pawn in someone else’s game.
Do you spend your time creating posts with an attempt to move people to do something, react or say something outside their character? Then you may be a player helping move people on the social media board in a way that fuels the negative abyss often seen scrolling past in one’s feed.
There are people out there who gain joy by pitting other people against each other and simply watching the outcome. These are the players which we are inviting into our lives. Sadly, I know some of these people and often see through the cloaked attempts claiming good which ultimately creates something bad. So, sometimes I have fell victim becoming someone else’s pawn in a battle against someone I would have not otherwise impacted.
Don’t let yourself be a pawn for a person, a cause, or a debate without taking your blinders off. Choose carefully who you allow to become the players in your life and temper your choices on your movings in other’s lives. Don’t treat other as pawns in some mind game you are playing. The game of life is so much more fun when everyone knows that a game is underway and we are all playing knowing the rules.  So, shake hands, make the first move, hit the timer and love life.