South Carolina

If, when you saw that title, you thought to yourself whup! here we go! i'm in for another Palmetto State bash-fest!...well...uhhh...that's why i'm posting this. See, i'd like to say something sweet about South Carolina, instead, so here it is:

My folks were in town over this past weekend. For one of our activities we went out to Guy and Tina's Pickin' Parlor, which has been blogged a bit about here before. (How's that for some alliteration?)

Now although my parents don't really consider playing a musical instrument an honest way to make a living--and i think this would hold true even if i were on the cover of Country Weekly (a magazine who's motto happens to be It's country, and it's weekly)-- you just wouldn't believe how proud it makes them to see me play. Since one of my gigs we were planning on going to got cancelled, we went out to Guy and Tina's instead.

Guy and Tina are a somewhat older couple that live way, way out in the woods. In a town called Bethera, to be exact, and a name that did not come up on my dad's ever-present Garmin GPS when we were drving out there. For 25 years, Guy and Tina have hosted a Saturday night bluegrass jam at their home, and legend has it they haven't missed a single Saturday in all that time.

When they first stared it just took place in the front yard. For the more extreme weather the jam was moved into a shack there on the property. As time went on, the shack became the permanent home for the jam and got more formalized: the shack grew larger, a PA system was installed, people started bringing covered dishes, old couches left on the side of the road were salvaged and used as seating for an audience, a stage was built, decorations and autographed pictures of bluegrass "stars" were hung on the walls.

Now i just showed up at this thing last year, but i feel as though i have been welcomed by family. They like me, and they tell me so: Oh, it's just great to see you out here. We sure hope you can make it out more often. We sure do love it when you sing Ole Slewfoot, etc.

Now, i'm sure they really do like me at Guy and Tina's. I may have a hard time accepting praise from anyone and just figure, most of the time, anyone that says something good about me is just lying in order to make me feel better, but i actually believe these guys. First off, they're so sincere about it. And next, i'm not a bad picker, and also, i figure they're happy to have some new blood around there. But, i mean, good picker/new blood aside, i ain't all that. I mean, these guys are just really nice.

When we got there i introduced my parents to everyone. Well, then they go and say--and from the stage no less--"we have special guests tonight from NASHvull" and make my parents stand up and stuff. And here's where it starts to get really sweet:

Bluegrass, as you may know, is a very traditional music. You just don't go messing around with it lightly. For instance, i imagine that there are some bluegrass fans out there who, to this day, still haven't forgiven Flatt and Scruggs for merely adding a Dobro player to their line-up way back in 1955. So, it goes without saying that you don't go adding extra breaks in a song when they weren't there in the original. (a "break" is the name for an instrumental solo in bluegrass lingo, and the part where the individual picker gets a chance to show off). No, when it comes to bluegrass, you don't go adding Dobro players and you certainly to go addin' stuff that isn't there...but that's what happened this past Saturday night.

As i stood there and played along with thin-as-a-rail old, old men who, with arthritic fingers and dusty vocal chords, can out-play and out-sing me any day of the week, i noticed the mandolin player lean over and whisper something to the band leader, Donald. After the chorus, when the song was supposed to end, Donald looked over at me and he gave me that significant bluegrass nod which means take another break. Well, i did, and then Donald came back in, sang a chorus, and we ended the song. Same thing happened the next tune. And the next.

They were letting me show off for my parents.

Mama and Daddy just clapped, and took pictures and enjoyed themselves all night long. It simply made their year. It sure was nice of the folks at Guy and Tina's to do that.


Kevin O'Mara said...

This post made me smile like nothin' else. I wish I could have been there to see that.

Catherine said...

That's a pretty cool story, Walter. :).

Conseula said...

That's the sweetest story I've heard in a long time.

And sometimes when people say nice things about you, they actually mean it.

Taylor said...

Oh my god! OH MY GOD! Why have I not heard of this place before? I desperately need to go there. How do I get to this magnificent place and listen to this magnificent music? YOU MUST SHARE THE SECRET WITH ME!

Kenneth said...

I didn't know you sang Ole Slewfoot.

Alison said...

Taylor, here's a little info about Guy and Tina's: http://www.state.sc.us/arts/pr/032106.htm

I have no idea how Biffle found them, nor could I tell you how to get there, but maybe Biffle will give you directions.

Biffle said...

very validating comments, everybody. thank you.

taylor: yeah, we'll set you up if you wanna go out there.

kenneth: i'll bet you also didn't know that Ole Slewfoot is alison's favorite christmas song.

Taylor said...

Sweet! Since I can't seem to find any contact info for y'all on your website (am I blind? Or just stupid?), I'm at tayloropolis at gmail dot com. Wanna shoot me an email and induct me into the club of bluegrass coolness?