started listening to old
Acuff '78's (remember those ?) when I was about 10 years old, as my
older brothers went into the armed forces and left behind many country
music records. ( It was known as "Hillbilly" back then.) I loved the
sound of whatever "that" instrument was. I later on found out by
WWVA in Wheeling West Virginia. I worked 2nd. shift in one of the
local woolen mills, and when I went to bed I turned on the radio and
listened to "Lee Moore, the Coffee Drinkin' Nighthawk" til I went to
sleep. Little did I know at that time that I would become friends with
Lee later on in life.
One of the sponsors on his show was "Campbell's Corner and record shop"
in Oxford, Pa. They had a set of 45 rpm extended play records (pretty
high tech stuff) for sale that they would play during the show. A man by
the name of "Deacon Brumfield" was playing Dobro on the recordings. My
favorite was "Steel Guitar Chimes" I was hooked. If you purchased these
recordings, you would get an 8x10 color photo of the band (Alex,
Olabelle and the New River Gang) with Deacon and his Dobro guitar. Well,
that was enough to get me to buy the music. I had to see what a Dobro
looked like ! See photo below. Item of interest,
Dick Blattenburger, pre-war Dobro collector has informed me that
Deacon's son has posession of his Dad's guitars, and still operates the
Barber Shop that was his Father's in Rising Sun,Maryland.
A fellow I worked with had been out of town the previous weekend, and
said he had seen a Dobro in a music store in Burlington, Vt. Well, it
didn't take me long to hit rt. 7 north. Turned out it was a "Conrad"
Japanese guitar with a biscuit bridge. I didn't know the difference as I
had no idea what the insides of a Dobro looked like. I had to stop a
couple of times in different turnouts on the way home and mess with it.
I had no idea how to tune it. I had previously fooled around with a
cheapo flat top guitar with a nut raising attachment, and tried
different tunings on it. I liked to try and play along with Tut Taylor's
"12 String Dobro" album with it.(My first Dobro instrumental recording)
One tuning I tried was pretty close to the regular "G" tuning, but I
didn't realize it at the time. I saw an ad in some music magazine,might
have been "Sing Out" for
Josh Graves style tablature
lessons.( I was also a Flatt and Scruggs fan.) You could order a sample
for 25 cents. I sent for "Home Sweet Home" and spent about a week
learning it. About drove my ex wife nuts. Had it down pretty good, so I
figured if I could learn one song I could learn more. I was on my way !
The following year I saw a flyer for a Bluegrass contest as a spectator
and saw my first real Dobro. This belonged to a fellow by the name of
Ralph Jones from New Hampshire, who at one time played for
Wilma Lee and
Stoney Cooper among others. He was also a songwriter. Hank Williams
and many others recorded songs that he wrote. He was there with a bunch
of young folks that entered the contest. "Dobro Hank and the Sunshine
trio" (See photo below.) He also had his "Real" Dobro with him and let
me play it. Needless to say it sounded some better that my Conrad. Soon
after I saw a "Real" one in a window of a music store in Claremont, N.H.
It was a roundneck one. I asked the owner to order me a squareneck model
which I still have today. It's a model 1975 model 60 with a stamped
cone. serial # D-803-5. The only
thing I have changed is the tailpiece.
I played with various fiddle groups, Jamborees and Saturday night square
dances doing rhythm guitar with my old Martin until I got bored with
it.What I really wanted to do was be in a Bluegrass band and play my
Dobro! Then I had a chance to play in a country band "Green Mt. Express"
on Saturday nights. It was an improvement and paid a lot better. I
played Dobro and six string lap steel for about a year with them. We had
a monthly jamboree on Sundays where many bands came to show their stuff.
One band that came caught my attention I don't remember if the band had
a name or not, but it was Stan and
Tymimski with their
uncle. The uncle sang country, and Stan did some GOOD bluegrass. I asked
them if they would mind if I got up and played with them. To my
amazement they were tickled to have me. Dan had just turned 13 at the
time. We picked up Doug Green who was the country bands leader and
started an offshoot band called "Green Mountain Bluegrass" We played
together with various bass players for three years. When I left in 1983,
David Bevins from Ticonderoga, N.Y. took my place. They stayed together
for about another five years until Dan went with the "Lonesome
River Band". Of course, he eventually wound up with "Alison
Krauss and Union Station" where he still is today besides fronting
his own band and doing a lot of studio work in his "spare" time. I am
proud to have been associated with the Tyminski Brothers.
Green Mt. Express
When I left Green Mt. Bluegrass, I went with
Smokey Greene I stayed with
him along with Brian Jiguere for ten years. Smokey finally decided it
was too much of a hassle to front a full band any longer, so he
continued on as a single act, where he still has a very large following.
That man is not just a performer, but an entertainer. He can have you
laughing one minute, and crying the next. I learned a LOT from Smokey in
the time I spent with him. I owe him a lot for what he taught me just by
being on the same stage with him. We still get together for a band
reunion occasionally, which brings back a lot of fond memories. He
wanted to spend more time with his grandchildren and his golf clubs.
Can't fault a man for that !
The next band I played with was "Back
To Basics" from Brunswick, Maine. I got a phone call from one of the
members when they heard I wasn't playing with Smokey any longer asking
me if I was interested in playing. They sent me a tape of one of their
practice sessions to play along with. This was in October of 1995. By
spring, I had everything More or less learned. (Back to Basics was 200
miles from me) We had a lot of fun doing a variety of songs. Our
mandolin player has written a lot of songs, some of which have been
recorded by bands like the Gibson Brothers. I played with them until
I have done backup work on a dozen or so recordings,(see projects) and
have done two instrumental recordings of my own
Pete "Bashful Brother
Oswald" Kirby was, and still is my idol, although I play other
styles as the music dictates