A LITTLE HISTORY AND SOME THANK YOUS
I was raised on a ranch South of Santa Fe, NM. Grew up with horses, horse shows, rodeos, cattle drives, horse races, western movie sets, goats, chickens and all manner of wonderful things. I’ve been playing Bluegrass music for a long time and before that, in the Folk Music days, Peter, Paul and Mary and Marty Robbins. The first group I was in was named the Sundrifters. We actually got asked to play on the Johnny Carson Show way back. Paula and I sang harmony. We were a trio of two Dillenschneider sisters, one guitar player (Paula) and the other lead singer (Dona) and back then I played guitar. One of the sisters, Paula, just didn’t want to go, so we didn't. She passed away a few years ago. The other sister, Dona, is still a good friend of mine and a great singer. In the photo on the left, I'm on the far right.
I started flatpicking guitar in the early 70s and started to play mandolin a few years after that. The first Bluegrass band I played in started out as the Big River Boys and became the Big River Band when the “girl” came on board. It was a great experience with great pickers I still love to pieces today. Al White, now of the McClain Family Band (married to Alice) was the mandolin player and I played guitar. He is in the old photo I posted in the photo link along with Wayne Shrubsall-killer banjo, Hans Keiser-dobro and Jimmy Driscol on bass. We opened for Bill Monroe at the Hugo Oklahoma Festival in the 70s. Back in the “green area” there were no actual “green rooms” at festivals back then, Bill put his magical mandolin around my neck when he found out I played. He said "they tell me you are a 'manalin' picker" and I said “Yes Sir” and he said “well…let me see you play it then.” I ripped into Bluegrass Breakdown. Bill said "well... I guess they are sure right about that." It was a defining moment for me. I stood there being so cool, while my mind was screaming to get a photo with him. I didn’t to my regret… it was in this time frame I met young Chris Jones.
I left Big River to start another band, Fox Fire. We had a lot of fun and once drove, all of us in one car, from NM to Virginia – it’s a LONG WAY, to see Ricky Skaggs with Boone Creek. Blasting Bluegrass music from one side of the country to the other, which was considered the land of bluegrass milk and honey. We made a pilgrimage through Nashville on the way and visited the Station Inn and an Empty Ryman Auditorium. There has been a whole family of pickers along the way, all of them gave me treasured music memories. I learned a lot of Kenny Baker fiddle tunes along with the breaks of guitar and mandolin bluegrass stars. I played many hours in my kitchen with an old man, Hugh Green, who made his living with music playing mandolin during the depression. That’s how they survived. Pickin for food and lodging. I would play rhythm for him hours on end and he taught me to love old waltzes and twin mandolins. I sat with him in the hospital for weeks as he lay dying of lung cancer. I cried my heart out when he left this earth. There have been many other bands since then: Fox Fire, Atomic Grass, Railyard Reunion, Kitty Jo Creek, River's Edge, et. I also worked at Kludgit Sound mixing live concerts from auditoriums to small venues and in the recording studio. That was before the digital days and everything was analog.
To fill in the years, I have had two daughters, Megan and Jules-to raise and educate, a couple of businesses to run and then, I went to law school. Megan is a Regional editor for Lonely Planet publications in London and Jules is a veterinarian. Both girls are amazing. I spent 16 years teaching law in New Mexico, being a college chair and then a departmental dean and finally retired to play music. Now I’m happily in East Tennessee teaching at ETSU and loving everything about the picking opportunities around Johnson City.
Thank you all for taking a chance on my music. It comes to you from deep in my inner spirit. I hope the words and music along with the stellar pickers bless your ears, warm your heart and tug on your soul. My deepest regard, gratitude and appreciation to the incomparable musical genius Daniel Boner, a dear friend- from start to finish the PERFECT musical partner. It’s a great match when both artists “hear” what the other is “saying” musically.
Everyone who has worked on this project with me has touched my heart in some way and I am so lucky to be part of their musical family. Hunter Berry, Sally Berry, Brandon Green, Adam Steffey, Jaimie Carter, Ben Bateson, Ainsley Porchack, Becky Buller and last but not least Louisa Branscomb. Tom Ellis, you’re a genius darlin. Hugh Green, bless you in heaven for instilling your love of old fashioned waltzes and twin mandolins into my every fiber.
Thank you Chris Jones for your beautiful liner notes that brought great memories and a few tears to my eyes. Bluegrass music brings people into each other’s lives. Across time and the miles it sustains and bonds us. I’m thankful for all the musicians I’ve shared music with over the years. Its been a long time coming, but when you leave an Old Trail for a New Beginning, magical things can happen.