Marc Bristol—a homegrown musician who performs regularly throughout the Pacific Northwest—began sharing his knowledge of do-it-yourseif entertainment with MOTHER readers back in issue 50. Marc's columns have touched on ever yth i ng from access information for recorded music to detailed instructions on how to make your own instruments. Marc is interested in hearing any suggestions, components or questions you may have about the subject of do-it-yourself music, and he'll try to write about requested topics in future columns. Address your correspondence—for this col umn and this column only—to Marc Bristol, Dept. TMEN, P.O. Box 25, Duvall, Washington 98019.
Well folks, spring has finally sprung! It's time to restring the old guitar . . . shine up the penny whistle ... and sit out on the back porch to jam awhile in the sunshine. And it's also a great time to explore some fresh ideas and new sources of information. In fact, since I've been doing a bit of spring-cleaning (by way of going through my mail!), I've discovered a virtual potpourri of "noteworthy" pieces of musical information that I'd like to pass on to you right now . . . before you get caught up in chores yourself!
A WHISTLE FOR YOUR THOUGHTS
First oil" I've been really pleased by all the feedback I've received on my two "Make a Bamboo Flute" articles, which appeared in MOTHER NOS. 78 and 79. (By the way, if you've already crafted one of these instruments, I'm sure I don't have to tell you—now that the weather's warmer—how much fun they are to play outdoors!) Indeed, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there's an entire network of woodwind enthusiasts. One of these musicians, Sandi Bushnell, from the state of Washington, took the trouble to send me a list of' various makers of flutes and ocarinas (small, rounded whistles that give a soft, hollow sound) ... along with a newssheet about ocarina design ... and a cute little handmade, four-hole ocarina shaped like a dragon. Thank you, Sandi! Since her letterhead featured a picture of an instrument just like the one she'd sent me, along with the title "Clayzeness Whistleworks", I suspect that Sandi makes and sells these woodwinds herself. So if you're interested, write to Sandi Bushnell, Dept. TMEN, 1928 Forest Street, Richland, Washington 99352.
The one-page newssheet that Ms. Bushnell included in her "surprise package", as well as the list of woodwind crafters, was compiled by a whistlemaker in San Francisco, Alan Albright. I checked with Alan, who said he'd be glad to send the list and/or the design sheet (as long as supplies last), at no charge, to anyone who requests them by writing to him at Dept. TMEN, 3327 Santiago Street, San Francisco, California 94116. However, since Alan originally put these two items together in an effort to help unite the small community of woodwind-makers-rather than to earn a profit for himself-you might want to slip a dollar into your envelope along with your request, to help him out with postage and printing expenses.
I also noticed, while going through my mail, that many of you are still asking where you can locate books for beginning musicians. Well, one source of addresses is my book, Homegrown Music, which I'm happy to say is now available—for $8.95—from Mother's Bookshelf. [EDITOR'S NOTE: See page 77 for ordering details.] In addition, a good howto book company has come to my attention: Centerstream Publishing (Dept. TMEN, Box 5052, Fullerton, California 92635).
I wrote and asked for Centerstream's catalog, which was quickly mailed to me. The listing is chock-full of instructions for playing the guitar, banjo, mandolin, dulcimer, harmonica, and drums ... and it even includes a book entitled Guitar Tuning for the Complete Idiot (tuning can certainly be frustrating, and is all too often a neglected topic!).
The folks at Centerstream also sent me the Backpacker's Songbook, which sells for $4.95 plus $1.00 for postage and handling. This paperback contains the words and chords to more than 200 folk songs ... as well as a short section on first aid (and other emergency situation procedures) ... plus a whole chapter devoted entirely to instructions on how best to pack a guitar (or banjo) so you'll be able to carry it easily on the trail, Why, this nifty little publication could be the picker's ultimate outdoor handbook!
NEWFANGLED INSTRUMENTS AND THINGS
The cover of Backpacker's Songbook features a photo of a hiker leaning against his pack and playing a small portable guitar. Yep, that's right ... a portable git-fiddle! I did a bit of research into this and found out that the fellow on the handbook's cover is Bob McNally, a travelminded musician who makes not just one, but two sizes of portable guitars ... plus a minibanjo and another small instrument he calls a "stringed penny whistle" (it's somewhat similar to a dulcimer). Bob's scaled-down musicmakers average 6" X 32" and weigh about two pounds, and he also makes traditionally sized ones. (As a matter of fact, he started to make them easy to carry only after he recognized a need for the miniature version.) If you write to McNally Instruments (Dept. TMEN, 1011 Main Street, Boonton, New Jersey 07005), Bob will be happy to send you a catalog of his go-anywhere items and/or his regular creations.
In the event that you're happy with the instrument you've got, and maybe only need a few strings, picks, or other supplies for it ... I've found a small, reputable discount mail order house that sells musical paraphernalia for guitars, banjos, violins, and so forth. It's Southern Sound (Dept. TMEN, P.O. Box 458, Madison, Tennessee 37115), and the company offers terrific markdowns on all its items (for example, 25% off the list price on accessories and 30% off on strings). However, since a minimum postage payment is required for shipping charges, you might want to wait till you need about $10 worth of equipment before you place an order.
A few months ago I sent a note to Bluegrass Unlimited magazine, mentioning that I write a column for MOTHER and have listed the journal's address several times in these pages, but that I'd never actually seen a copy of the publication. In no time at all, I received a package from BU's editor, Pete Kuykendall, containing three years' worth of back issues!
For days after that music-lover's deluge, I spent every spare hour reading Bluegrass Unlimited... and—as a result—in addition to listing the company's address (which is Dept. TMEN, Box 111, Broad Run, Virgin"' 22014), I can now heartily at attest to the excellence of its magazine! It's filled with fascinating articles on past and present bluegrass heroes, as well as other pertinent pieces of information about the genre, and even an occasional short story or two ... and it's well worth the $12-a-year ($22 for two years) subscription rate.
While reading one of BU's back issues, I came across an interesting article on Barry Poss ... the man who founded Sugar Hill, the progressive bluegrass recording studio in Durham, North Carolina. According to Blue grass Unlimited, Poss got his start in the music business with County Records in Virginia, which deals almost exclusively with old-time bluegrass. Barry, seeing a need to establish a studio that could better fit the needs of modern pickers, moved to Durham and set up his own record company.
I got pretty interested in Sugar Hill from the magazine piece, so I wrote Barry Poss. . I told him who I was ... and asked him to send me some information about what recording were available through his studio. Like Pete Kuykendall, Barry was more than happy to help me out: He sent me a catalog plus thred just-released albums!
I was so impressed by these recordings that I couldn't resist taking the first opportunitynamely, this column-to tell you about them. My favorite of the three is by Chris Hillman (former member of the Byrds) and is titled Morning Sky. This song-filled recording contains compositions by popular tunesmiths from Dylan and Kristofferson to Fogelberg and Gram Parsons. Each cut is performed in a basically acoustical bluegrass style by Hillman, along with Herb Pedersen (who was formerly with the Dillards, and who's also done backup vocals for Emmylou Harris) ... Bernie Leadon (who played with Chris in the Flying Burrito Brothers, and later was one of the Eagles) ... and Byron Berline, Al Perkins, Kenny Wertz, and Emory Gordy.
Besides Morning Sky, Sugar Hill's creator sent Busy Bee Cafe by Marty Stuart and another recording that's called, simply, Berline-Crary-Hickman. Stuart is a bluegrass Whiz Kid who got his start in the business, about ten years ago (at the tender age of 13), playing in Lester Flatt's Nashville Grass... and who is currently a member of Johnny Cash's backup band.
Marty (who plays guitar and mandolin, and sings) has enlisted the talents of Cash on vocals and guitar... along with Doc and Merle Watson, Earl Scruggs, and Jerry Douglas. The Busy Bee Cafe tunes range from old favorites by each of the artists to a couple of Stuart originals. As you can imagine from its all-star lineup, the recording has more than its share of blazing-hot licks!
The Berline-Crary-Hickman album is mostly fiddle, guitar, and banjo tunes, with an occasional vocal. Since I've always liked Dan Crary's voice (as well as his fine picking), I was a bit disappointed that the disk didn't contain more songs, but the picking and fiddling do shine and sparkle throughout the whole recording. Any fan of instrumental bluegrass is bound to be dazzled by the virtuosity of these three fine artists!
The rest of the selections that Sugar Hill offers in its catalog sound nearly as exciting as—if not more so than—the three albums that I've just reported on ... especially since they're performed by such musical lights as Ricky Skaggs, Tony Rice, Doyle Lawson, David Grisman, and Buck White (to cite only a few). So if you're interested in progressive bluegrass, drop this company a line to receive a catalog.
Sugar Hill, incidentally, is now a part of County Records, which—as mentioned above also produces traditional bluegrass recordings. You can contact County Records at Dept. TMEN, Box 191, Floyd, Virginia 24091.
By way of tying up loose ends, let me say that M.I.H. Publications, a company I mentioned in issue 70, has changed its address to Dept. TMEN, 15 Arnold Place, New Bedford, Massachusetts 02740.
Well, that about wraps up my potpourri. And since a warm breeze has just come through my window to tempt me outdoors to do some musicmaking of my own, I'll simply close by saying that I hope all the information I turned up as a result of my spring-cleaning has proved interesting—and helpful—to you. So, until July, enjoy the sunshine gleaming off your instrument ... and Happy Picking!