Monthly Local Bluegrass News

Local Bluegrass news March 2022 ===================================

So March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb! Well let’s just see about that.

March 1st is Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras. Spicy New Orleans music will be played that night including a two hour show by the Back Room Jazz band at JP’s pub in Lakeview NY from 7-9 PM. I tie back the fifth string on my banjo, bring out the piano for some tunes and play in the unBluegrass keys of Bb, Eb and Ab, but man, is it fun and free!

March 1st also marks the 50th anniversary of the release of the “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” album by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band released, 1972. This was a land mark meeting of the old guard of Earl Scruggs, Doc Watson, Mother Maybelle Cater, Roy Acuff, Merle Travis, Vassar Clements and Jimmy Martin with the hippies of the day, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. Most musical appreciation for the good old songs and players has to start with a “gateway” exposure. For my brother and I, it was this three album set! Still great listening today.

St. Patrick’s day can be celebrated with many Bluegrass songs. Bill Monroe drew from the Scotch/Irish traditional music of his day when he performed and recorded. Try listening to Colleen Malone by Hot Rize.

It’s been ten years and three since I first went to sea
Since I sailed from old Ireland and home
But those hills lush and green were a part of my dreams
When I dreamed of my Colleen Malone

Jerry Douglas is back in Ireland recording the seventh series of the Tranatlantic sessions for the BBC.

The first (Original) Transatlantic Sessions episode was produced in 1995, a project conceived at that time by Douglas Eadie, Mike Alexander and Aly Bain. Subsequent sessions were produced in 1998, 2007, 2009, 2011 and 2013. No news on when they will release to new one but until then how about checking out the first one on, The Original TransAtlantic Sessions https://youtu.be/VsD4snTewqA

The Hogstompers are coming to Stamps The Bar at 98 Main St, Tonawanda, NY Friday, Mar 11th 7:00 pm – 10:00 pm. According to their website, Michael “Quick Draw” Thompson, Jacob “Dirty Larry” Harris, & Jimmy “Flames Dean” Zemer are a new bluegrass, roots, old timey, rootin tootin Americana band.

Armchair Boogie plays on Tuesday, Mar 15th 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm at Buffalo Iron Works 49 Illinois St, Buffalo NY. Again I am quoting their promo. They started in 2015 on a front porch in the college town of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, Armchair Boogie can be defined by their pickin’ skills and infectious grooves. Augie Dougherty (banjo, vocals) and Ben Majeska (guitar, vocals) began playing under the name prior to the addition of Eli Frieders (bass) and solidification of Denzel Connor (drums) as the driving rhythm section behind a bluegrass, up-tempo, jammin-funkgrass outfit.

Railrider Jamboree Music Festival is Friday, Saturday and Sunday Mar 18, 19, 20th at Holiday Valley Resort, Ellicottvile, NY. The Rail Rider Jamboree Music Fest starts with the Rail Rider Rail Jam on Friday from 5:00-7:00 PM followed by a band playing at the Cabana Bar from 8:00-10:00 PM. The Music Festival is Saturday with a great lineup of 5-6 bluegrass/americana bands, to be announced! Plus food, beverages and a laid back vibe. Start your Sunday off with “Rail Rider Jamboree Bluegrass & Bloodys” from 11:00 PM-1:00 PM. There will be live bands all day on two stages, food trucks and vendors, craft vendors and more! The Jamboree is outdoors with music staring regional, local and national bands will perform throughout the weekend featuring A Girl Named Genny, Brass Machine, Driftwood, Keller Williams and headliner, Dark Star Orchestra!

And remember that the Buffalo Bluegrass All Stars, Sally Schaefer-fiddle, Rich Schaefer-bass, Doug Yeomans-guitar and Mark Panfil-banjo and dobro play on Thursdays March 3rd and 17th from noon to 2:15 at the Sportsmen’s Tavern.

The monthly bluegrass jam session is again taking place on the second Sunday of the month, March 13 from 2-7 PM at Bennington Lanes in Bennington NY

Here’s a sneak peak forward to April.

April will begin with a special spring concert on Monday April 4th from 7-8 PM of the Buffalo Bluegrass Youth Ensemble at Wayside Presbyterian Church 5017 Lake Shore Rd. Hamburg, NY. It is a free concert and all are invited. These are kids learning to play bluegrass music ages 11-18 years old.

In April Wednesday April 20 at 7 PM at the Sportsmen’s Tavern, The Slocan Ramblers are Canada’s bluegrass band to watch. Rooted in tradition, fearlessly creative and possessing a bold, dynamic sound, The Slocans have become a leading light of today’s acoustic music scene. With a reputation for energetic live shows, impeccable musicianship and an uncanny ability to convert anyone within earshot into a lifelong fan, The Slocans have been winning over audiences from Merlefest to RockyGrass and everywhere in between.

Remember, The John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band 4pm – 7pm Sunday April 24th 2022 at the Sportsmen’s Tavern 326 Amherst St. Buffalo NY.

I would like to leave you with two more personal reflections on what Bluegrass Music is.

Mary Burdette Assistant Dir., Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, Bluegrass Week co-coordinator Augusta Heritage Center and Bass player originlly from Hammondsport NY and the Washinton DC area but now living on the west coast. Mary’s birthday is March 17th, St. Patrick’s day!

Bluegrass Music is an American art form attributed to the great Kentucky mandolin player and bandleader, Bill Monroe. In 1946 he coined the name for his band, Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys. Instrumentation in bluegrass bands can include acoustic fiddle, guitar, mandolin, banjo, dobro, and upright bass, though the genre has evolved quite a bit since the late 40s. Vocally, bluegrass songs often tell stories of rural life, loss, and heartache with tight harmony vocals including duets, trios, and quartets. While the music may sound happy, the lyrics can tell a very different story. Bluegrass has grown into a popular genre that has spawned many bluegrass music festivals in the US and around the world.

I went to the Berkshire Mountain Bluegrass Festival in Ancramdale, NY and was completely bitten by the bluegrass bug. At some point after that, I learned how to play bass, and have never “looked back.”

Bluegrass music is a “social music” that builds a sense of community. You can go to a festival, meet people for the first time, and jam into the wee hours with them. Also, most top bluegrass artists are very accessible to their fans. It’s like a big family. And great bluegrass music is right up there with the best jazz, rock’n’roll, and classical music anywhere.

Nate Grower Fiddle player originally from WNY, now a member of the David Bromberg Band and the current Delaware State Fiddle Champion.

To me Bluegrass is music rooted in traditions of Appalachia. String bands that fit like a puzzle to emphasize a keen sense of rhythmic push. For me, it’s exciting music!

Discovering improvisation while learning fiddle tunes and going to concerts like Rhonda Vincent and Nickel Creek got me hooked on Bluegrass.

I think bluegrass music is special because of how well it melds with community. I’m always called back to wanting to experience bluegrass the way I did as a kid in a jam. You don’t have to look far to experience bluegrass in this way at every level of musicianship.

Hope to see you out listening to live music this month!

Keep on Pickin’!

Mark Panfil

Local Bluegrass news Feb 2022 ===============================================

Hey, the days are getting longer! This month brings more optimism about putting much of covid behind us. Love songs for Feb 14th and groundhog songs for Feb 2nd have a special place in Bluegrass music. Believe it or not. Some great local and national artists are coming through town and this spring and summer promises many opportunities to live the joys of bluegrass at festivals and a great music camp.

I’m continually amazed in wonder, at all the things you do. There’s no escape from this spell I’m under, that’s all in my love for you. The song, All In My Love For You, by John Hartford and in this link sung by Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. The entire album are love songs by this bluegrass great! https://open.spotify.com/track/4F2Lp0co2USftF5Bs8WLJ6?si=1a8fc3f4e81749a4

Groundhogs were not weather forecasters in the hills where bluegrass grew up. More often, they were dinner. “Well yonder comes Sally with a snicker and a grin, Yonder comes Sally with a snicker and a grin, Groundhog grease all over her chin, Groundhog, groundhog” As played and sung by the Dillards (or the Darling family for Andy Griffith Show fans).

Mark your calendars friends!

Sunday, February 20th at the Sportsmens Tavern, The Way Down Wanderers 4-7 PM. the five-piece band from Peoria, Illinois, has emerged not just as quirky bluegrass kids with a habit of experimentation, but as confident purveyors of some of the most sophisticated roots-pop anywhere. Young guys playing bluegrass with drums and an edge that will light up this Sunday afternoon show. https://youtu.be/nVxQLULwvWg

Wednesday, April 6, 2022, 8-11 PM Béla Fleck brings his CD band for My Bluegrass Heart

featuring Stuart Duncan, Sierra Hull, Justin Moses, Mark Schatz, & Bryan Sutton to the State Theatre of Ithaca, 8 to 11 PM. . Over the last four decades, Béla Fleck has made a point of boldly going where no banjo player has gone before, a musical journey that has earned him 15 Grammys in nine different fields, including Country, Pop, Jazz, Instrumental, Classical and World Music. But his roots are in bluegrass, and that’s where he returns with his first bluegrass tour in 24 years, My Bluegrass Heart.

Wednesday, April 20th at the Sportsmen’s Tavern, The Slocan Ramblers return 7-10 PM. The Slocan Ramblers are Canada’s bluegrass band to watch. Rooted in tradition, fearlessly creative and possessing a bold, dynamic sound, The Slocans have become a leading light of today’s acoustic music scene. http://slocanramblers.com/

Sunday, April 24 at the Sportsmen’s Tavern, 4-7 PM The John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band features four legendary musicians: John Jorgenson on guitar, mandolin and vocals; Herb Pedersen on banjo, guitar and vocals; Jon Randall on guitar and vocals; and Mark Fain on bass. Jorgenson and Pedersen are founders (with Chris Hillman, formerly of the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers) of the formative country rock band: Desert Rose Band. This description just scratches the surface. Last time I saw John Jorgensen in Buffalo, he was the all around “plays everything” guy in the Elton John Band. Herb Pederson was a member of the Dillards and the super group, Old And In The Way! Jon Randall played with Emmy Lou Harris’s super group, The Nash Rambler and co-wrote “Whiskey Lullaby” and Mark Fain, played bass for Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder for 13 years! This is going to be an amazing show! https://youtu.be/6gb8n0riHCo

The Buffalo Bluegrass All Stars take the stage for a bluegrass lunch show again on Thursday Feb. 3 and 17 starting at noon at the Sportsmen’s Tavern. Don’t forget that Bennington Lanes has an open bluegrass jam and open stage from 2 -7 PM Feb. 13th in Bennington NY. (this is every second Sunday of the month).

Bluegrass festivals and a Bluegrass camp with classes ranging from 30 minutes to 6 hours from Hamburg NY. (all driving times are from Hamburg NY). That’s 16 festivals and the oldest folk music camp in the US.

May 12-15 and August 18-21, Gettysburg Bluegrass Festivals, (campgrounds and it’s big!)

Gettysburg PA a 6 hour drive www.gettysburgbluegrass.com,

May 27-29 , Wrench Wranch Bluegrass Festival, (camping and smaller)

Bainbridge NY, 4.75 hours away, www.wrenchwranchbluegrass.com

June 3-5, Adironkack Bluegrass League Annual bluegrass Roundup,

Galway NY 4.25 hours away www.thousandislandsbluegrass.com

June 9-12, Wind Gap Bluegrass Festivals, (camping, smaller, great jamming and a BG kids program)

Wind Gap PA 5 hours away www.windgapbluegrass.com

June 29-July3, Remmington Ryde Bluegrass Festival,

Centre Hall PA 3.75 hours www.facebook.com/RemingtonRydeBluegrassFestival

Jul 7-9, Busy Bird Bluegrass Festivals,

Berkshire NY 3.5 hours away www.busybird-bluegrass.com

July 14-17, Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival, (camping, several stages, BG kids program, it’s big!)

Oak Hill NY 4.75 hours http://www.greyfoxbluegrass.com/

July 17-22, Augusta Heritage Bluegrass Camp, (hotels and campgrounds near by, best jamming and classes offered in many folk arts) Elikin WV, 5.5 hours http://augustaartsandculture.org/

July 27-31, Brantling Bluegrass Festivals,

Sudus, NY 2 hours www.brantlingbluegrass.com

July 27-30, Musicians Against Childhood Cancer,

Marengo, OH 4.25 hours www.musiciansagainstchildhoodcancer.com

July 31 ,Springville Fiddlers Festivals, (one day only, no camping, local groups, free!)

Springville, NY 30 minutes from Hamburg www.facebook.com/springvillefiddlefest

August 7, Bluegrass Ramble Picnic (one day, no camping, local groups, great jamming)

Preble, NY 2.75 hours away https://www.facebook.com/groups/25284036967

August 20, Mayville Bluegrass Festival, (one day, no camping, local groups, brewery location)

Mayville NY, 1 hour away www.facebook.com/mayvillebluegrass

August 25-28, Pickin in the Pasture, (camping, great jamming, national and regional bands)

Lodi NY, 2.5 hours, www.pickininthepasture.com

Sept 23-24, Thousand Islands Bluegrass Festival, (camping, great jamming, local and regional bands)

Clayton NY, 3.75 hours www.jamesreams.com

Sept 24, Appleumpkin Festival, (one day, several local bands and big craft show, free!)

Wyoming NY 1 hour drive, www.appleumpkin.com

early October (exact dates coming soon), FolkFaces Festival,

Darien Center, NY 49 minutes from Hamburg www.folkfacesmusic.com

I will leave you with three more of my answers to What is Bluegrass Music?

Fred Bartenstein broadcaster, musician, festival MC and talent director, composer and record producer. Fred teaches country and bluegrass music history at the University of Dayton and is the chair/president of the IBMA Foundation.

Bluegrass music is a souped-up stringband style that took the form of a genre in the 1940s, thanks to a score of Southern musicians. They put its pieces together from earlier banjo tunes, fiddle tunes, ballads, the blues, jazz, old-time stringbands, Victorian parlor music/Tin Pan Alley, black and white gospel music, brother duets, and commercially popular country music. Since then, thousands of bands and millions of people have come to enjoy the form and its roots and branches—from which the genre continues to evolve as a living art form.

I heard it on the radio while living with relatives in Virginia in the mid-1950s, before the term “bluegrass” came into widespread use. I fell in love with what was then called “mountain music,” continued to follow it, and eventually—as a young teenager—began to play it. Eventually my involvement expanded to radio broadcasting, emceeing and talent direction at early festivals and concerts, journalism and scholarship.

Two things stand out to me. 1) The amazing musicianship with which virtuoso instrumentalists and vocalists blend their efforts to create a rhythmic and emotionally compelling sound. 2) Bluegrass uniquely carries into the present earlier song material and performance techniques that would otherwise have been forgotten. I compare it to prehistoric insects in amber jewelry or the changing shades of a chameleon. It began with the ten original influences but the process continues, incorporating sounds from rockabilly, folk music, modern commercial country music, pop, rock, hip-hop . . . and beyond.

Ira Gitlin instrumentalist, music teacher, and writer from the Washington DC area and a National Bluegrass Banjo Championship. Bluegrass Week co-coordinator Augusta Heritage Center

Bluegrass is a genre of American country music that initially developed in the 1940s, using acoustic stringed instruments.

I got “hooked on it” after seeing the movie Deliverance, with the famous “Dueling Banjos” scene. In retrospect, that scene illustrates the vast chasm between urban, middle-class people and the culture that gave rise to the music, but also shows music’s potential to bridge that chasm. Plus, I really liked the sound of the banjo.

In my opinion, there are a couple of special things about bluegrass. Musically, the variegated instrumental and vocal textures are especially appealing to me. Culturally, it’s an expression of the “agrarian myth”–the idealization of rural life–and a sort of impressionistic portrait of a segment of America in the mid-20th century.

Aldo D’Orrico Bluegrass guitar player and songwriter from and living in Cosenza, Italy. Plays in the Muleskinner Boys and the Flying D’Oricco’s

in a few sentences or less, What is Bluegrass music?
 Bluegrass was born in a land far away from me, but I felt it so close since the first time. Irish and Scottish music mixed with jazz and blues, it’s a young musical genre claiming to be old that changed my life as a musician.

How did you get hooked on Bluegrass? 

I was studying some country guitar licks with my telecaster when I accidentally heard about Tony Rice. Then I saw the light.

In your opinion what makes bluegrass music special? The sound. There’s tons of great songs, stories and musical ideas in bluegrass, but the sound is something that astonishes me every time. That crispy natural woody sound seems to be there from forever.

Have a great month and as always, Keep on pickin’

Mark Panfil

January 2022 Local Bluegrass News=================================

Here’s to 2022! Burn the calendars from the last two years and sharpen a new pencil for the next one!

Last month I published answers to three questions that I put out to some of my friends from near and far. The questions were; “How did you get hooked on bluegrass?”. “What is Bluegrass Music?” and “What makes bluegrass music special to you?”

The answers have been extremely interesting and sometimes surprising. Last month, I published answers from Anne Werbitsky, Rich Schaefer, Keith Zehr, Ellen Carlson, Richard Cataldi And Tyler Westcott.

This month, I have two more answers to this question.

Murphy Henry from Winchester VA. Banjo player, writer of the General Store articles in the national magazine, Bluegrass Unlimited and founder and CEO of the Murphy Method instructional materials for learning bluegrass instruments by ear.

I came into bluegrass through singing. It was and is still all about the songs and the harmony singing for me. Not so much the instrumentals. And the songs that led me to bluegrass were those I sang in the Baptist Church and the folks songs I learned at various summer camps. I sang with my four sisters–we were always singing in the car and I would take my uke along to accompany us. Specifically, I found bluegrass because the folk singer Gamble Rogers, who was playing a folk club in Athens, Ga., where I was at the U of Ga, told the audience we should all go over to nearby Lavonia, Ga, the next day (Sunday) to the bluegrass festival there. He was going. So, I went. And not only heard my first live bluegrass (Lester Flatt, Bill Monroe, Jimmy Martin, the Lewis Family, the Country Gentlemen–what a lineup!) but I also met my future husband, Red Henry, who was a friend of Gamble’s. Shortly after that started playing bass with Betty Fisher and the Dixie Bluegrass Band, and shortly after that I bought a banjo. And, yes, I was hooked!!!

“What is Bluegrass?” In years past, I would have said the five-string banjo played in the Earl Scruggs style was the defining element of bluegrass music. (In fact, I said just that in my book Pretty Good for a Girl: Women in Bluegrass!) And bands that didn’t have a banjo played this way or didn’t have a banjo at all weren’t bluegrass. But now that bluegrass has expanded so much, I think the definition has broadened and there are some bands playing “bluegrass” without a banjo at all. The band Della Mae comes to mind. And while I know there will be exceptions to any definition, I still think bluegrass is played primarily on acoustic instruments: guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, Dobro (!), bass. And it features harmony singing–from 2 parts to 4 parts! But bluegrass is also all about the RHYTHM. The precision of the rhythm. Putting the beat in exactly the right place. Bluegrass has a particular rhythm–it doesn’t have to be fast–but I don’t know how to explain in words what that rhythm is! (Holy Cow, what a hard question!)

“What makes it so special?” The harmony singing and being able to sing many of the same songs with other bluegrass lovers. Knowing the same body of songs. The connection with other musicians–professional and non-professional–or even fans who love this same music. And the fact that PLAYING bluegrass is accessible to almost anyone who wants to give it a good solid try. Three chords and a capo and a love for the music. While is some ways bluegrass is a very sophisticated music, in other ways it is welcoming to amateur musicians and novices at many levels.

Tim Stafford Award winning songwriter and bluegrass performer, guitar player for Blue Highway and with Alison Krauss and Union Station in the past, author and bluegrass historian. From Tennessee now based in North Carolina but has performed throughout the world.

As a freshman in high school, I saw some friends playing and learned about Doyle Lawson’s mother living below the school. When the Country Gentlemen bus parked there, I met them. Before then, an English teacher’s band performed at the school and I loved being in the middle of this SOUND.

Bluegrass is a sound, a community, an attitude, a process of relationships, and a lifestyle.

It’s a niche music, informal and participatory so that people can interact directly with artists, and play themselves. It also requires a high degree of skill to play well and is becoming more diverse all the time, with participation by women, people of color and all viewpoints and lifestyles. It’s a soulful, powerful art form that has captured people around the world as well as top-tier artists like Earl Scruggs, Tony Rice, and Alison Krauss.

***

On a sad note, I need to mention that banjo player J.D. Crowe passed away on Christmas eve. To quote Tim Stafford “No one ever played the banjo like J.D. Crowe, ever had the drive, the feel, the tone, the timing.” He began playing banjo with Jimmy Martin and the Sunny Mountain Boys at 19 years old. Later, he formed his own band, The New South hiring future bluegrass legends Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas, Tony Rice, Phil Leadbetter and Keith Whitley to name just a few. His banjo playing on “the Bluegrass Album” Band’s recordings, set the gold standard for the perfect bluegrass banjo sound. Ironically, his friend and bandmate, Tony Rice passed away almost exactly on year before him on Christmas day 2020.

Fine examples of J.D. Crowe and Tony Rice’s musicality can be seen here, Bluegrass Album Band – Blue Ridge Mountain Home & Big Spike Hammer

Tony Rice-lead vocals and guitar, J.D.Crowe-banjo, Jerry Douglas-dobro, Doyle Lawson-mandolin and tenor vocals Bobby Hicks and Vassar Clements on Twin Fiddles and Mark Schatz on bass.

***

The Winter Village Music Camp has announced that the camp will go on from March 17-20, 2022 in Ithaca, NY. This is an indoor camp that brings in world class fiddle, mandolin, guitar and banjo teachers to teach small classes of intermediate to advanced players. It is run by Rick Manning and has a great reputation nationally. The website for more info is www.wintervillagemusic.org/

I have been enjoying turning on my phone to stream live bluegrass and country radio stations and I wanted to share these with you. Www.bluegrasscountry.org

is a 24/7 bluegrass and roots format from Washington, DC. It has an easy to use app available for Iphone and android. It is free and requires a single touch on my phone to bring it up and start the music.

Another live stream requires a few more touches on the phone, so I tend to listen on my computer. I’m hoping they will launch and app for it in the future. Www.wxrl.com/on-the-air.html This second live stream is of course our own local treasure, WXRL AM 1300 95.5 FM. The signal from WXRL gets weaker after sundown and in certain regions of western New York so I often use the live stream. The have a great syndicated Bluegrass show on Tuesday and Sunday nights and again this year Carl Eddy will present a tribute to Hank Williams on January 2 and 8th starting at 1 PM.

I will have a full list of this summer’s bluegrass festivals within a five hour drive from Buffalo in my February article but I need to get this mid winter one out there right now.

The Oil City, PA Bluegrass Festival takes place on Saturday, February 19th 2022 just a short 2.5 hour drive from Buffalo, NY. More info at https://www.facebook.com/oilbluegrass/

Here is a heads up for Sunday April 24, 2022 at 4 PM, The John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band takes the stage at the Sportsmen’s Tavern! The John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band features four legendary musicians: John Jorgenson on guitar, mandolin and vocals; Herb Pedersen on banjo, guitar and vocals; Jon Randall on guitar and vocals; and Mark Fain on bass. Jorgenson and Pedersen are founders (with Chris Hillman, formerly of the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers) of the formative country rock band: Desert Rose Band. Tickets will go fast for this special event! https://sportsmensbuffalo.com/?event=the-john-jorgenson-bluegrass-band-4pm-30

And every month the Sportsmen’s features the Buffalo Bluegrass All Stars (Doug Yeomans, Mark Panfil, Rich and Sally Schaefer) twice a month on the first and third Thursday from noon to 2:15 PM

There is also Bluegrass every month at Bennington Lanes in Bennington, NY on the second Sunday 2-7 PM. There was great music on stage and hot pickin’ around the pool table in several jam sessions in December.

Let me take this opportunity to wish you and your family a very happy, healthy and musical New Year. Until next time, keep on pickin’

Mark Panfil

www.BuffaloBluegrass.com

December 2021 News ==========================================================

Holly’s in the window. Home’s where the wind blows. Can’t walk for runnin’, Christmas Times a comin’ written by Tex Logan and recorded by Bill Monroe 70 years ago. As the year 2021 comes to a close, we look back at the “new” normal. Many live music venues have started booking bands again. Some bluegrass festivals have returned and more are scheduled to start up again 2022. Last year at this time, my article in JAM traced back the beginning of bluegrass historically speaking. This year I have asked some of my friends here and around the world to chime in with answers to three questions. I asked three questions. Here are the names of those I asked and their answers to “How did you get hooked on bluegrass?” and “What makes bluegrass music special to you?” Their answers to “What is Bluegrass Music” can be found at the end of the article.

Anne Werbitsky Dobro and steel guitar player from Big Tobacco & the Pickers, Toronto, ON Canada

I got hooked on the melodies and harmonies and the drive of the music. You want to learn all the songs so you can play with your friends,

“In your opinion what makes bluegrass music special?” Bluegrass brings people together, ‘cause it’s all about ‘the jam’.

Rich Schaefer, A former WBFO bluegrass show DJ and a founding member of the Buffalo Bluegrass All Stars and Creek Bend

I was involved in the folk scene of which “bluegrass” was a component. Much of folk music can “put you to sleep”. I fell in with a bluegrass banjo player (Ted Lambert) and enjoyed the punch (drive) that bluegrass provided.

“In your opinion what makes bluegrass music special? “Bluegrass is special because of the aforementioned instrumentation/vocals and the aforementioned punch (drive) of the music.

Keith Zehr Bluegrass festival and concert promoter and former WBFO Bluegrass Show DJ

I got hooked on bluegrass music through the fiddle. Whenever someone would shuffle the bow or make that dancing sound on the fiddle, I stopped what I was doing to listen. I bought my first record album by Flatt and Scruggs at the old Twin Fair department store when I saw the picture on the front with the band holding their instruments. I didn’t know it was called bluegrass, but soon learned and there were many more records to come!

“In your opinion what makes bluegrass music special? “There is not a lot of money to be made playing bluegrass music, which means musicians that devote time to it are doing so because they love the music and the energy they get from it. Bluegrass musicians, no matter how well known, are generally very approachable and will hang around after a concert to talk to their fans. Fans are much the same as musicians, listening to it because they love it. This shared passion is very special as the music is quite eclectic and not always easy to find. You can’t really teach yourself to love bluegrass music. It generally comes straight from the heart. Bluegrass presents the most authentic of music experiences.

Ellen Carlson Bluegrass fiddler, band leader and veteran fiddle educator from New Hampshire.

I went to the Berkshire Mountains Bluegrass Festival when I was 14 and never looked back. Loved the fact that I could jam with other people standing out in a field. Loved the music that was happening on stage — the harmonies, the instrumentation, the energy, the soul, the fun, the exceptional musicianship, the approachable “star” performers. Loved that people were so nice and welcoming.

“In your opinion what makes bluegrass music special? “ The community of people playing bluegrass. This music can be played by novices along with professionals but also allow every level the chance to find challenges and comfort. It’s a growing and developing genre — not stagnant — but deeply rooted in it’s tradition. It’s a music for all ages to participate together.

Richard Cataldi Fiddle and banjo player from the Rochester NY area. Member of the bluegrass band, Gone Fishin’.

In 1973 The Earl Scruggs Review was a warm-up act for an Arlo Guthrie concert while I was in college. (Clarkson College). After the concert I had the fortune of having Pizza with Earl and his sons along with my roommate at 1:30 am after the show. The next morning I bought a banjo.

“In your opinion what makes bluegrass music special?” Bluegrass music is a very open music, meaning that amateurs are encouraged to play and so many do. This creates a great camaraderie which is also supported by the professionals in the music.

Tyler Westcott Buffalo based banjoist and promoter, plays in Folkfaces, Banjo Juice Jazz Band, the Paper Roses and the Observers

I first heard Bluegrass and bluegrass adjacent style groups at music festivals, also at party’s my family took me to. I got my first banjo at 16 and looked into it a bit. I crashed some bluegrass/oldtime jams that were way above my ability. So I kept listening and practicing. But jamming with people and knowing the same tunes made me love it.

“In your opinion what makes bluegrass music special?” I love that you can meet people from across the country or world and pick up and have a successful jam session and know the same songs and artists.

Local News

The fall of 2021 has had some sad farewells in bluegrass music. In October, Phil Leadbetter made his journey to meet his maker. I taught with Phil at the Augusta Bluegrass camp on two occasions and got to visit with him several times in Nashville. He was Dobro player of the Year three times, nominated for a Grammy twice and a five time cancer survivor and a great gentleman. Sonny Osborne passed away too in the end of October. He was half of the immensely popular and innovative brother duet, the Osborne Brothers along with his mandolin playing brother, Bobby. He played with Bill Monroe as a 14 year old boy still in High School. Their biggest hit was, Rocky Top.

Locally, a familiar and friendly face at our Bennington Jam sessions, Barb Deeter left us in November. Barb was a volunteer for the Western New York Bluegrass and Old Time Music Association and ran membership and stage sign up for the Monthly jam sessions. She a very sweet lady and will be missed by the association and all that knew her.

The Bennington Jam is picking up again on Sunday December 12 from 2-7 PM. It is the annual Christmas party jam. Come one, come all to jam or listen.

The Bluegrass All Stars play every first and third Thursday of the month from noon to 2:15 pm at the Sportsmen’s Tavern on Amherst st. near Grant st in Buffalo. Doug Yeomans, Mark Panfil, Sally and Rich Schaefer provide the bluegrass music and all are welcome to enjoy a great bluegrass lunch!

Here are the answers to “What is Bluegrass music?” by this month’s contributors. I left out the names of who said what. Try to guess and email me if you want to see if you were right.

1. Bluegrass is the music developed by Bill Monroe combining different styles from his musical history — including old time fiddle tunes, Irish/Celtic, country and blues

2. Bluegrass music is an acoustic music played with guitars, a bass, banjo and mandolin at it’s core. A fiddle and resophonic guitar are also common. The songs are folk in nature and include two or three part harmonies. Song structure for bluegrass songs almost always include instrumental solos by various instruments.

3. Bluegrass music is generally played on acoustic stringed instruments with a hard rhythm and boundless energy, aiming straight for the heart. Harmony singing with extra energy to hit the high notes is often a trademark. If you have an uncontrollable urge to tap your foot or bop your head up and down, you may be listening to bluegrass music.

4. To me bluegrass is souped up stringband music inflected with the blues, high & lonesome harmonies, with lots of improvised solos. It can be plodding and slow waltz or a blistering fast number. Often with dark and heartbreaking, great storytelling, and/or jubilant fast paced lyrics.

5. Instrumentally speaking, …banjo, fiddle, mandolin, bass, guitar, dobro…..many instrumental breaks. Although the addition of other instruments does not negate the “bluegrass” nature of the music. Vocals with lead singing and 2, 3 or 4 part harmony…..often stylistically specific to bluegrass/country. Although the occasional departure from the “style” does not negate the “bluegrass” nature of the music. In terms of themes of the music (ex. moonshine, mountain life, love, tragedy, murder, railroads, gospel). Although the addition of other themes does not negate the “bluegrass” nature of the music. In terms of music theory, a music built on major, minor and modal scales with a constant stream of 1/8 noter being prevalent….often in 4/4, 2/4 and 3/4although the addition of other scales or the departure from 1/8 notes or different time signatures does not negate the “bluegrass” nature of the music

6. Bluegrass is a high lonesome acoustic sound you get when you mx and match musicians with soulful singing, an upright bass, guitar, fiddle, banjo, dobro, mandolin…..

Next month these same questions will be answered by

Tim Stafford Award winning songwriter and bluegrass performer, guitar player for Blue Highway, author and bluegrass historian. Based in North Carolina but has performed throughout the world.

Aldo D’Orrico Bluegrass guitar player and songwriter from Cosenza, Italy. Plays in the Muleskinner Boys and the Flying D’Oricco’s

Fred Bartenstein broadcaster, musician, festival MC and talent director, composer and record producer. Fred teaches country and bluegrass music history at the University of Dayton and is the chair/president of the IBMA Foundation.

Murphy Henry Banjo player, writer of General Store articles in the national magazine, Bluegrass Unlimited and founder and CEO of the Murphy Method instructional materials for learning bluegrass instruments by ear.

Nate Grower Fiddle player originally from WNY, now a member of the David Bromberg Band and the current Delaware State Fiddle Champion.

And maybe some surprise additional contributors.

Have a very Happy Holiday season everyone! Until next time, keep on pickin’

Mark Panfil

Bluegrass Ramble November 2021===============================================

Back in the summer of 2004, my wife Cheryl and I were attending the Grey Fox Bluegrass festival in Ancramdale NY about two and a half hours north of New York City. I had been teaching dobro to kids at the festival that afternoon and Cheryl was shopping. Earl Scruggs and some of his sons were on the main stage and after the set Earl and his wife, Louise Scruggs and were selling autographed banjo heads. Cheryl talked to them a couple minutes and bought me that autographed banjo head. I think it was $25 dollars and I was understandably thrilled when she gave it to me that afternoon.

My signature banjo head- Mark Panfil

And that is how it started. From that day on, I brought that banjo head with me to many workshops and concerts. Here is a little history of these iconic banjo players and where I got them to sign this banjo head. The numbers are not on the head itself but only on my photo of the head and each number is placed as close to the first letter in the name as I could get it. The numbers do not reflect the order of when I had the players sign it.

1. Earl Scruggs 1924-2012 Credited with popularizing the syncopated, three finger style of picking the banjo so much so that it has been called Scruggs style since he first appeared as a 21 year old member of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass boys. Later he went on to move bluegrass music to an unprecedented level of notoriety when he and fellow Bluegrass Boy, Lester Flatt formed their own band, Flatt and Scruggs in the late 1940’s. You may have heard and seen him on the Beverley Hillbillies where they played the theme song before each episode and appeared in front of the camera as cousins, Lester and Earl. His wife, Louise is also a member of the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame for her innovative booking and business savvy. She was the first to realize that colleges and music festivals would welcome bluegrass music.

2. Bill Emerson 1938- 2021 Banjo player and founding member of the Country Gentlemen and the US Navy Country Current Band. The Country Gentlemen were a groundbreaking bluegrass band from the Washington DC area mixing traditional songs with mainstream songs from other genres like folk (Baby Blue- B. Dylan) and rock’s Fox on the Run (Manfred Mann). He joined the United States Navy in 1973, attaining the rank of master chief petty officer and performing in both the United States Navy Band and its Country Current bluegrass ensemble for the next twenty years. In 2012, we taught together at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins WV. He signed it during a lunch break that week.

3. Carl Jackson 1953- present At the age of 14 he was invited to play banjo for Jim and Jesse and the Virginia Boys, one of the most respected bluegrass bands at that time. After five years with Jim and Jesse, Jackson tested the musical waters elsewhere before landing a job with Glen Campbell. Jackson remained in Campbell’s band for 12 years. One of my most cherished memories was singing in a trio with him as we jammed at the Augusta Heritage Center (AHC) in 2011. He signed the banjo head that year for me.

4. Eric Wiessburg 1939-2020 He was well known for playing the banjo solo in “Dueling Banjos”, used as the theme in the film Deliverance (1972). The song won the 1974 Grammy Award for Best Country Instrumental Performance. I met him at Ashbury Hall in Babeville, Buffalo, NY when he came to play with New York State Banjo Summit in October 2013.

That night I also saw Richie Sterns (16) from the Ithaca NY based alternative country/folk group “The Horse Flies” Richie signed that night and we talked about the days when Creek Bend and the Horse Flies played the now de-funked Rooney Mountain Bluegrass festival in Deposit NY.

Also that night, I asked Noam Pikelny (11) from the Punch Brothers and Leftover Salmon to sign the banjo head that night. We talked about the summers we spent at Augusta when he was developing his playing style as a student and late night jam sessions we shared those years. The last to sign it that night was Bela Fleck (18), banjo player for the New Grass Revival and Bela Fleck and the Flecktones.

5. Bill Keith 1939-2015 Bluegrass banjo inovator resposible for the melodic style of three finger playing now known as “Keith Style”. Playing every note that a fiddle played in his banjo solos. Keith was also a teacher at Augusta. He signed the banjo head in Nashville during a World of Bluegrass convention.

6. Pete Seeger 1919-2014 Folk singer, song writer, political activist and banjo player. Autographed the banjo head in Milford PA before his concert in June of 2013.

7. Steve Martin Comedian, writer, actor and banjo player. Signed in July 2011 at the back stage of the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, NY. A security guard said Steve would not be signing anything but when I told him Earl Scruggs signed it, the security guard brought it back to me with Steve Martin’s signature.

8. Tony Trischka Tony is a composer, author of many banjo instruction books, closely associated with the jazz/bluegrass style known as “Newgrass”. He is also a producer and a world class banjo player of all styles. He signed the banjo head in 2005 while we were teaching at the Augusta Heritage Bluegrass Camp.

9. Jim Mills banjo player with Ricky Skaggs and Kentucky Thunder and Doyle Lawson and Quicksilver. Signed August 2011 at the Augusta Heritage Bluegrass Camp.

10. Greg Cahill is the founding member of the Chicago based bluegrass band, Special Consensus. Signed at the Augusta Heritage Center in Elkins WV.

12. Dr. Ralph Stanley 1927-2016 of the legendary Stanley Brothers bluegrass band signed at a concert at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester NY

13. Eddie Adcock banjo player with the Country Gentlemen signed at the Wind Gap Bluegrass Festival in Wind Gap Pennsylvania in 2015. Look up Eddie Adcock brain surgery on YouTube.

14. Alan Munde banjo player for the Country Gazette, the Kentucky Colonels and The Flying Burrito Brothers. He signed the head at Augusta Heritage bluegrass camp.

15. John McEuen banjo player and founding member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band signed after a concert at the Sportmen’s Tavern.

17. Pete Kykendall 1938-2017 co-founder of the Bluegrass Unlimited magazine, composer, writer and a banjo player for the Country Gentlemen. Signed at the Mast Farm Inn in Boone NC.

19. J.D Crowe banjo player for Jimmy Martin and the Sunny Mountain Boys, the New South and the Bluegrass Album band. Signed at the World of Bluegrass convention in Nashville TN.

On Tuesday, November 9th the Irish Bluegrass band, Jigjam will return to the Buffalo Irish Center in South Buffalo. Last time they were here, they brought the house down with the hard driving power and instrumental prowess of their performance.

On Saturday, November 20th Creek Bend will present a concert at the West Falls Center for the Arts in West Falls NY.

The Buffalo Bluegrass All Stars return to the Sportsman’s Tavern on November 4th and 18th for lunch time shows, noon to 2:15 PM. The monthly Bennington Lanes bluegrass jam session takes place on Sunday November 14th 2PM-7 PM in Bennington, NY.

If you are looking for a good bluegrass song to look up for this fall season, how about trying the song “Thanksgiving” by Creek Bend or the song “God’s Coloring Book” written by Dolly Parton and recorded by the Country Gentlemen. With Veteran’s Day coming up you might consider listening to “More Than Just a Name on the Wall” by Dailey and Vincent.

This past October another great bluegrass musician moved up to the angel band. Phil Leadbetter was a three time dobro player of the year for the International Bluegrass Music Association. He played with The Grandpa Jones Show, The Vern Gosdin Band, J. D. Crowe and the New South, Wildfire (founding member), Grasstowne (founding member), The Whites and The Dale Ann Bradley Band. He was a five time cancer survivor and a very inspirational player, teacher and person. You will enjoy anything you hear by him but perhaps start with “I’m a Ramblin’ Rolling Stone” and his version of “Closer Walk With Thee”. He died of Covid 19 on October 14, 2021.

As this summer and fall fade into winter, I hope the local live music scene continues to rebound after the last 18 months or so. I hope to see you at a live concert soon and I truly wish you good health and happiness and above all great music.

Take care and keep on pickin’

Mark Panfil

OCTOBER 2021 Local news==================================================

It was a cold day in Syracuse the day I first saw Tony Trischka play with his band in the 70’s, Country Cooking from Ithaca, NY along with Peter Wernick and Russ Barenberg. The city of Syracuse turned the municipal auditorium into an indoor bluegrass music festival and my brother and I had to go. Hearing Tony and that band play that weekend was a life changing experience for me. Not that many years later, Tony was bringing his ground breaking, progressive bluegrass band, Tony Trischka and Skyline to Buffalo to play concerts that Creek Bend was booking at the Lord Amherst hotel. I don’t think his banjo ever spent time in the case back then and probably not now too. He was always playing and writing. Tony began playing banjo in 1963 and has released many books on playing the banjo over the years. His first book to which was entitled “Melodic Banjo” which is a style of playing all of the notes of intricate fiddle tunes on a five string banjo still resides right next to my computer for easy access any time of day or night. Next to Earl Scruggs, Tony Trischka is the foremost teacher of banjo in the world. This is why I am so excited to announce that he is coming to the West Falls Center for the Arts on Saturday, October 9th from 1-4 PM to give a banjo masterclass for all levels of banjo players. Later that evening, Tony will present a concert at the same location Starting at 7 PM. For more information/tickets on this rare and exciting presentations by this world class musician, please go to www.BuffaloBluegrass.com or www.westfallsartcenter.org

Creek Bend has had a great summer full of new music and you can see them this month at Flying Bison Oct 15, from 6-9 PM for the Oktoberfest Celebration sponsored in part by the Buffalo Music Coalition. Later in the month, they will be at Becker Farms in Gasport, NY on Saturday and Sunday October 23rd and Sunday October 24th from noon to 4 PM.

The Buffalo Bluegrass Youth Ensemble starts a new season on Monday, October 4th and again on Monday, October 18th at Wayside Presbyterian Church on the corner of Amsdell rd. and Route 5 in Hamburg NY. This is a club designed for young musicians grades 5 though 12 where they learn to play bluegrass music on violin, viola, cello, bass, banjo, mandolin and acoustic guitar. We literally teach them how to jam on these instruments. Bluegrass is unique in the realms of musical styles. It starts very simple and has room to grow to the virtuoso level. The kids in our club later perform at the Erie County Fair, farmers markets and the Springville Fiddlers Festival. Please spread the word. It is open to student musicians from all over western NY and it is a free club. Information on the club including videos of performances can be found at www.BuffaloBluegrass.com and by searching for the Buffalo Bluegrass Youth Ensemble on Facebook.

The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) by now has finished up their annual trade show and fan fest in Raleigh NC. The city of Raleigh throws an enormous street festival on the weekend following the Monday through Friday trade show in the convention center. Over 200,000 bluegrass fans attend each fall and much of the show is free of charge. The jam sessions in the neighboring hotels throughout the week are amazing and plentiful. You can learn more about the IBMA and the World Of Bluegrass week at www.IBMA.org.

I like to leave you with suggestions for listening for this month and I’ll start with a song that really showcases some of the best in bluegrass style fiddling and banjo work and vocals that epitomize the high lonesome sound. Danny Paisley & Southern Grass has the number one song on the Bluegrass Unlimited magazine’s National Bluegrass Survey. The song is “Blink of an Eye” and by the way, Danny and Del McCoury were named the male vocalists of the year this year in Raleigh on Thursday, September 30th at the annual Bluegrass Music awards show. The show is on YouTube by searching IBMA awards 2021.

I would also like to leave you with a teaser or two. Over the next few monthly articles, I’d like to borrow some ideas and write about them. The first is an idea that Elmer Ploetz, our editor and chief has used in his articles. A dialogue with two members of different generations about a few favorite bluegrass or bluegrass related recordings. The second idea will be sharing a few stories about a banjo head with twenty signatures of banjo greats starting with Earl Scruggs that I proudly display in my music room.

Till next time, stay safe and help us keep live music live through the winter ahead and as always, Keep On Pickin’!

Mark Panfil

Monthly News September 2021 ================================================

It’s been a great summer of live music and friends getting together. The nights are getting colder and the sun sets earlier every night. The fall has always been a season of harvest parties and majestic beauty not made by man. One of my favorite high and lonesome songs is “When Those Golden Leaves Begin to Fall”
Look it up by Only Lonesome from Washington DC https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-Vfl81wg3U.

Bluegrass is an organic music that is passed down form player to player and generation to generation through listening and watching. People all over the United States go to jam sessions and jamming classes to learn to play it “by ear”. That doesn’t mean that they go to learn how to improvise. The highest quality players and singers listen to the masters and try to learn their solos and make their voices sound like their heroes. In the greater Buffalo area, string students grades 5 through 12 can get together with kids their own age and experienced bluegrass musicians and learn bluegrass songs and solos. The Buffalo Bluegrass Youth Ensemble is a club that I run along with other experienced bluegrass players for young adults to learn to play bluegrass on violin, viola, cello, bass, acoustic guitar, mandolin and banjo. We meet every first and third Monday of the month, October though July from 6:30-8 PM at Wayside Presbyterian Church on the corner of Route 5 and Amsdell Road in Hamburg, NY. The club is totally free and open to any kids that have some experience playing those instruments from private lessons or school lessons. Details and videos of the group in performance mode can be seen on www.BuffaloBluegrass.com on the Youth Ensemble page. If you know of a kid that this might interest, please pass on the website.

The Buffalo Bluegrass Youth Ensemble
This September, the Buffalo Bluegrass All Stars will be appearing three times at the Sportsmen’s Tavern for lunchtime entertainment. Besides playing the first and third Thursday’s of the month from noon to a little after 2 PM, the group is adding the second Thursday, September 9 to it’s lunch performances. Doug Yeomans- guitar, Sally Schaefer on fiddle, Rich Schaefer on bass and Mark Panfil on banjo and dobro are excited to bring a summer’s worth of new and old material to the Sportsmen’s Tavern.

Two events are happening in September of 2021. The first is the national Bluegrass music convention and fan fest in Raleigh, NC . The convention features many workshops on everything from booking better gigs to playing Bluegrass over seas and that takes place Tuesday September 28th to Friday October first. The fan fest is a free street festival that featured the very best names in Bluegrass music taking place on the next two days, Friday and Saturday October first and second.

The second event is a local bluegrass concert that is part of one of the largest arts and crafts festivals in New York State, The Appleumpkin Festival in Wyoming, NY (just outside of Warsaw, NY). The festival takes place on Saturday, September 25 and Sunday, September 26 and spans the whole downtown area of the village of Wyoming, NY. There is live music on both days but on Saturday the tent in front of the historical building is reserved for bluegrass bands. This year the Diamond Back Rattlers from the Ithaca, NY area plays a set starting at 2 PM. Creek Bend from Buffalo plays a set at 12:30 PM. The Matthews Family Tradition from Van Etten, NY starts at 3:45 PM and the show starts with the Panfil Family Bluegrass Band at 11 AM. The concert is free and chairs are provided for the audience.

the Diamond Back Rattlers
Our local ties to the hills and hollars of Appalachia and the music of Bill Monroe have some notable stories. Most bluegrass historians agree that bluegrass music was born in the combination of specific players in Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys band and the year was 1945. Earl Scruggs on banjo, Lester Flatt, lead vocals and guitar, Chubby Wise on fiddle and Howard Watts on bass along with Bill Monroe on mandolin and vocals is often called the original bluegrass band. This band from Kentucky made it’s influence known all the way to Buffalo through AM radio via WSM in Nashville and by amateur and semi professional players migrating north to find jobs. Ohio became a popular destination. Cincinnati Ohio was the hometown of Billy Hamilton a founding member of the Grey Sky Boys bluegrass band. Years later Billy taught and served as a Dean at the University of Buffalo. Of course, he put together a band that played at the Library restaurant on Bailey Ave. near the UB campus. Players like Bob Schneider, my banjo teacher would join Billy on stage and my brother and I would watch from the tables out front. Players like Bob made connections with Appalachian players who moved up to Lockport NY to work at Harrison Radiator. A line of students locally have learned from Bob and Billy.

Billy Hamilton
Buffalo is not very far from the heartland of Bluegrass music. The line of players and listeners continues today. Help support the tradition that is alive in Buffalo. See a live bluegrass show by a national or local band and spread the word about the Buffalo Bluegrass Youth Ensemble.

We have lost two more musicians with ties to bluegrass. Charlie Watts from the Rolling Stones started out as a banjo player and the Stones song, Wild Horses by the Old and in the Way band is a classic. Tom T. Hall was a big supporter of bluegrass through his song writing and philanthropic efforts. A listen to his version of Fox on the Run will put a smile on your face and a tune to hum for the rest of the day.

Hope to see you out watching live music. Stay safe and please vaccinate. Keep on pickin’

Mark Panfil

Gene Panfil 1984

June 2021

Happy June JAM readers. Picnics, out door events, concerts, jams and of course, father’s day. Now as a father and grandfather I realize more than ever how what we do or don’t do shapes our children’s futures. Here is a story about a father and his kids growing up in a steel town in the 60’s and 70’s. Gene Panfil 1928-1991.

He learned to play harmonica and the button concertina from his father. His mom taught piano lessons to local neighborhood kids. He played music while his kids were growing up but never was payed a penny for the music he played. He played music in High school in the band and even did a semester in music at SUNY Fredonia. He loved swing and classical music but his favorite was Gilbert and Sullivan. He loved to plant seeds. They weren’t in a garden or a farm. The seeds he planted went right into the souls of his children. When his oldest son was six years old, he gave him a harmonica. The dad taught the kid a simple song, When the Saints Go Marching In. The dad watered that seed and gave it light to grow. The nurturing was never called a lesson.

Years went by and the kid carried that harmonica to and from school everyday trying out every song that was popular on AM radio in the 60’s. Later he planted another seed. He went downtown to a pawn shop on Chippewa street. He bought a five string banjo for that boy from the owner, Breezy. He gave it to the kid along with a record album, The World of Flatt and Scruggs. He watered it with instruction books and various teachers for him. All the while he was giving the kid room to grow. Throughout this time the kid’s younger brother and sister were also experiencing the growing process nurtured by the dad and now the older sibling too.

The younger brother wanted to be like his brother so the dad found an old mandolin at a yard sale somewhere along the roads he traveled throughout the state. He gave it to the younger brother so they could play music together. That younger son played it night and day and soon was figuring out songs and playing them twice as fast as his older brother. The three kids learned harmony singing in a professional choir downtown that dad found when another seed was nurtured.

That dad drove the kids to bluegrass festivals from Ontario to Vermont and fanned the flames by introducing them to local bluegrass teachers and artists. That dad did not stop planting seeds, nurturing and fanning the passion till the day he died.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dad’s and awesome uncles who plant seeds in children’s hearts.

In June there are several local bluegrass happenings.

The 14th Annual NEPA Bluegrass Festival this year in Tunkhannock PA is at the beautiful Lazybrook Park. Two stages of Traditional and Progressive Bluegrass Music, Camping, Workshops, Jamming and Picking, Food and Craft vendors on site. This is a family friendly event. Doyle Lawson and the band Sideline are headliners.

The Brothers Blue are playing Sun, June 6 @ 3:00PM Fat Bob’s Smokehouse, Buffalo, NY, Sat, June 26 @ 5:30PM at 42 North Brewing Company, East Aurora, NY and Wed, Jun 30 at Fox Run Vineyards, Penn Yan, NY.

On Saturday June 19 the Kevin Prater Band from eastern Kentucky will be at the Commuity Fellowship Church on Johnson Creek Rd, Middleport NY starting at 7 PM. The show is free with a goodwill offering for the band. They will also play the church service on Sunday the 20th starting at 10 AM. The band is particularly known for their a capella and gospel harmonies

The Wind Gap Bluegrass Festival is happening in Wind Gap PA on the weekend of June 10-13th. This year’s line up includes Colebrook Road, Valerie Smith & Liberty Pike, Little Roy Lewis and Lizzie, Eddie Adcock, The Ruta Beggers, and Danny Paisley & Southern Grass

Big Inlet Brewery in Mayville NY has a Sunday afternoon with Bill Ward and the Panfil Brothers

June 27 1:30-4 PM. Earlier on that same day, 7:30 AM- 10 AM, Creek Bend is playing at the Juicery in Delaware Park for the Buffalo Marathon.

Bluegrass is a name that was coined out of necessity immediately following members of Bill Monroe’s bluegrass Boys leaving to form their own bands. They wanted to carry on the musical balance that Monroe orchestrated and maintained in his band. Instead of calling it Monroe music, it settled into being called bluegrass, named after his band name. So when I hear people refer to music as bluegrass, I ask myself, “just what part of that music reminds you of a Bill Monroe song?” Have you listened to Bill and his former band members lately?

Just need to remind everyone, WXRL AM 1300 in Buffalo and WXRL.com worldwide features a bluegrass music show every Sunday night from 7 PM-10 PM ET. Into the Blue is a great way to hear and learn about new and old bluegrass music. Check it out!

In parting, Happy summer to fans and pickers alike and again, let’s keep on pickin’!

Mark Panfil


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