In 2005 I made three trips. Instructors were Geoff Achison, Patrick Sweeny, and Michael Falzarano. This was my first electric class with Geoff, and man was it fun! Smaller than G.E.'s electric class there was more opportunity for individual attention and help. Geoff's blues style is great to listen to and to be able to hear and see where it comes from really gave me something to work on in terms of my own approach to playing. Geoff's format was to start us off with a basic blues progression to 'break the ice' and get a feel for where everyone's at. From there, we went wherever the music and our questions took us. Rod, whom I'd met in G.E.'s class, brought some cd's containing jam tracks, bass, drum, and rhythm guitar tracks in various keys that worked out well. This was the first time I'd been there for the "Pick 'n Putt" weekend. It was unique in that it was the only weekend I'd spent there where there was a notable lack of jamming between and after classes. A lot of the camp seemed to disappear at times and I don't know where, as the 'cycles stayed in the parking lot. We in Geoff's class did a lot of jamming, to the point of considering setting up in the shower room after the workshop was closed at midnight, but the porches were unusually vacant. On the plus side, Jorma was the overnight security for all three nights. On Saturday morning I did my usual 6:00am rise and into the showers. Coming out of the showers I found Jorma was up and starting the coffee. He's an early riser as well and that weekend it seemed as if we were the only two, as we'd spend about 45 minutes sitting on the porch drinking coffee and bs-ing each morning before seeing any other signs of life! At the student performance I did (on acoustic guitar) a version of "I See The Light". I called it "I See The Light, Lite", with only 1/10th the number of notes as the original. I basically sat down with about 6 different live versions of the song and cut and pasted the parts that I thought I had figured out into a coherent song. Afterwards Jack surprised me by saying that he really enjoyed hearing it, as they had "never played it that way". That wasn't really my intent, but I'll take praise any way I could. This was a shock, but then on Monday morning, as everyone was packing and saying their good-byes Kevin, a writer doing an article on the ranch for the New York Times and taking Jorma's class, came up to me and said that Jorma had mentioned me in class that morning. Apparently he too enjoyed hearing a rendition of his song that wasn't intent on capturing his style note-for-note, but was adapted to my abilities and my voice. Later, before I left, Jorma himself said basically the same thing to me. After that I went looking to see of John had a crowbar handy, to help get my head into my car!
I was originally scheduled to take Mary Gautier's songwriting class, but she had to cancel due to a family emergency. There were still spots open in Patrick Sweeney's blues class that weekend so I went with that, instead. Plus, Box Set was teaching that weekend and the combination of Patrick, Jeff, and Jim was just too, well, insane is one word I could use, to miss. His class was great, with a lot of emphasis on slide playing and open tunings. I had touched upon some of this in a workshop in Manhattan with Steve James and it's something I want to continue to explore. We did a class performance, but I was rushing to set up recording equipment and figure out where an annoying buzz in one of the mics was coming from, so when Patrick volunteered us to go on first I rushed up to the stage totally unprepared (mentally) and pretty much faked it through the bit as I couldn't remember the song to save my life. This was the weekend I met My friend Tori. He was there for Jack's bass class and Rich, who I was also in Patrick's class, had met him at the Meigs and convinced him to help him perform Good Shepherd at the student performance. They had started working on the song and realized there were a couple of bits they wern't sure of. Tori aske me if I could help, which I did, and I volunteered to help out by adding an electric bit to it. Tori was supposed to sing it, but was having trouble getting it right while playing the bass. Since Box Set was teaching up at the concert hall I remarked that somewhere in that bunch we should be able to find a singer. Tori took off up the hill like lightening and came back with two singers and a 12-string guitarist. Actually Mark,the guitarist, was a bass player in Jack's class but was learning guitar on the 12-string. One of the singers was his wife (Susan, I think) and the other was another Dave. Somewhere along the line someone came up with the name Ad Hoc Tuna. It turned out that neither of the singers had ever heard the song, and we never had a complete rehearsal of it! Yet, come Sunday, we pulled off a pretty good (if unique) rendition of it.
I just had to take JamStock again, and it was another great weekend. One of the great things about JamStock is when a class is over, it still continues, whether or not Michael is still there. There are some songs which just don't lend themselves to a large class performance, and the 'tween class times are great for giving them a run-through with whomever else is interested. The Saturday night concert was the combination of David Bromberg and Jorma opening up for David and the Angel Band. Both sets were alone worth the trip to see. The Angel Band was, at that point, a husband-wife-son-daughter-friend, David's-wife and David combination, What a night for beautiful music! As I was packing my car up for the trip home, Jorma's parting words of inspiration hung in my ears - "You know, you're seriously disturbed". Well, that was after explaining to him why I had to go out and buy a brand new Marshall AVT275 amp (my VS65 burned out a switch two weeks prior to JamStock, and no one could promise it would be fixed by then). And, in early 2006 I saw Jorma and Barry at the Mexicali Blues Cafe. It was Oscar night, and Myron keptt coming out on stage and handing Jorma updates on the awards. At one point the conversation was steered to the movies that Jorma was not allowed to watch at home, only on the tour bus. Rob Zomnbie's name came up and Jorma turned to Barry and said "That man is seriously disturbed!". I immediately thought "YES! I'm in the same league as Rob Zombie"! As I said earlier, I'll take a compliment any way I can get it...
I started 2006 out intending to take 3 workshops. However, when I saw that Geoff Achison's electric blues was scheduled for the same weekend as a Roger McGuinn concert, I just had to sign up for the 4th. Luckily my job was ending our ability to carry vacation time over from one year to the next, so I had some time that I had to use or lose. I took Jack's beginner bass class in March, Jeff Pehrson's songwriting class in April, Geoff's class in May, and, of course, JamStock in November.
I was more than a little worried about taking Jack's class. While I'll admit to owning a bass I don't consider myself to be a bass player. And Jack always seemed a little aloof to me, at least to those not in his classes, and he has a reputation for assigning 'homework' to his classes, in-between class sessions. Jack, however, turned out to be a warm and humorous guy with plenty of patience for us beginners. I definitely came out of that class a much better 'owner' of a bass, and can now approach playing in a much more structured way then my previous "hail Mary, flail away" approach. My friend Tori was back, and for Sunday's performance we asked Jorma it we could do Good Shepherd with him. After asking "who's singing" and getting himself as an answer, he agreed. I guess by now he's heard Tori and my attempts at singing (although Tori has improved greatly, most of any improvement I've made is in turning up my guitar amp). With no rehearsal we plowed ahead and did, I think, a pretty respectable job of it. Enough so that after starting to leave the stage, Jorma came back to the mic and asked to see our union cards after the show. I sat down in a daze and Tori had to go outside to breathe. Later, still in a daze, we got up to do I See The Light by ourselves and pretty much massacred it. As Tori later captioned a photo of us, "A couple of guys having a real good time at the expense of others...". Luckily my camcorder failed to capture that performance.
April's class was a songwriting class with Jeff Pehrson of Box Set. I had wanted to take Mary's "make up" class, but it was too soon after Jack's class to get time off from work. Jeff's class was not a let down though. Dave (Ad Hoc Tuna singer) was in it, as well as AK-Ellie, and a woman who was there as a guest (her husband was in another class) until she found the songwriting class had openings. I'd have to say that it was a successful class, as everyone walked out with a song. I finally found the words to "Walking With A Piece Of My Soul", a fingerstlye piece I had written the music and title for 2 years earlier but hadn't been able to come up with the words. We also had a helluva lotta fun! I also came up with a bridge for "A Multitude Of Rainbows", a song I'd been working on for a while but seemed to be lacking something musically. I came up with a bridge that re-vitalized the song and gave me the impetus to work more on the lyrics. For Sunday's concert I performed with John Hurlbut, Vanessa, and another woman (whose name I can't for the life of me remember, despite meeting her afterwards in line at BB King's for a Tommy Emmanuel concert). I also had the pleasurable experience of finding a new guitar waiting for me. In correspondence with Mark I learned that he had a new Rickenbacker 12-string and was selling his 'old' one. We agreed on a price, I sent the check, and he left it at the Ranch when he came up the weekend before. When I arrived I had a new toy!
Geoff's class in May was like a continuation of last year's class. Most of the people were in last year's as well! More exploration and a lot of fun. I was doubly glad to be there, since he wasn't playing in the NY-NJ area that year, so this was the only shot I'd get at seeing him this year. He, Jorma, Sally Van Meter, and (I think) Ernie Hawkins did a round-robin concert for us. Thoroughly enjoyable. As was Roger's concert on Saturday night. Definitely playing the nostalgia angle, but very enjoyable and I'm glad to have gotten the chance to see him perform.
Boy, was it a long wait from May 'till November! JamStock again, this time with my daughter. Judy expressed an interest in playing the guitar last December, so I lent her one of my acoustics. Earlier this year I'd asked her if she'd be interested in taking a workshop at the FPR and the answer was an enthusiastic yes. Looking at the schedule I didn't want to wait a year for Michael's basic blues class. I figured she'd learn enough in 10 months to make the JamStock experience worthwhile. She lives with her mother, so I don't get to spend as much time with her as I'd like and I really didn't get much time to teach what little I know on the guitar. I did lend her my Squier Strat since I felt that with the thinner strings it would be easier for her to finger chords. We had to stay in Athens Thursday night, because I waited too long and couldn't get a room at the Meigs. So, no jamming at the inn. We did get into Pomeroy that night, though, and caught Marjorie Thompson, Greg, and the "Fur Peace Review" at the Wild Horse. Vanessa also stopped at our table, since she, Jorma, Michael, and others were eating there that night. I'd asked Vanessa the prior week if there were any other teenagers there that weekend. She said she didn't think so, but it turned out that there were a few, all boys, so I suspect that made the experience even better for Judy, as she had people she could talk to besides us "old farts". Although I think in class she was surprised at how many of us elderly gents could play and rock LOUDLY. For me, I had to 'play down' a little, as she didn't learn the bar chords and was struggling to figure out what was being played. I played the simplified first position chords as much as I could so she could follow along. Michael did say that she had a good sense of the rhythm of the songs, which was more important than getting the chords right. The chords come with time and practice, while rhythm is something harder to learn if it doesn't come instinctively. All in all an amazing experience, and she wants to come back next year for Michaels blues class.
The concert on Saturday night was billed as G.E. Smith with Jack Casady and Friends. "Friends" turned out to be Buddy Cage, Michael, Eric Diaz, and Jorma. Think Hot Tuna on steroids. G.E. opened with an unplanned solo acoustic set, followed by Jack and Eric joining him to finish out the set electrically. After the break, Michael and Buddy joined them, followed by Jorma. The setlist ranged from Kool and the Gang to Hot Tuna. and G.E., Jack, and "Friends" pulled it off amazingly. It helps remind me how far I have to go in really learning to PLAY the guitar.
For the Sunday performance, I had originally decided to do a number I wrote called "Bushwacked", with Tori. Due to changes in his life Tori was unable to attend this weekend, though, and I decided to perform "Walking With A Piece Of My Soul", the song whose lyrics I wrote earlier that year in Jeff Pehrson's class. I was somewhat intimidated by the thoughts that a) I'd be playing in front of two "Master's Classes" and b) my daughter. Especially since the song was about her and her brothers, Steve and Joe. The other student's sets were amazing, especially Judy's roommate Ann, who did a rendition of Janice Joplin's "A Piece of My Heart" that absolutely tore the place up. Since I was video taping, I was keeping an eye on the camera and waiting for the "on deck" line to shrink. So, I wound up as the last solo performer, before G.E.'s set. I stumbled through the song, making a number of mistakes with the lyrics, but kept the groove going and finished with a "big B7", which is the Rev. Gary Davis big G7 played with the capo on 4. The mistakes annoyed me enough that on Tuesday, after unpacking, I recorded a "studio" version of the song, which can be heard here. All in all, I met a lot of great people, new and old, and had the added plus of sharing the experience with one of my children. The weekend had the added twist of being filmed by an Ohio public TV station. The FPR is supposed to get a DVD copy of the eventual show, so hopefully they'll make it available to us non-Ohio residents.
All in all, when I set out that first time to take my first workshop, I had no idea what I was getting into and how it would affect my life. The FPR has become such an important part in my life, a refuge from the insanity I have to put up with for longer and longer hours at work. On Monday, it's often that you hear someone remarking about how it's "back to reality". This past Monday someone corrected the remark, saying "no, this is reality, it's back to the insanity of everyday life". I couldn't have said it better.