CBA MILESTONE …In 1959 two young men meet in the central valley of California and immediately discover they have a good deal in common. Both are natives of Arkansas, both land in California after serving in the U.S. Marines and both, they quickly learn, have the ‘old music’ running liberally through their veins. The men are named Vern Williams and Ray Park and the fifteen years they spend making music together will profoundly effect what is today know as California or West Coast Bluegrass. Click here and go back to 1992 when Vern sings Tragic Romance at Grass Valley.

CBA MILESTONE…--In 1968 a young northern California man who was clearly smitten by the bluesy down strokes and vibrant tremolos of mandolin master Bill Monroe decides to form a bluegrass band. His name is Butch Waller and he calls his new bluegrass act High Country. The importance of Butch’s band to California bluegrass is apparent throughout its now four-decades history, but probably no single accomplishment stands out more dramatically than High Country’s being the first band from the West Coast invited to play at Bill Monroe’s classic Bean Blossom Festival. Click here to check out the band’s current configuration.

CBA MILESTONE …--The first CBA sponsored event was held in Fairfield on Sunday, April 7, 1975. Called the Kick-Off Jamboree, the full day of music was meant to launch the just-formed California Bluegrass Association. Headliners were High Country, Phantoms of the Opry and the brand new band, Loomis Quick Step. Jack Sadler was entertainment Coordinator and he was interviewed a few weeks before the event on Cousin Al’s radio show. History was in the making.

CBA MILESTONE …June, 1976, Grass Valley California…the newly created California Bluegrass Association holds its first Fathers Day Festival and proudly announces its line-up…Josh Graves; Ray Park; Vern Williams Band; A Touch of Grass; Arkansas Shieks; Bear Creek Boys; Bill White; Buffalo Bob and the Country Butter Band; Country Ham; Done Gone; Good 'n' Country; Good Ol' Persons; Long Valley Boys; New Depression String; asnd the Caffrey Family

CBA MILESTONE …--It’s June, 1978, a mild Friday evening under the Ponderosa pines at the Nevada County Fairgrounds, and unto the stage steps Jake Quesenberry to make his Fathers Day Festival debut. The first song Jake and Friends do is Little Maggie and the crowd, not a huge one back in those days, goes wild. Of course Jake, a co-founder of the California Bluegrass Association would make many, many more appearances on the Grass Valley stage, but that first one was truly a milestone in the history of West Coast Bluegrass. Click here to read Jake’s ‘Hooked on Bluegrass’ story.

CBA MILESTONE …In 1983, Rose Maddox took the stage at Grass Valley for the very first time. She would be a regular visitor there in the years to come. It’s also noteworthy that that same year Tom Sauber played his first Fathers Day Festival with Barry Soloman and Ed Lowe. Exactly thirty years later Tom will perform on the main stage with Alice Gerrard and Brad Leftwich. And the cherry on top of today’s Milestone, Rose and Vern singing Tramp on the Street.

CBA MILESTONE…--Banjo virtuoso Rick Abrams forms the Piney Creek Weasels in 1987 and three years later they debut on the Fathers Day Stage. In the years that follow Rick and the Weasels will become Grass Valley legends. We have some memorable photos of Rick in the Photo Gallery…Click here

CBA MILESTONE…--June, 1989, two women decide it’s time for the CBA’s Fathers Day Festival to acknowledge the fact that, like other types of people, bluegrass folks have children, lots of them, and they frequently bring them along to Grass Valley. Lynn Quinones and her pal Jill Crury pitched the Association’s board a plan for a Children’s Program in ‘88, the board showed excellent judgment in approving the proposal and for four days the two women worked their you-know-what’s off. “We (the two’s relatively young Alhambra Valley Band) did four shows that weekend, as well as crafts projects, clogging, folk instrument making and other cool stuff like bubble workshops,” Jill recalls. CBA kids programming has come a long ways since that first year, but, like any other successful enterprise, it needed a visionary or two to get it off the ground and take flight. We can thank our lucky stars we happened to have Lynn Quinones and Jill Crury in our bluegrass family who had the vision, the necessary talent and the follow-through. Read more about the founding of the Children’s Program by clicking here

CBA MILESTONE--With a total of 27, Alison Krauss holds the record for the most Female Vocalist of the Year Grammys, so is it any wonder that in 1996 she and her band, Union Station, headlined at the single biggest Fathers Day Festival ever? For the first and only time, the Association was forced to rent space from a rancher on the other side of McCord Road to accommodate over-flow parking. Alison’s big hit that year? Baby, Now that I’ve Found You. Click here.

CBA MILESTONE …--On April 15, 1998, Rose Maddox, country and bluegrass singer, songwriter, fiddler and a source of great pride for Californians throughout the state who understood the enormous impact her life had on ‘West Coast Bluegrass’, died. She was eighty-six years old. Rose was a constant fixture at the CBA’s Fathers Day Festival and the music she made with Vern Williams and his band has become the stuff of legends. Emmylou Harris once said that she believes Rose Maddox has never received the recognition she deserves, in part because of what Harris calls reluctance in American society to celebrate the value of white country and roots music. That may be true in other parts of the country, but here in Northern California, Rose reigned undisputed queen. Few songs bring back the rush of memories associated with Rose more than her rendition of the Philadelphia Lawyer performed with Vern. Click here

CBA MILESTONE--By the time one millennium ends and another begins, the California Bluegrass Association, not to mention its signature event, the Fathers Day Festival at Grass Valley, has seen some changes since its birth in 1976. Things are bigger, more complicated…problems loom larger, opportunities, more promising, and in 2001, the CBA board appoints as FDF Director the person they believe can meet the challenges of the new century head-on. His name is Montie Elston and he will serve with enormous distinction for a decade.

CBA MILESTONE …June, 2001, the California Bluegrass Association holds its first Music Camp as part of the annual Fathers Day Festival. It was a rough start…somebody forgot to order the lasagna for the Sunday night meal, the sprinklers kept going off unexpectedly and drenching entire classes and some instructors found out too late that there wouldn’t be a copy machine available to them…but students had a great time and said they’d be back for camp number 2, which they were. And now, registration for camp number 13 is open.
Click here and grab a sweet, sweet slot.

CBA MILESTONE …In October, 2001, is unceremoniously launched with big dreams and zero budget by the California Bluegrass Association. In the first week the web site enjoys a grand total of 81 “hits”; today the CBA home page averages over forty-five thousand during a seven day period.

CBA MILESTONE …In 2002 the relatively new national bluegrass act, Rhonda Vincent and Rage, comes to Grass Valley for the first time. Rhonda, who first played the Fathers Day Festival with her family’s band, The Sally Mountain Show in 1984, has since become among the most popular bands in the genre. Along with her band mates she’s returned to the main stage at Grass Valley four times since that first 2002 debut and has generously returned to California ot play multiple CBA benefits. More recently, she and her band wowed the audience down at the GREAT 48 and will, of course, be back at Fathers Day this June. Click here

CBA MILESTONE …In 2007 a not-so-very-much bluegrassy act called the Greencards takes the main stage at Grass Valley and by the time their set is over it feels like everyone at the Fairgrounds has joined up with either the “fer ‘em” or ‘agin ‘em” group. In the often-emotional discussions that follow in the weeks and months after the ’07 FDF, a plan is eventually hammered out to set aside one main stage slot each year for “on the edge” acts. The plan has seemed to have the desired effect. People wanting to see cutting edge new stuff know there’ll be some each year and folks who were afraid traditional bluegrass music would be pushed out of the picture have pretty much accepted that they’ll have to find something else to do during three sets out of the festival’s dozens.--Click here for an astounding glimpse at the Cards.

CBA MILESTONE--The year is 2009, the place is Grass Valley and when the first three sets of the Fathers Day Festival on Thursday morning are finished attendees discover, for the very first time, that the music continues on something called Vern’s Stage. Located at the Wine Pavilion in the heart of vendors’ row, this new break time feature is an instant. And in one fell swoop, the CBA has added by around 25 the number of bands it hires each year. In this clip, Homespun Rowdy does a Ricky Skaggs number that very first year, and the fellow who sings the lead part, Dave Zimmerman, just happens to also be the very first Vern’s Stage Coordinator. Dave’s hand could be seen in every part of the new endeavor. Click here

Posted By:  Rick Cornish

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