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    Friday MOLD columnist Larry Carlin in a photo from 1983 from the video of Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer

    Friday, December 19, 2014

    “Ring-a-ling, hear them ring, soon it will be Christmas Day.” It is indeed Christmas time in the city. At least, here around Carltone World Headquarters in downtown San Francisco. It is a festive time of year, as people scurry about with lists that they are checking twice, bags full of wrapped gifts, and umbrellas. It has been a wet week, but few are complaining about such. After today it is supposed to be sunny through the Big Day, so here’s hoping your days are merry and dry for the next week or so. Happy holidaze, and a cool yule to all!

    Hack job. The blogosphere is agog (and justifiably so) over the cancellation of the release of the new comic film The Interview due to an alleged North Korean cyber-attack. Apparently the hackers got into Sony’s network and have since created havoc. At the same time, MOLD Man has not been able to post his column here for most of the past two weeks due to technical problems. Coincidence? Possibly. However, there are rumors that MM has also been hitting the egg nog a bit too frequently since Thanksgiving. With any luck, he will be back in this space by Monday…

    Love/hate Christmas songs. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, but not everyone likes the same kind of music over the holidays. The SF Chronicle is running a contest for the worst Christmas song ever, and you can take a look here. Earlier this week a thread was started on the CBA Message Board, asking for favorites. This is an easy one for your Friday MOLD columnist. For 31 years I played alongside Dr. Elmo, the man that sings “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer,” and you can watch the video here. Look closely at the young redheaded dude. And, you can’t go wrong with Red Knuckles & The Trailblazers singing "That White Christmas Song".

    Reindeer games. As famous as the "Reindeer" song is, most people also assume that Elmo wrote it. Turns out that a singer/songwriter named Randy Brooks -- who lives in Dallas but is originally from Louisville, KY --is the author, and he is, as you might imagine from the lyrics of "Grandma," a pretty funny guy. You can read his story about how he came to write the tune here. While you are at it, read this recent piece by humorist Roy Blount, Jr., about one of Randy/Elmo's lesser known songs, "Percy the Puny Poinsettia."

    Beautiful star. The Bay Area’s Nell Robinson has one of the prettiest voices around (and she is also one of the sweetest people you will ever meet), and you can listen to her rendition of “Beautiful Star of Bethlehem” right here.

    Man of the streets. We’ve mentioned him before, and we’re about to do it again. Our Nashville correspondent Randy Pitts has been touting singer/songwriter and erstwhile homeless guitarist Doug Seegers for the past few months, and his story is quite incredible. Heck, he has lived the life of a country hit song! Read this latest piece about him from the Bitter Southerner web site.

    Out with the old… The New Year is less than two weeks away, and if you haven’t gotten your 2015 calendar yet, check out the
    Accordion Babes and Classic Blues Artwork editions on the Down Home Music web site. Or, better yet, you can’t but love the Banjo Babes.

    Never too old to rock and roll. Former Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant was in the news some weeks back because a rumor was going around on the Interwebs saying that he had turned down $800 million to reform the band. Old Bob simply doesn’t want to be stuck in the ‘70s or the ‘80s. Read an interview with him in Salon.

    Just for the heck of it. The other day Randy Pitts posted this YouTube of Red Allen, Don Stover, Frank Wakefield, Kenny Kosek, and Kevin Smyth performing the Hank Williams song “When My Sweet Love Ain’t Around.” Great stuff!

    Life’s railway to heaven. Joe Carr, a Texas bluegrass picker and teacher as well as a one-time member of the Country Gazette, died on the 14th after suffering a stroke. He was only 63. Read about him in Bluegrass Today. Rock Scully, a longtime manager for the Grateful Dead back in the early years, died this week from lung cancer. He was 73. He managed the Dead from 1965-85, and wrote a book about his experiences called Living With the Dead. Nashville Songwriter Hall of Fame member Larry Henley died at age 77 after a long illness. He was the lead singer of The Newbeats back in the day, who's pop hit was “Bread and Butter.” He also co-wrote “The Wind Beneath My Wings” and “Til I Get It Right” and many other songs.

    Coming attractions. The David Grisman Bluegrass Experience, who will be playing at the CBA Father’s Day Fest in 2015, will be doing their annual post-Christmas show at the Freight and Salvage in Berkeley on December 27th, followed by High Country’s annual New Year’s Eve show there on the 31st. The Laurie Lewis and Kathy Kallick Sing the Songs of Vern & Ray show will be there on January 2nd, and you can also see The Tuttles with AJ Lee there on January 8th. The CBA’s Great 48 jam in Bakersfield is set for January 8-11th. On the 17th The Tuttles with AJ Lee will appear at the Redwood Bluegrass Associates show in Mountain View. It will be Adkins and Loudermilk playing A Night at the Grange in Morgan Hill on February 28th. Bluegrass on the River in Lake Havasu, AZ, on March 6th-8th, will feature Blue Highway, Junior Sisk & Ramblers Choice, The Spinney Brothers, Larry Efaw & the Bluegrass Mountaineers, Karl Shiflett & Big Country, Adkins & Loudermilk, and more. The 14th Annual Sonoma Folk and Bluegrass Festival in Sebastopol is scheduled for March 15th. WinterWonderGrass in Squaw Valley on March 20th-22nd will have The Infamous Stringdusters, Greensky Bluegrass, Brothers Comatose, Front Country, The T Sisters, and more. Go to all of the links for complete info.

    Turn your radio on. If you are looking for some bluegrass or many other kinds of acoustic music this weekend, just go to KALW (91.7 FM) bluegrass radio show host Peter Thompson’s Bluegrass Signal web site and you will have no trouble filling your social calendar. Be sure to tune in on Saturday the 20th from 6:30-8 p.m. This show is titled Christmas Is Near, featuring songs and tunes of the season.

    Music calendars. There are a handful of shows listed in this column today, but if you want to find out what kind of music is going on in your area, as stated above, look at Peter Thompson’s calendar or also check out the CBA or the Northern California Bluegrass Society event listings. Also, buy a Sunday SF Chronicle and hold on to the Pink Section all week.

    Man in the know from Music Row. Raconteur and music maven Randy Pitts of Nashville is this column’s frequent and knowledgeable commentator and CD reviewer. Here is a DVD and CD review.

    Randog's Daily Pick 12/15/2014
    The Time Jumpers Jumpin' Time
    Crosswinds DVD TTJ-1

    From 2006, this DVD by The Time Jumpers, also available as a CD, was recorded at The Station Inn in Nashville at a not atypical gig there for the band, where they held sway every Monday night for 13 years, eventually becoming the hottest ticket in Music City. In retrospect, it is amazing that it took that long for the band to outgrow the venue, eventually forcing them to move to the larger 3rd & Lindsley. Begun more or less as a pick-up gig for some of the most talented musicians in Nashville, more for fun than profit, offering an opportunity for the band to play the music they enjoyed most, the emphasis in the band's repertoire has always been Western swing, and no band in the world currently played – or plays – it better. The band on the night this was recorded included Dennis Crouch on bass, Ranger Doug Green on rhythm guitar and vocals, Aubrey Haynie on fiddle, the late (and magnificent) John Hughey on steel guitar, the since-departed (to run her own Western swing band) Carolyn Martin on lead and harmony vocals, Andy Reiss on electric lead guitar, Kenny Sears on fiddle and vocals, Joe Spivey on fiddle and harmony vocals, Jeff Taylor on accordion, Rick Vanaugh on drums, and the reason I'm writing this today, the great Dawn Sears on lead and harmony vocals. Dawn passed away last week, after a tough and very public fight with lung cancer. She appeared as often with the band as she could, and her reputation grew as her life drew to a close. It seems so unfair that so many people never got to see or hear her at her peak, in full cry, wringing every bit of emotion out of every song she turned her hand – and voice – to. But this live DVD is left behind...and she is featured on six of her favorites here, comfortably seated on a stool, functioning as a part of a larger ensemble, obviously enjoying herself immensely. "Write Myself a Letter," "Leavin' and Sayin' Goodbye," (the song's author, Jeannie Seely, can be seen applauding dawn's rendition wildly from the audience) "Smile," “Bonaparte's Retreat," "All Of Me," and the show stopping "Sweet Memories," a Mickey Newbury song from the ‘70s that emitted gasps of awe and disbelief from the audience every time I ever saw her perform it. John Hughey's steel break on this helps make it a classic. There are 26 songs and tunes here, including perennial swing classics like "Honeysuckle Rose," and "It's All Your Fault," "My Window Faces the South," and "Blues for Dixie," sung by the quite wonderful Carolyn Martin, "Sugar Moon," with a vocal by Dawn's husband, ace fiddler Kenny Sears, and Ranger Doug's rendition of "Along The Navajo Trail." And especially John Hughey's instrumental "My Weakness is Too Strong," which sort of defines what made his artistry on the instrument so special. A moment in time, caught for posterity, and aren't we lucky it was...

    Randog's Daily Pick 12/18/2014
    The Kentucky Colonels (with Roland and Clarence White) 12 Great Instrumentals
    Appalachian Swing!-Rounder Records SS31

    There's a Facebook discussion going on even as I type this regarding Clarence White's greatness and influence and the relative lack of recognition he receives these days by one of his biggest fans and apostles, Scott Nygaard. I was going to mention this album anyway, today, but now I'm really fired up. This album came out originally in 1964 on World Pacific Records, and as Roland says in the Rounder liner notes from 1993, “Every time I go and play music, somebody asks me about this album.” And with good reason; the album represents the first full flowering of bluegrass developed on the West Coast, it presents a band that has become legend in the history of the music – though they are, inexplicably still not a member band of The IBMA Hall of Fame – and it is perhaps the best place to hear undoubtedly the man who almost singlehandedly turned the acoustic guitar into a lead instrument in bluegrass, the legendary Clarence White, although the ensemble work and playing of all the individuals here is first rate and unusually sympathetic. As Roland says in the 1993 liner notes, "We weren't trying to break any records or any new frontiers, we just played music, just good music, music we liked...what we heard and what we learned from other people, we just interpreted in our own way. We were just doing what we liked to do, the best way we knew how." And Roland and Clarence White did that, and so much more, along with Billy Ray Lathum, Roger Bush, Bobby Slone, and Leroy Mack. Tunes (this is an all instrumental album) are "Clinch Mountain Backstep," " Nine Pound Hammer," “Listen To The Mockingbird," "Wild Bill Jones," "Billy in the Lowground," "Lee Highway Blues," "I Am a Pilgrim," "The Prisoner's Song," "Sally Goodin," "Faded Love," "John Henry, and "Flat Fork." Fans of Roland, Clarence, The Kentucky Colonels, guitar flatpicking or bluegrass should check out Roland White's web site.

    Comments, questions, quips and tips? Send an email to For more info than you need to know about Friday MOLD columnist Larry Carlin, go to his Carltone web site. Missed a Friday MOLD? Don’t fret, just click here to read past columns.

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    Today's column from Cameron Little
    December 20, 2014

    It’s an easy thing to cozy up to a fire that is already blazing. But it’s much harder to start a fire from scratch, to nurture the embers, and to help guide the fire to its full potential. Building a fire is hands-on and takes patience, time, and a bit of skill.

    There are generous people in the bluegrass world who have fanned a spark in others, myself included. They’ve encouraged me in my writing and music, included me in their jams and gatherings, and offered guidance. They took time to share some wisdom, welcome me, and yes, they definitely put up with me. They took the time to fan a spark, a spark I didn’t even recognize was there. I call these people Fire Starters and here is a sampling of that Fire Starter wisdom in my life:

    Roland White taught me about GRACE AND HUMILITY. It’s been my experience that the more of a bonafide star a person is, the more class and modesty they possess.

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