A small businessman can get pretty wrapped up and self absorbed in a tough economy. That’s what was happening to me about a year ago. The old saying "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" was holding true for me as well. About that time, Bluegrass music came back into my life. I've played music in four local bluegrass bands over the past 35 years. About a year ago it had been a long time since I had played Bluegrass music and I decided to go to Rosine, KY to see what the Barn Jamboree was like. It's an old barn converted to a Bluegrass concert hall. In the summer the side doors and the front door are opened and lawn chairs surround the barn and the seats inside are full. This is a place where I met five new lifelong friends.
The first was Melvin Gill (Lawrence "Melvin” Gill), a guitar player and singer who was born and raised in West Virginia. Melvin and his wife raised their daughter in Ashland, KY and then moved to Southern Indiana in the 1990's. Melvin and I started hanging around at the barn playing Flatt & Scruggs songs. We, Melvin with his guitar and me with the mandolin, became a pretty good duo. Melvin, an Army veteran, who was in the U. S. Army in Germany with Elvis Presley, had lost his band, “Sandy Creek”, after their bass player passed away and their guitar/mandolin player and singer, Rick Smith moved to Louisville.
Rick Smith, however, started showing up at Rosine again and the three of us became a pretty good trio and called ourselves "Kentuckiana Grass." Rick was a favorite among the Rosine fans, especially for his truck driving songs and the "Auctioneer" song. Rick, also a bass player, helped the tempo with the upright bass. Melvin was already pretty famous at Rosine himself with his "Build Myself a Woman" song, otherwise known as the "Dummy Song," a heartbreak comedy number.
Then came Brian Crossen with his Martin guitar, upright bass, his deep bass voice, and a song book with over 100 songs he had written. Now we were a four man band and were sounding pretty darn good. We began singing Gospel songs in four part harmony and "Kentuckiana Grass" became a regular on the weekly stage at Rosine.
Next came Guynn Cagle, or Mr. Cagle as many call him. Guynn, the Chairman of the Board at Rosine became our band member each week on the Rosine stage. He would sing a song or two, but he just loved to play the guitar and be part of our band and we really liked him being there.
We were missing one thing, a banjo player. We tried out a lot of banjo players here and there, maybe as many as Bill Monroe auditioned ... I’ll never know for sure. One day Chris Pike, from Selvin, Indiana, brought his banjo to a jam session. Chris was fairly new at the banjo but took it seriously and practiced for hours each day. His dedication to playing "Hard Driving Bluegrass Music" got him a spot and he joined “Kentuckiana Grass” towards the end of 2009.
Every week I find myself playing the mandolin with the sounds of Bluegrass music all around. The sounds of songs of Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanly fill the air along with the songs of our own Brian Crossen and Melvin Gill. It’s a great place to be. If you haven't been to Rosine, KY you should put it on your list as a place to go on a Friday night. Come on down and “Kentuckiana Grass” will play just for you!
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