I was particularly proud to have my friend Anne Hills do a Dave’s Night Out with me. She is a nationally touring folk artist, recording artist with a great history of playing with Tom Paxton, Bob Gibson, Michael Smith and her trio Voices of Winter with Cindy Mangsen and Priscilla Herdman. Her voice is pure and she has a great smile. And she lives here in Bethlehem, too.

She’s working on Michael Smith project, one of the master songwriters in the last forty years (The Dutchman, Spoon River, Dead Egyptian Blues and others covered by many touring pros. She’s been using some interesting open tunings due to some issues with her left hand, and so her songs have a certain sound that only comes from these tunings (ala Joni Mitchell). We swapped songs, having never shared the stage before, I got the feeling that she realized that I’m fairly professional myself. She backed me up with vocals on Roseville Fair and July and that was classy.

The stories flowed and the audience loved it. Many folks are big fans of Anne, and they really liked the opportunity to see her in such an informal and intimate setting. Perhaps I surprised them, too. Giants and How Legends Are Made came across nicely and my Martin was in fine form. I love this instrument!

The reflection session towards the end was nice, with many commenting on her voice. I got a nice phone call from Anne this morning, thanking me for the evening and tipping her hat on my song choices. That was cool, coming from her.

Last DNO of this season and we’ll start a new one in September.

 

Another day of employment! This one was only five minutes away, down at the studios of WLTV -39. These folks have been really supportive of my children’s work, they pay me what I’m worth (and don’t have to beg) and they promote my concerts nicely.

WLTV – 39 studio.

It was a fairly good turnout, with some familiar faces and quite a few new ones. Mostly moms, grandmoms and a few dads as well. Having had success the day before with my Three Bag Routine (animal puppets, rhythm instruments and then scarves.) Things moved nicely, with a lot of interaction with the kids and adults. I’m incorporating more “swaps” in the procedures – “share with someone you don’t know” and that is particularly satisfying. The kids are used to doing that.

A couple of the dads came up afterwards and said that they had either come to see me as a kids, or their grandmoms suggested that they bring their kids to see me. It’s that legacy thing that’s pretty cool.

The coordinator Cate is a wonderful liaison for the station, and we both have recovered from cancer issues, so it was a nice hug between us in the beginning and at the end. She respects me as an artist, pays me as an artist and appreciates me as a human. All good!

Monday’s park was Father Tucker’s Park, in the heart of Little Italy in Wilmington. I was hired by the Grand Opera House, a leading arts organization in the city. I was here several years ago, pre-covid and remember playing on this site. The turn-out was pretty small, with two dads with their boys, the Opera House folks and one 11 year-old girl, Asheka. She was great! She picked up on rainbow streamers and began to dance around the site, and was involved from the get go. She made my day. The Opera House provided a PA, and, over my objections, insisted we use it (for 10 people?), and the manager also insisted I perform on this natural stage, distant from the people. It seems he knew what he wanted to do, and not necessarily what was best for a slow session. Anyway, I plowed through, playing for the kids and adults and finished out my hour in front of nobody. So it goes. Back on the road for another hour and half drive.

Early drive to Wilmington on Tuesday with little traffic. I got to Haynes Park with time to spar, a large park in the northern part of the city. This one had a tennis camp going on, and I hoped they would stick around for the show. I’m glad they did. I had a group of about ten teens and sixteen tweeners so, at least today, I had critical mass to play for. And, as expected, the teens were less responsive than the younger kids, and, for a while, the younger kids got involved right away and made it easier to gradually win over the teens.

I was surprised that my friend Asheka was there. It seems her grandma supplies juice and snacks for the playground system. I thanked her grandma for Asheka’s talent and energy.

I was able to bring out the rhythm bag, then the puppet bag and finish up with the scarves. This worked really well, and I was able to shift gears every 15 minutes or so. For Giants, I was able to pull up a teen boy for the Thundertube, and he helped get the teens loose. He had a good sense of humor and it showed.

It was particularly good for the three Opera House folks to see me work a larger crowd, and one that had an age difference. They commented how good the session was and that I should apply again next year. That feels good.

It was only an hour and half commute (standard for my usual school work) up and back, and the pay was in my comfort zone. I also realize how much I miss being on the road, seeing a different part of the world, and listening to some good podcasts (today was about Motown and I Heard It Through the Grapevine). A good June tour, of sorts.

It was interesting that all my farmers’ market gigs converged this past weekend with four FMs in a row. Frankly, I was glad to exercise my repertoire again after a rather barren performance schedule this winter and spring. I was looking forward to see how my singing, guitar-playing and memory would respond after such a slow time period. I did okay.

Thursday was at the Bethlehem Farmers’ Market a block away from 4th Street, up at Lehigh’s Farrington Square. Lehigh is out for the summer so it was fairly empty but a couple of moms brought their kids to listen and play along. It gave me something to work with, and I got some cherries out of the deal. My pay went from $125 for two hours to $150 for three and a quarter hours (plus set up and break down and street parking fees). It took a toll on my voice, but it was good to be playing again. I used my PA for this one and it was worth the hassle. The market manager likes what I do, and got nice reponces from the vendors. I got a nice tip of a large Mason jar of hot pickles from a vendor. Those things are pleasant surprises.

Madison Green FM

Friday was scheduled for a long trip up to Madison Green Farmers’ Market for one of my regular farmers’ markets. There was a chance of heavy thunderstorm during the market hours (and afterward) so I negotiated with the market manager for me to cancel this one. I knew I would have to drive 8 hours and play for three hours for $100, some of it in heavy rain. No brainer for me, especially with an early FM the next morning. I’m glad I didn’t do it, though I miss the road time.

Under the tree at the Rose Garden.

Saturday’s FM was The Rose Garden Farmers’ Market on the northside of Bethlehem. This a particularly friendly market under a big ole tree and I get to do it unplugged. Families and kids gather around to play rhythm instruments, and the vendors appreciate the atmosphere and the quiet music. I negotiated with the market manager to find a local sponsor for my four visits this summer. At least I felt the ability to name my price and time: $100 for two hours. I picked up my tip of a big tomato from one of my vendors.

Sunday was a return to Saucon Valley Farmers’ Market in Hellertown. It’s probably the biggest market, and one I use my PA under a pop-up at one end of the library lawn. Having played monthly in years past, I have many familiar and friendly faces to play for, especially with kids and their parents. Some even request songs from my CDs. A couple of rock and roll musicians came up to say hello, one commenting that my Nadine was the best version he’s ever heard. Nice. My beef with this market is the committee has upped the time from two hours to the full four hours, while maintaining the $100 stipend. I’ve brought this injustice up with the managers but there’s too many folks willing to play for cheap. The only thing I can do is limit my gigs to a couple times a season. Thankfully, today I had about $75 in tips. Still…..

 

The Tour was fun and I got to bang on my Martin, play some old songs again, and mix it up with passing folks, young kids and more. Still, few parents accept my free CDs with nothing to play them on. That’s a real shame. But, I put a couple checks in the bank and realize I really need to change my strings now.

I have some very talented friends, and Craig Thatcher is one of them. Tonight’s DNO was a special one, and especially because there was a nice crowd on hand, a rarity, with a lot of first-time visitors to the club.

Per usual, I really didn’t prepare anything except a set list, thinking I’d do some blues and some stuff off of Troubadour. I started with We Are Welcomed, which proves to be a good opener. We talked about Jorma, Rev. Gary Davis and his school of players, Woody Mann, and Craig did some great finger-picking tunes. I served up It’ll Be Me, Rosie is a Friend of Mine, Walkin’ Blues, We Gave Names to the Animals and finished up with Lessons From Pete. Craig did a new lullaby for his new granddaughter, Can’t Find My Way Home, While My Guitar Gently Weeps and I chimed in on mandolin on Hesitation Blues and See That My Grave is Kept Clean.

The banter was particularly heartfelt and fun. Lots of history, mutual respect and, of course, some very funny moments. As it always is at the DNO’s, everyone, including us, seem to enjoy the warmth and intimacy of the club. Craig also brought out three wonderful Martins. During one of my songs, the 000-16 I had leaned against the stage wall fell over and I remarked, “It’s only a Martin.” Chuckle. They bounce, but only once.

The Reflection, a regular addition to the end of these nights, brought out some great conversations, especially from the many newcomers to the club. As we went around the room, I asked that each person come up with what they liked from the evening and many folks commented on Godfrey’s atmosphere, and our obvious respect for each other, and I was glad that Ramona was in the house to hear some of the accolades for the club.

Needless to say, Craig is one of great guitarists in the Lehigh Valley and to have him back me up on some of my tunes was special. I should be able to get some good cuts for my radio show. Craig also mentioned how these Godfrey’s gigs are special for him, as well, and how he relishes playing in this room. A good friend and a great evening.

My good friend Mary Wright asked me to take on a part in one of the plays being developed by Touchstone Theater‘s Young Playwright’s Festival, an ongoing project to present original plays created by local school kids. The casts are a mix community actors and kids from Touchstone’s young actors programs. I was honored to be asked and thought that I needed a kick in the ass these days. It worked.

We’ve been doing rehearsals for several weeks, and Mary suggested I learn Over in the Meadow, a Raffi folk song (gasp…), adapt it for the show and use it for the opening introduction to the fauna of the meadow. I started the show, sitting on a stump with my Martin and introduced the fish and duck families and the tadpoles and their father mother. I also added various musical motifs during the play, including Here Come The Sun for the dawn in the meadow. I had a few curmudgeon lines as well.

I frankly was having a tough time getting through song and the lyrics, constantly screwing up various lines. In fact, I was running the lines as I was trying to fall asleep for the last two weeks, not that it helped. It takes doing it out loud, and in front of people to get things to sink in. Today, in the show, I finally nailed it. I am so proud of myself!!

Mayor of Bethlehem J. William Reynolds

It was good to be part of this large community project, to work with young and talented kids, as well as veteran community actors over the last few weeks, and especially during Saturday’s tech and dress rehearsal and the final performance on Sunday. Bethlehem’s Mayor J. William Reynolds also added his talents to the process and I’m glad that he’s an advocate for the Arts in Bethlehem, not just a Chamber of Commerce shill.

Mary Wright did a fantastic job, running the festival while directing our play. I did this all for her, and I’m glad she kicked my ass to do it. It was nice to be part of the Touchstone ensemble once again after 35 years. And I got to wear makeup!

This is another gig that I love, though it falls into the benefit category, and that’s okay by me. My friend Dave Reber, who volunteers at this educational farm, gathers various musicians and jammers to provide musical entertainment for the kids and families that come out to tour the farm.

I signed up for the 11 am slot, and my good friend John Christie let me know that he and his wife Susan were coming out. Bring your guitar, I said, and that made for an even better gig for me and the audience. John’s been accompanying me for years, and is comfortable for whatever I throw at him. He listens first and then plays.

Farm Manager Kathy

It was a little chilly with a threat of rain later in the day, so I opted to play in the barn. It’s better when we are out in front of one of the smaller barns, but it wouldn’t work today. We set up and launched, sans sound system, and a few parents and kids came over. With my bag of instruments, we interacted with the kids (and adults) and it was fun. John and I even got to do some grown-up tunes. We finished up as a bunch of folks with guitar cases started showing up and we made way for the jam group following us.

Cheese…..

We got paid in Cheese. Kathy, the farm manager, brought us a bag each of small cheese spreads and a couple blocks of cheese as well from the farm store. The barter system still works. As I drove off, it started to rain, earlier than expected. A good gig.

I has an opening guest set at Godfrey’s on Friday night with my friend and poet Danielle Notaro and several other of her friends: Cross-over Night – Poetry and Song. This made two Godfrey’s sets in three days!

Since Danielle and I were going to perform here poem, My Father Was a Cowboy, I decided to concentrate on cowpokes. I began with Paul Siebel’s Pinto Pony (I asked who could name some of the Saturday morning TV cowboys: Sky King, Roy Rogers among others). I followed with Rodeo Rider on my 12-string – what powerful instrument to go with a powerful song. I accompanied Danielle on her poem with a loping guitar part, which could have gone better. I think Danielle was a little rushed, but so it goes. It was improvised, after all. Since we were to explore some genre-stretching, I followed with Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) on my trusty mandolin. Although, slightly out of tune, it was fun to bang in out on the old gal. Since I only had two verses in my version, I looked up the longer version from Jimi Hendrix, and offered a couple of those lyrics, rather more demonic that the ones I know. Interesting.

I followed with Giants, asking my new friend Rhys to come up (with his Dad “Earl”) and play. He’s a precocious elementary kid, and, since he was there early with his dad, we struck up a relationship. I told him he was going to play on stage, which set him off on a string of questions for the next 45 minutes. When we finally got up there, his eyes bugged out and he lit up the stage during the song and he relished the experience. It was a solid way to finish off my cross-over set.

Brother JT

Danielle brought up Brother JT, (John Terlesky), a local dive-bar legend from the 80’s band The Original Sins, who often played at the Funhouse next door. I had heard that he had made disparaging remarks about the folk music scene being played next door, so I was curious to catch his set tonight. A good part of tonight’s audience was here to hear him, so I was appreciative of that. He was a tad uneasy due to some performance rust, but warmed up nicely. Folks were glad to see and hear him. His collaboration with Danielle featured a looper, and the two did a nice job.

Danielle with Earl and Gus

After a short break, Danielle brought up two musicians who helped her release her CD Limn the Mask: Gus Stauffer and Ernest Knuckle. Each did a short solo piece and combined their electronics to accompany her poems. It worked quite nicely and accentuated the cross-over theme in the end.

As always, it felt great to play this stage and with my good friend, Danielle Notaro. Back to our occasional breakfasts at Darto’s – best breakfast in town!

This was a good one. Fellow folk programmers and musicians Tom Druckenmiller and Rick Weaver shared the stage with me. We played some tunes, talked about our radio shows and our gigs in the flesh. It was great to share our thoughts with the other programmers in the audience, Rob Reagan, Steve Capwell, Pat DeWolfe and Marcie Lightwood.

Great discussions of being curators, introducing new artists to our audiences, putting together sets of music, and more. I did a couple of Bill Staines tunes, finishing up with A Place in the Choir, with moos, coyote howls and a nice a capella chorus at the end. We also got to recreate The Drunken Lads on Don’t Call Me Early in the Morning. Rick played several Irish ballads embellished with some fine guitar work, and Tom offered some beautiful banjo tunes, with each of us adding some backup work, as needed. The music was well done.

As the night moved on, I got the feeling that we all were dropping quite a few obscure names and I feared some of the audience was starting to gloss over, and I tried to get back on the musical track, but we programmers like to talk…. and talk. Well, that’s part of what makes DNO unique.

The reflection period at the end was, as always, revealing. One younger woman said she like to watch our fingers, and many commented on how we could play the tunes without rehearsal. Also, how much we enjoyed our stage communication with each other. We got to reflect on the early days of Lehigh Valley radio with WSAN and WMUH, and how that affected our present programming. We were also lucky to broadcast on WDIY, which gives us a large creative spectrum to work with.

I admit to being proud of these evenings, with strong intellectual and entertainment values. We were pretty funny, too.

 

Another rare gig, this time two assemblies for pre-K – 2nd grades in Jersey City, not far from NYC. Maya Angelou School – how cool is that name for a school? I am often somewhat daunted by these inner city gigs, mostly because of the traffic and the parking. Luckily, the school had a side lot for me to unload and park in, after I had to fight “drop off” time early on. I was scheduled for ~ 250 kids per show so I had to forgo my scarves and instrument bag and go for the strictly song set. I had pre-K / 2nd and then K / 1st, but no really big deal. We’re gonna dance.

I was in an auditorium so I had to cut back on large group dancing, with the kids in seats. I hauled in my amplifier (so glad that I don’t use the big PA anymore), set up on stage and waited for the 9:30 show.

My opening consists of I Like Peanut Butter and Tutti Tah, both good introductory tunes, with movement, and I go from there. Down By The Bay, I Wanna Be a Dog, We Gave Names to the Animals, Giants, Cat Came Back, All Around the Kitchen. 

With these large groups, I try to bring up a core of teachers for Giants to play Thunder Tubes, partly because the little kids might hurt themselves and the teachers reactions are fairly humorous, as was the case today. The kids get a chance to witness the teachers in an unusual situation. I’ve been asking the teachers to give me their “teacher glare” during the song, and the teachers respond wonderfully.

All Around the Kitchen provides a great finale in that the kids are up and dancing, and I invite three or four kids up on stage to show off their dance moves. Lots of The Floss this time, but, upon encouragement, the kids come up with some different and fun moves (which have to be named, as well). I bring up a teacher for the last set, and, again, that really makes for entertaining moments (usually The Twist).

Playing for this age group in an inner city situation makes for a challenging gig, but, somehow, I seem to be able to pull it off.

The ride back home on Rt 78 was through a blinding thunder storm, but I was feeling gratified for being employed and being on the road again. That’s good.

I took a step out of my usual musical theme for Dave’s Night Out tonight by inviting three women poets Ann Michael, Susan Weaver and Marilyn Hazelton. I’m good friends with Ann and Marilyn and have known Susan for a while. The initial topic was Tanka poetry, an interesting short poetry procedure that pre-dates Haiku. I’ve been a fan ever since Marilyn introduced it in a Lehigh Valley Teaching Artist session several years ago. I have several copies of Marilyn’s Red Lights magazine on my bedstand that help me drop the random thoughts that keep me awake and take me elsewhere.

Rarely usec Martin 000-1R

Rarely used Martin 000-1R. A good pal.

Again, a small audience but with several friends of the poets. I started out with Blue Heartland, a nice, compact Jerling tune that seemed impressionistic and a good introduction to the evening. The three women proceeded to talk about Tanka, present some of their works and chat about their craft. It was a refreshing break from the musicians I usually present. I was able to link the poetry of the blues and folk music to the discussion, playing Rock Salt and Nails (a feeble rendition), Green Green Rocky Road (hooka tooka…) and finished the evening with Gorka’s Good Noise.

There was some great talk throughout the evening about the term “ma” which describes the moment of a “space/turning point” in the middle of a Tanka verse. Taking a breath. I shared how that technique helps me when I meditate. At the end, my friend Steve Capwell mentioned that B. B. King said that it wasn’t about the notes but the spaces between the notes. Spot on, Steve.

I’ve installed an audience reflection period after we’re done, and, as always, the feedback from the audience is enlightening, with several folk commenting on the obvious respect and co-energy from the three women, often a comment when my musician friends play with me. It may seem obvious to us as artists, but I like that the audience picks up on that symbiotic feeling on stage.

I was glad to provide this space for my friends and their craft, and especially in this venue. It was a good night.

Lou Audette’s bungalow in New Haven.

This was, for me, an honor to be part of my friend Louis Audette’s House Concert series. He books a “Second Sunday” concert at his wonderful house tucked away in New Haven. Lou plays base with various folk bands and we’ve come to know each other very well. He is a close friend and respects what I do as a musician. He usually books bluegrass and acoustic swing bands, so he was going out on a limb to  book a solo folkie like me.

It’s a wonderful room acoustically,with a high ceiling, and  a simple sound system, and his acquired audience is definitely sophisticated and intelligent (and respectful listeners!!!). The gig came at the right time for me, as well, in the middle of a booking lull, post-cancer for me. I felt a little out-of-shape vocally and chops-wise, so I did have some trepidations about performing in this situation. I was hoping my performance-memory skills would kick in to balance out my recent inadequacies. It seemed to work this time, thanks to a great audience and Lou’s hospitality.

Lou had written that sales were thin, but many of my old friends were going to be there. That’s all I needed. And, as promised, those folks showed up (with significant others), and I knew I had to land these tunes for them. Ron and Suzie, Frank and Kathy, Betsy, Denny, Chuck, as well as Lou’s sister and his woman.

I was signed up for two ~ 45 minute sets, and I prepared the good stuff. I decided to bring my Sigma 12-string for Rodeo Rider, Here Come’s the Sun and Giant. It seemed a good idea to balance out the guitar sound. I had my trusty OOO15M with new strings so I had my big guns with me. I started with Blue Heartland and managed to muff some lyrics (I should have done a no-brainer to start with). Don’t Call Me Early neIxt, and that was a good choice to establish myself playing, singing and working the audience to sing along. I even leaned on the folks with masks to take a chorus. Chuckle.

I wanted to feature some of my kids’ stuff, so I rolled out Vegetable Song, Branching Out and We Gave Names, all adult-friendly but still playful. This mini-set worked well. I got serious with Rodeo Rider on the 12 and it reset the audience. I did Giants next, with two women on the Thunder-tubes. It worked its wonders, as usual, and I invited the tube ladies to go out into the audience and it changed the room’s sound, broke the plane and explored the space. Good idea. I finished off with some R&R with Nadine, a good palate cleanser and set-ender. Leave ’em dancing, so to speak.

We recongregated for the second set, and several of the new (yes, old) folks commented how much they were having fun. It was quite a break from the bluegrass bands Lou usually has, and I’m sure the repartee was a refreshing change for them.

I led off with a simple folk tune, Green Green Rocky Road, with an easy chorus to reestablish the feel. And then I broke out The Irish Ballad which always shocks the sensibilites, but it worked really well early in the set – establish my renegade persona. Rosie Is a Friend of Mine, Stan’s Giant and Gorka’s How Legends Are Made worked well as a contemporary songwriter set. That set up Lessons From Pete as the clincher with We Are Welcomed as a chaser. Asked for an encore, I pulled out the 12-string for Here Comes The Sun. (broke a string…)

There were another five songs I had in the sets, but pulled them. I’m glad I did. The sets were well-timed for an older audience, and, as it turned out, each set had good artistic flows and I was pleased with the production values. As it turned out, I warmed up nicely on the guitar, hit the lyrics well, and became very comfortable with my audience involvement. Many chuckles, among quality songs.

The afternoon was good for my soul, inspite of the 7 hours of travel from Bethlehem. I played well in a prestigious venue for a intelligent crowd of new folks and old friends. And I got paid, as well. I can’t ask for more.

The Green Room, with Anna's paintings

The Green Room / Studio with Anna’s paintings in storage.

PS: Lou’s wife Anna Held Audette was a world-class painter, (https://www.annaheldaudette.com/life) and Lou is working tirelessly to have her works recognized for their excellence. Lou had this house built in order to have large and naturally well-lit spaces and a large studio for Anna. It’s all tucked away in a nice neighborhood (Lou built this in his former back yard and sold the house on the street) and it’s a pleasant surprise to find this space in a major city like New Haven. Slice o’ heaven.

The Green Room with Anna’s paintings on display.

Her rather large oils feature industrial scenes, and I’m drawn to the rich colors, composition and imaginative spacing. Anna unfortunately fell into dementia, and Lou cared for her until she died in 2013. Lou is such a good man, in so many ways, and I’m glad he has found a wonderful woman in Jeannie.

The house is a veritable museum, with 17 century masters in the dining room, contemporary pieces throughout the various rooms. Simply awesome and, for me, an honor to make music in this space.

 

I have been waiting expectantly for this evening, hosting two of my favorite esoteric songwriters on stage here at Godfrey’s. Several years ago, at a DNO with George, I noticed that Alex dropped by and sat in a pew in the corner. Ah ha! These guys gotta meet. They did.

The theme for the night was Collaboration, since I knew that George and Alex got togther for a Christmas show at The IceHouse – an evening of weird holiday tunes. I hoped that they would unlock some techniques on the creative process. We ended up talking about The Beatles, having watched the sessions in the Let I Be movie. Wow. We also talked about playing in bands regularly, so we have a laboratory at every gig and rehearsal. The chat was wonderful and loose.

It never dawns on me that I write songs, too, as I collaborate with students at residencies, so that gave me an entryway into the discussion. I think I added an intersting dimension to working with others to created something new. I played verses from We Gave Names To The Animals and The Cat Came Back. 

George and Alex had several new tunes to share and Alex finished with his We Don’t Play Like Django. These boys are sharp.

Per usual, there were only about a dozen folks who showed up for this stimulating evening. During the reflection session at the end, folks commented on our obvious friendship on stage and our “joy”. Exactly and very perceptive.

Next Month: Women Poets with Ann Michael, Susan Werner and Marilyn Hazelton. Oh, boy!

I had the chance to return to Godfrey’s stage for a Sunday family concert on Sunday afternoon, part of series of concerts sponsored by Just Born Candies (think, Peeps and Mike and Ike’s). I was feeling a little out of practise but figured once I was in the element, things would flow. And it did.

I started out with Shovelin’ and prefaced the song by asking what the kids did in the recent snow storm. Several kids said, “Snow man”, but one boy said, “I threw a snow ball at my mom.” It’s moments like these that are spontaneous and delightful that the whole audience picks up on. The song has a strong blue motif and I could sense the dads relaxing a little, knowing that I had some chops and that there would be some real music played.

We did the Tutti Tah next and off we went. Lots of laughs, chat with some of the bright kids sitting up front (I always engage these kids, regardless of the show’s pace. The conversations always lead to curious thoughts). The Cat Came Back, I’m Gonna Tell, Bear Hunt, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Giants, We Gave Names to the Animals, A Place in the Choir, and Jelly in the Dish. I finished off with Magic Penny, a nod to Valentine’s Day this week.

I broke out the rhythm instruments for Names and scarves for Jelly in the Dish, and the mandolin for I’m Gonna Tell, banjo for Place in the Choir. It was good to shake off some the rust on those instruments.

It was an hour-plus show, and it was a raucous good time. “Embrace the chaos.” After the show, I’ve been offering my CDs for free and it provides a good chance for folks to toss some extra bucks into the kitty. I pulled in an extra $70.

Perhaps the most curious moment happened during Peanut Butter and Jelly, where get the boys/men to take one part, and the girls/women take the other. One child piped up that he/she didn’t know which gender they were. I spoke up and said, “Be both.” It turns out that the child was trans, something I should be more aware of. I was lucky that responded the way I did, and, later, found out that the mom was glad too.

There are always moments where I have to respond “in the moment” and I’m glad I have the artistic sense on how to shape these moments and make them part of the show.

It felt good to be in front of full house of families again. I did it well.

It was a long time coming for me, returning to perform in an elementary school again, and I was glad to shake some of the rust off. I headed down the Blue Route to Wayne, PA for a 2 pm assembly for about 100 Kindergarteners and five teachers. I set up in a relatively small but carpeted assembly room. I parked my small amp, guitar in front of the stage, conversed with the PTA mom for a half hour and in came the kids. They seemed a little sluggish, but no matter.

I launched into I Like Peanut Butter, The Tuttie Tah, Giants and more. I was a little sluggish myself when I started Bear Hunt (.how many thousands of times I’ve done this?) but gathered my thoughts and pulled it off. I also forgot my bag of scarves for Jelly in the Dish so I was kicking myself for my lack of mental accuitity. It’s been two months since I’ve performed, and, with a bout of RSV and my cancer-recovery, I’ve been in a fog. I guess it’s creeping senior-ility.

Regardless, it was a good show, and we finished off dancing. I improvised Jelly by throwing in some dance moves in between verses, jumping up where I usually do the scarf-toss. It worked. My reflection session at the end was good, as well. The teachers liked the dancing, animals and rhyming with We Gave Names, and one teacher liked my reverse memorization that I did with Tutti Tah (we talked about the moves in reverse order) and more. I particularly like that, after the kids tell me what they liked, the adults in the room get to speak in front of the kids, reinforcing what we did outloud. I think the kids pick up on that.

I packed up, with the nice help of the PTA mom, and headed back to the Lehigh Valley. It was good to be back in the saddle after too long on the sidelines. I wish I could do it more often.

Gigs are far and few these days, but I particularly enjoyed my Dave’s Night Out with old Shimersville Sheik band mate Roy Smith. The Sheiks were a really fine string band back in the 70’s, along with Jerry Bastoni, Chris Simmons and various other ne’er-do-wells. We were pretty esoteric in our repertoire, covering bluegrass, old country, jug band, Australian tunes and British Music Hall songs. We were an “art” band and got to play some interesting gigs at festivals, bars, and even opening night at Godfrey’s.

The Sheiks at Lehigh ’75.

Roy’s musical journey has been remarkable as he gradually lost his hearing in his 30’s. “A lifetime musician, Roy developed hereditary deafness, and now relies on MED-EL cochlear implants. He represented the United States at MED-EL’s International Music Festival for Deaf Musicians. Roy is not only an advocate for the transformative power of cochlear implants, but also a testament to their impact on musical expression.”

In this conversational format, Roy and I got to talk about his fear as his hearing subsided, what it’s like now to play music again, and other stops along the way. We played some old band tunes like Sheik of Araby, Gospel Ship, Ned Kelly as well as others from both of our current repertoires, including Simple Gifts, We Are Welcomed and others. We did a session earlier in the afternoon to help allay some of our questions about the material as well as catch up on how our lives have flowered over the last 45 years.

Open night at Godfrey's with Mary Faith Rhoads

Opening night at Godfrey with Mary Faith Rhoads – 3.19.76

He had the support of his wife Jan, incredible leaps in technology and the formitable strains of living in his own head for years. He even shunned music as it was noise to him. Sadly, he was unable to share his music with his daughter growing up. I think that I would have gone nuts with out my ability to perform and play music. Deep respect for Roy.

Sheiks at Muhlenberg College

Thanks to the cochlear implants (three generations now) the chips in his brain decode sounds for him, in both speaking mode and in music mode (more bass), but still he has to grapple with keys, intonation and more. Quite a struggle, but now he can communicate with the world. Wonderful!

The discussion was enlightening, and folks came away with a new appreciation for the power of music, modern technology and human spirit. It was a shame that we had such a small audience, though we recorded video from the set for future play.

A good night, all around.

 

I was looking forward to sharing the stage with Doug Ashby, bluesman, fellow radio programmer and folk historian. His band Tavern Tan is a regular treat at Godfrey’s and my respect for him as a musician in the Valley is quite strong. We’ve never had the chance to swap songs before so this was a good chance.  For extra credit, my sister Janet, daughter Rosalie and her fiancé Jourdan were in attendance.

My voice has been ravaged from this non-Covid flu, and I limped my way through my songs, avoiding some of the high notes. It wasn’t pretty but thanks to a hot microphone, I managed, to a degree.

Doug’s love of early blues has given him a strong repertoire of Robert Johnson, Memphis Minnie and other legendary recording artists. I started with Stealin’, a Memphis Jug Band tune and we were off and running. We swapped Robert Johnson tunes, and we talked about the poetry of these blues and went into detail on ‘she’s got Elgin movements’, something we seemed to return to during the evening.

I invited my friend Steve Capwell up on the stage about 45 minutes in, and, as I found out, Steve and Doug were former Tan-mates (no surprise), so Steve was able to fill in with some fine harp work. All of us are folk programmers and players, so it was muy simpatico. I was able to supply Walkin’ Blues, Santa Assassin (with Rosalie, in the house), Prodigal Son and a few others.

It was a good crowd, for a change, with about 25 folks in the house. The conversation was light but we were able to keep things entertaining and musical.

As I’ve been doing recently, at the end, I went around the audience asking what they liked. This has been a pleasant surprise with a DNO audience. Folks were open and forthcoming: the stories, the way we listen to each other, the instruments, Steve’s harp playing. One gentleman brought up my playing Magic Penny for his young son years ago. (I did a reprise.). They also enjoyed our knowledge and respect for this music and its history.

There were lots of great moments, some good music (in spite of my beat-up voice) and something we can do again in the future.

 

After finishing up at Donegan, I recharged a bit before heading to Bala Cynwyd, PA for a 3 pm holiday show at a preschool at St. John’s church. I had been paid for this back in the early fall, so that gave the gig a different flavor.

I set up my small PA in an open area in the old stone church. I had a chance to take in the marvelous architecture, the amazing stained-glass windows and the quiet power of this space.

I was to play for about 50 kids and 10 teachers and they all trooped in and sat on the marble floor in front of me. I launched into I Like Peanut Butter and the Tutti Tah and followed with some Christmas sing-alongs. The kids were good, and the toddlers were up dancing early on. As is often the case, some of the younger teachers were hesitant in joining in, but I tried to involve them, to minor success.

I handed out scarves to the crowd (I was glad I had put together my entire collection for this), and we danced up a storm to Children, Go Where I Send Thee. It was a good way to get the kids up, sharing scarves with each other and bringing the session to a close, all within in a good 45 time span.

I headed home in late afternoon Philly traffic (I don’t miss this part too much) and landed, tired but satisfied with a busy day on the planet. Just in time to come down with the flu.

Today, we got to premier Let’s Make a Change, written by my afterschool group at Donegan School. It was in the middle of the school’s winter concert, so I sat through the choral group and the instrumental group with their songs. Not to bad.

The instrumental teacher introduced himself as a fan from his primary days at Fountain Hill ES here in town. He remembered clearly The Cat Came Back. That was cool, but I had to tell him that, during the pandemic, I was asked not to play that song because of its racist roots. He agreed that that was strange.

I had set up my small amplifier and mike on stage ahead of time and my turn rolled around. I brought up my kids, taught the assembly crowd the chorus and away we went. The kids tried some of the hand motions to the lyrics but I was concentrating on the words and my presentation. It went off fairly smoothly, and, as we had planned, when we hit the final chorus, the gang picked up scarves and headed out into the audience. It turned out to be quite a nice touch, and as they returned to the stage, we had our ‘big’ ending. Scarves up in air at the final crunch. That went well.

A good conclusion to the five week residency. The song could have been better but I think the kids had a good time as we played rhyming games, fine-tuned the lyrics and added movements. I had hoped for more of the kids’ contribution to the body of the song, but things are decidedly different post-Covid.

This one was booked months ago, and it finally rolled around, as it always does.

This was a church kids/family event at Ziegels Union Church in rural Lehigh County west of Allentown. There are two congregations (Congregational and Lutheran) sharing this old church (and ancient cemetery), thus the ‘union’ title. I think that’s a commendable effort.

I was booked as the main event at 1 pm, to be followed by hot chocolate and goodies. There ya go. I got there plenty in time to set up with a vocal mike. The sanctuary seemed live enough to play the guitar acoustically. As I set up, I had a chance to hang out with the custodian/volunteer and we chatted. We found out we had in common the late Bob Grover from that area.

Custodian and younger brother.

A young boy was poking around so we engaged in conversation. He said he didn’t play but his older brother did. I shared the rain stick with him and his eyes lit up. Ten minutes later his 15 year old brother (with long hair) showed up so we talked guitar. I offered him my Martin to play and he sat back in a pew and played some really nice stuff. He knew what he was doing. You could tell he was bitten by the ‘good guitar’ bug. While we lugging stuff to my car at the end, he said he had to check in on this Martin stuff. A magic moment, one that I recall in my past.

The concert was well attended with about twenty kids up in front of me, with an equal amount of curious adults and some parents. I started with I Like Peanut Butter, followed with Tutti Tah and rolled into some Santa classics. I said that it was hard to remember the third and fourth verses to some of these annual songs, and the minister in the third pew nodded in agreement.

I broke out the rhythm instruments for We Gave Names to the Animals, the scarves for Jelly in the Dish towards the end and then tossed out red foam noses to the kids for Rudolph. As usual, Rudolph was a riot, with everyone noodling their antlers. I have the best seat in the house.

We finished up and I headed for some hot chocolate and cookies. It was a gorgeous day in one of my favorite parts of PA. …and I got paid.