Terry Eldredge

Terry Eldredge

On This Date: Photo taken 6/22/2012

Terry sings lead and harmony with the Grascals, and is a terrific, but I think under-appreciated, musician. His ability to meaningfully stagger the rhythms on high-speed songs never ceases to amaze me. He’s seen here at the 2012 Charlotte Bluegrass Festival.

Terry’s also heard on SiriusXM’s Bluegrass Junction–he’s the southern-sounding voice you hear doing station IDs, introducing the weekly programs, and suchlike.


The banjo player in the background is Kristin Scott Benson. I featured her husband, Wayne, in yesterday’s photo…..

Number of pix taken on various June 22nds: 1063
Year of oldest photo: 2003

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 13
  • 2 Stars: 147
  • 3 Stars: 651
  • 4 Stars: 204
  • 5 Stars: 48

Revision History:

Wayne Benson

Wayne Benson

On This Date: Photo taken 6/21/2013

IIIrd Tyme Out’s excellent mandolin player.


Judging by my photographs, on June 21 I’m usually either at the Charlotte Bluegrass Festival or somewhere in the Upper Peninsula. Sounds about right, but not true today–though I’ll be at Charlotte tomorrow.

And in 2005 I took pix at a meeting with a vendor. What a comedown.

Number of pix taken on various June 21sts: 1423
Year of oldest photo: 2003

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 5
  • 2 Stars: 71
  • 3 Stars: 980
  • 4 Stars: 302
  • 5 Stars: 65

Revision History:

It all began with Sahlgren

It all began with Sahlgren

On This Date: Photo taken 6/20/2013

Mark Sahlgren, that is, who’s pictured here with Patty Williams in front of the Charlotte Bluegrass Festival stage.

Well, not entirely with Mark–I can trace other influences–but consider:

  • Mark’s band, Sweetcorn, began appearing at political fundraising events I attended sometime in the 1970s. (My friends Mike Stoline and John Flynn were also performing bluegrass at those events, but Mark’s band was far better than theirs.)
  • Mark and his friends (mostly band members) began hosting a radio program, Grassroots, at around the same time. I learned to recognize “Footprints in the Snow” and “Bringing Mary Home,” and learned to love Emmy Lou and Jim & Jesse and Country Gazette. Mark’s still hosting the show, but now the co-host is his daughter Darcy.
  • Also around this time I attended my first bluegrass festival, at Charlton Park near Hastings. Sweetcorn was a featured performer. I kept going back. I soon moved to the Lansing area, and added the Charlotte fest to my routine.

Mark changed my life.


Patty played at Charlton Park, too; she was the cute young lead singer in the Williams Family Band. (I had a crush on her.) Now she promotes the music in West Michigan.

The current incarnation of the Williams Family Band was setting up to perform when I took this picture. Patty apparently no longer sings with them; she sat in the audience and listened.

And a new “camera” note: Also on 6/20/2013 I took my first photograph with my new phone, a Galaxy Note 2. It was of the festival’s new stage, and taken just a few minutes before the photo of Mark and Patty.

Number of pix taken on various June 20ths: 1794
Year of oldest photo: 1992

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 15
  • 2 Stars: 197
  • 3 Stars: 1093
  • 4 Stars: 418
  • 5 Stars: 71

Revision History:

Kurt Hickman

Kurt Hickman

On This Date: Photo taken 6/18/2015

In recent years Kurt and his band Harbourtown have been fixtures at the Charlotte (MI) Bluegrass Festival. They’ll be appearing on Thursday, this year (this week). I’m looking forward to hearing them again.


I’ve been attending the Charlotte festival for nearly 40 years. It’s part of my routine; it’s one of the highlights of my summer.

Somewhat to my surprise my camera’s recently given me an identity at both festivals I attend. I’m no longer just one of the fans; folks call me by name, ask where they can find my photographs, and talk with me about past festivals. It’s an interesting change, and I’m not sure why it happened. I’ve been taking pix for years; this part-of-the-show thing’s only happened in the past two or three summers. All in all it just seems, well, odd.

Puzzled. That’s the word.

Number of pix taken on various June 18ths: 1223
Year of oldest photo: 2005

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 21
  • 2 Stars: 139
  • 3 Stars: 710
  • 4 Stars: 285
  • 5 Stars: 68

Revision History:

Mark Stoffel

Mark Stoffel

On This Date: Photo taken 4/29/2016

A year ago tonight we heard and saw Chris Jones and the Night Drivers in Kalamazoo. Had a good time, talked to some friends, and heard excellent music.


Not my sharpest photo ever. But I like it.

When I photograph bluegrass musicians I generally use a better camera and get closer to my subject. But rarely do my good cameras capture such motion.

Number of pix taken on various April 29ths: 328 [includes one by my brother]
Year of oldest photo: 2003

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 7
  • 2 Stars: 30
  • 3 Stars: 200
  • 4 Stars: 80
  • 5 Stars: 11

The photo by Richard is one of my favorite pix of Joan.

Revision History:

Bean Blossom by Thomas A. Adler: a review

An absolutely delightful book. Tells the history of the Bean Blossom park well, with many interesting anecdotes. Adler makes the strengths and weaknesses of the successive owners and managers clear. The book necessarily has an emphasis on the Monroe family, since they owned the park for most of its existence, but the book’s about the park and the festivals rather than Bill, Birch, and James.

The owners, of course, are not the only characters. The book contains sketches of many musicians and bands, and the occasional fan. While most of these are fairly perfunctory, they seem reasonably accurate for the players and groups I’m familiar with.

But the best parts are the author’s explorations and explications of the temporary, recurring communities that are annually (re)built at bluegrass festivals. He captures the culture well.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and can heartily recommend it.

Revision History:

Louis Armstrong, Master of Modernism by Thomas Brothers: a review

Not so much a review as a recommendation.

This book’s a biographical study of Louis Armstrong’s development as a musician in the 1920s and early 1930s, discussing his influences and musical vocabulary more than the details of his everyday life–though those everyday events are necessarily a part of Brothers’ story. The best parts, though, are the author’s analysis of how Armstrong constructed his recorded work, how the recordings related to live performance, and how those things changed over time. He presents a vision of Armstrong as musically literate, consciously developing as a musician to meet the needs of his career, and perhaps a different sort of genius than he’s often been presented. Brothers explicitly rejects the notion that Armstrong “sold out” when he began singing popular songs, and argues that musicians, analysts, and critics who’ve presented that thesis have pretty much missed the point.

This is not a general biography–it’s a musicologist’s biography, and best read as such. Those looking for a general biography of the artist would probably be better served by reading Terry Teachout’s fine Armstrong biography, Pops.

All that said, this is a great book, and highly recommended.










This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

Revision History:

Pretty Good for a Girl by Murphy Hicks Henry: a short review

Banjo player Murphy Henry looks at women in bluegrass, and discovers that there are, and always have been, more woman players than everyone thinks. She also reports that they’re not exactly accepted, as most have either been related to another member of the band or have belonged to all-woman ensembles. The author’s particularly concerned that few women have ever been supporting musicians (dare I say “sidemen”?) with major bluegrass bands. She mentions this matter regularly, and examines it fairly thoroughly in the chapters profiling Missy Raines, Alison Brown, and (especially) Kristin Scott Benson. She sees change, but less change than she’d like. But the book’s far more about the biographies of specific performers than about how things might be differently arranged.

Pretty Good for a Girl is organized as roughly 40 profiles, usually of individuals but occasionally of bands. These are arranged more or less chronologically, with an occasional overview chapter to set things into context. This arrangement works surprisingly well, and the result is a very good history of bluegrass music as played by woman performers. There’s some room for quibbling about the selection of musicians–I’d not have included the Dixie Chicks, for instance, and might have replaced them with, say, Emma Smith–but these are editorial choices, and don’t really damage the overall effort. This is an excellent book, and highly recommended.






This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

Revision History:

A Freewheelin’ Time by Suze Rotolo: a review

This book’s about the Village in the sixties, and about Suze Rotolo’s youth. Since Bob Dylan was important to both, this memoir talks a lot about his early career, but even that’s usually more about the Dylan/Rotolo relationship than about Dylan’s work. And that’s OK. If this were any other author, looking back at that time and place, we’d expect lots of context and little Dylan. Here we’ve got Rotolo doing something similar.

The book reads like the author made a list of things she wanted to say, arranged that list more or less chronologically, then wrote a few paragraphs about each topic. The result is unpolished, but generally successful and even charming. That she glosses over entire aspects of Dylan’s character is occasionally obvious and sometimes frustrating, but it’s her story to tell. She tells it well enough.

There’s lots of non-Dylan material that historians and others will find interesting and/or useful: A sense of the Greenwich Village geography in the 60s, including descriptions of the most important venues. It’s a fine portrait of her social sphere, which included many folks who became somewhat important in music and the arts–some in large ways. Her family history is absolutely fascinating, which is really unusual in such a volume. She was a good observer, and an adequate writer. You can easily understand why Dylan found her attractive.

There’s an odd recurring theme, by the way. One of the reasons Rotolo’s relationship with Dylan ended was her resistance to subsuming her identity in his (she tells us three times that she didn’t want to be just “a string on his guitar,” an image that’s interesting once). I certainly don’t doubt her sincerity about this, in the sixties or when she was writing, but the fact is that the book’s selling point is her Dylan relationship. I’m sure she recognized the irony.

Anyway: A fine book. Worth your time if you’re interested in that time and place, or the musicians who worked there.


This review was originally published on LibraryThing.

Revision History: