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Dec 31, 1969 11:00 PM GMT
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When he was a young man, Davy Crockett went down to Alabama from Tennessee to check out some land with his neighbors. He caught malaria and damn near died. He was so near death, his neighbors thought he was dead and left him alongside the road, thankfully they didn't bury him. Alabama was a vast wilderness in those days and Davy was all alone in it. He manages to nurse himself back to health and starts walking all the way back to his home in Tennessee.
Davy gets back to Shoal Creek and folks start running up to him crying and whatnot.
"Davy," says they, "we heard you were dead."
Davy says "I knowed it was a whopper of a lie the minute I heard it."
This one though is actually true. There weren't as many people there as usual, but the ringers were there, especially Randy Shaffer, the ultimate ringer. He is amazing. Great guy, great at working a crowd. He's just a salt-of-the-earth, outgoing guy who is one hell of harmonica player. Last time I was there a few years ago, I remember him telling this great story about grandma. I did take a page out of his crowd-working book and told a story about this old couple in their 90s who used to ask me to play "I'm so Lonesome I could Cry" on the church bus every Sunday. That and the story about my grandpa "inventing" cross harp back in the 50s. Since the last time I was there, I've been really studying what Jason Ricci does with his hands while he plays and I incorporated some of that, so I was a lot better player this time around.
So I get up there, I've got the confidence, which ironically, I didn't have until I discovered the stairs in the old courthouse where we played, were made from American Chestnut. That was a moment, like in the movie "Hoosiers" where Gene Hackman measures every nuance of the basketball court to prove it was just like the home court back home.
So, I get up there, tell the church bus story, do the first note of the intro to I'm so Lonesome I could Cry, I'm cool. Until I have to move the harp. My mouth was so dry, it was stuck like a tongue to a frozen flagpole. I have to force the harp, I mean FORCE, it move every note. Hurt a bit, but it went. Evidently, I kept it together.
Then I go for the next song, a fast bluegrass instrumental Pinch Quick. I tell the story about grandpa "inventing" cross harp in the 50s, giving myself a little time to get some moisture going. I work some up and kick off the song, but I set the pace at about 130 beats a minute and we never play it faster than 90 and five beats in, he's a quarter beat behind. I had to make a concious decision, I could a) do the safe thing and stop and start over or B) have enough faith in my guitar player, Greg Vincent of Big Possum Grin that he can handle this pile of crap I had just heaped on him or C) slow down to Greg. I decided to trust Greg could do it, I closed my eyes, blocked out the guitar and kept my own time. I open my eyes about 15 seconds later and look at the judges feet, they were tapping with my time, which was good.
I didn't know this at the time, but right after I kicked off, Greg held back on the guitar, doing this snare thing until he caught up with me, then he started putting down a hell of a rhythm. Goes to show when you've played with somebody for a few years, when all the chips are down, you just have to trust their musicianship.
After it was over, I had no clue how I did. I thought I had put down two train wrecks. I was talking to another contestant, Steve Williams, he said my timing was steady on the second song and "besides," he said "you had them with 'I'm so Lonesome I could Cry." You would REALLY have had to mess up the second song to hurt you.
After it was over, Randy, (who wins most years and played before me) said "You know, I was really planning to play 'I'm So Lonesome I could Cry.' Thank God I didn't." He was so gracious, so polite, so congratulatory and nothing about West Virginians coming across the river and winning their contests, etc., it kind of gave me a little more faith in the shape of the world. It took me 30 minutes probably to get out of that courthouse, everybody wanted to say something about "I'm so Lonesome I could Cry." It felt nice.
Congratulations.I wish I could have been there.
"That takes nerves of steel to get up there in front of the judges, and pull that off."
Well, I was pretty much shaking in my boots the whole time. Luckily, I was able to keep that to myself.
I did win second place in the West Virginia state harmonica championship yesterday. There is some audio from it, I put it on Youtube.
For those of you who have never met Dave in person, he's a very nice, humble guy, who loves harmonica. We crossed paths at a Buckeye Harmonica Festival in Ohio where I became part of the "Deer Jerky Gang." (Long story). I say, sometimes the good guys do win, and Dave surely deserves this. (I have to be nice to him, cuz he has a harp of mine that he is rejuvenating with an American Chestnut comb.)
Thanks Spud. I'm kind of at an impasse with your Old Standby, the two draw isn't right. Think I'm going to have to give up and put a reed in it, I do have some old Hohner reeds.
I wasn't there to hear the stories you told at the championship, but I loved the way you told the story about winning. I know you a wonderful craftsman and musician, but you're a great storyteller, too.