Monday, August 14, 2006
Memories of those JMBs...
It's hard to believe, but it's been more than 20 years since I was first exposed to the hard-driving sounds of Bluegrass music. Glenn Huffer of the Connecticut Friends of Bluegrass used to bring lots of great talent to the Chestnut Lodge in Colchester, CT, and then, later, to the Masonic Temple in Norwich, CT. My favorite shows that he organized happened every February, and featured the fabulous Johnson Mountain Boys. These guys were IT -- young, energetic, funny, neatly-dressed, and very, very talented. What more could a teenage girl want?
Each year, Candi Sawyer publishes the Bluegrass Guide -- a print source for all types of BG events in New England and the Northeast. The 2006 edition of the Guide features an extensive story on the "classic" JMB, and it brought back tons of memories of those February nights in Colchester, and later, Norwich. In an interview in the Guide, JMB fiddler, Eddie Stubbs, recalled that throughout their career, Connecticut was one of two "hot spots" for the Johnson Mountain Boys. At one point, their annual winter shows at the Chestnut Lodge became so popular that the Connecticut Friends of Bluegrass had to book the Johnson Mountain Boys to play for two nights instead of just one.
I've included here a few pictures from a couple of those Connecticut Friends' shows. The top photo is from the 1984 show at the Chestnut Lodge, and features the "classic" JMB formation of Dudley Connell on guitar, Richard Underwood on banjo, David McLaughlin on mandolin, Eddie Stubbs on fiddle, and Larry Robbins on bass. The other two photos are from the 1987 (no hats) and 1988 shows, which were held at the Masonic Temple. By that time, Richard Underwood and Larry Robbins had left the band, and were replaced by Tom Adams and Marshall Wilborn, respectively. The 1988 show was the JMBs first "farewell" show in CT -- as a gift, the CT Friends gave each of the band members a sweater with a Connecticut Friends of Bluegrass monogram.
As a personal aside, it's hard to believe I would have had much enthusiasm for Bluegrass music without the existence of the Johnson Mountain Boys. Their music still plays well today, without a doubt. You can expect to keep hearing it on the BG Cafe, not to worry.
Did you attend any of those CT Friends' JMB shows in the 1980s and early 1990s? If so, please take a few moments and share your memories by clicking on the "post a comment" link.