Sunday, July 13, 2008

Kennesaw Opry - Jamming About the Jam Session

Friday Night we went to the Kennesaw Opry.

July is a hard month to book any bluegrass players. The once-a-month opry concerts we have been attending had 3 to 4 groups a night. This night there was only one group, the “Jot ‘Em Down Boys”, and one of their founding members owns the Kennesaw Opry operation.

During the concert a lady that brought her bass guitar and her friend or husband joined them for a few songs. She had a beautiful voice and I could tell put feelings into her music, but like I said, they only played a few songs and went back to sit with the audience.

The players are mostly people who pick as a hobby when they can find time away from their job and families. They are not professionals but have a love for playing bluegrass. They explained it was a bad month to book bands – non paying bands- school is out, vacation time, yada yada.

We have seen the Jot’em Down Boys play many times through the year and just about got to know their personality and their relation to each other (two brothers are the founders). Jot’em Down Boys is named after a road that leads off Highway 400, a few miles north of Dawsonville, Georgia.

I counted 21 paying guests … at $5 a head – they took in a whopping $105 which probably was paid to the Kennesaw Recreation Department for the use of the room at Adams Park.

A couple years ago when the opry was held as “The Acworth Opry” many people came when it was at a barn at a city park that used to be a farm. They didn’t charge admission but passed a bucket for donations. But then they moved to a theater in downtown Acworth and started charging admission. The size of the audience declined. I think they made a mistake when they started charging. I think most of the people did not mind donating but one had to pay for the same thing, well, then it becomes a reluctant thing to do… when it was a pleasure to help the cause by donating. I hope that makes sense.

The ticket seller and ticket taker was a very nice lady that we deducted was the two brothers’ mother. Every time one of the band members would say something witty she would turn to us, or maybe the people near us, and say in a laughing way, “they are crazy!”

They played good. Most of it was sort of an informal jamming session. It was enjoyable.

They are men with respected kind of professions who get together and share their expertise on music. One of the players said he was a visual art teacher, one, I think has an interest in golf, and something tells me one is an engineer – still there are a couple more I haven’t figured out yet.

But sitting there, listening to the man put their heart and soul into the music they were playing I thought only at the moment are the musicians. They use the music for a release or maybe an temporarily escape from the real world – and playing fine tunes while doing it.

It reminded me of three well known people who belong to not-so-well known bands, that play just for their own enjoyment, and they are Robert Crumb, Gary Larson, and Woody Allen.

Everybody needs some kind of fun-interest…. And I guess ours is listening to music. Artists must have art appreciators, or they would be performing for a blank nothingness…. I can tap my foot almost as well as anyone there…. But most importantly, clap.

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Blogger EnoughAlready said...

This morning as I was parking next to this Kennesaw landmark building I saw a sign up on the front entrance overhang. I could not read it all as the wind had blown over the top left corner so as I passed under it I flipped it back to read it all. Curious about the info I had just read, I walked to the door. I was getting ready to open the door to enter this small local “biscuit house” and I heard some genuine, good time, foot stomping music and singing behind the door. I thought that this small authentic, out of the past, worn wooden floor, country store-style place had been booked for a private party and I almost didn’t go in. I tried to sneak a look in the window but the shades were drawn to help keep the 23-degree early morning cold out. As I opened up the door and walked in I was surrounded by a piece of American history…Bluegrass. A Bluegrass Sit Down, if you understand me. I stepped in and as I closed the door I was greeted with a nod and smile from several of these artists as they were doing their version of a song that I’ve never known the name of but I knew that I loved. The room had that certain warmth and closeness that reminded me of days gone past when, as a child, I sat with my grandma and listened to Sunday Morning gospel music on the radio, warmed by it and the company. Off in the corner behind the door, sitting in a tight circle because the room was small, was a group of gentlemen picking and plucking strings and filling the room with that certain feel of down-home, honest to goodness, from the heart, sure fire Bluegrass that was polished and on the mark. It was a beautiful thing. I ordered my food and sat down to take it all in. Now I’ve seen bluegrass performers before, mostly up in the North Georgia Mountains where the real thing lives, but these fellows were just plain exceptional. The combination of instruments and the singing was a thing to behold. I ordered another biscuit so I could slow down and enjoy a part of the past that we all never seem to have time to take in. In between songs they would chat amongst themselves as they picked and strummed, finding their way to the next musical story that they would tell. It was like nothing I had ever seen or heard. These fellows were comfortable with each other and the Bluegrass they performed was the best I’ve ever heard…period. They blended their individual sounds intuitively into a memory that made even the most uptight city-slicker tap his foot to keep time to the music. They were on a short break as I headed for the door and the world outside that had somehow gotten off track over the years. These musical enchanters had put it all in perspective for me and I was grounded and ready for the day...ready for life. As I passed them, I dropped a tip in the jar and thought of the bargain I had just received for that price. I wish I had a hundred dollar bill to put in there because it was truly worth it. Then I told them to keep spreading the sunshine and the one closest to me reached out, shook my hand and bid me a Happy New Year. I returned that wish and mentioned that it sure would be nice to have a recording of their music but it was explained to me that this was more of a hobby group. It made sense…somehow if it had been a group in it for the money, they might have found it harder to capture and express those true tones and emotional attachment and joy of what they were doing that morning. My loss, their gain, until I could find them again and sit back and re-live that experience. I walked under the sign I had checked out coming in and prayed that this memory stayed with me to the end. It really was like catching lightening in a bottle…these artists were that good. Oh, the sign overhead simply said “Jot-Em-Down-Boys here this morning”. And it was a morning to treasure and build on.

7:48 AM  
Blogger Eddie said...

Great comment! You write very good. I wish I knew what storefront you are talking about.
Two of the Jot-Em-Down boys are brothers. They do have some CDs. I know, we own two.

9:08 AM  
Blogger rtwyman456 said...

Hey everyone thanks so much for your nice comments. This is Bob from the Jotem Down Boys. That Landmark is at Stilsboro Road and Old Stilsboro Road. In Kennesaw, Ga. A Great place to eat Breakfast and usally the last Saturday of the month, you can hear some great Bluegrass but not always the Jotem Down Boys.The Kennesaw Opry can be found now the First Saturday of the month at the Canton Arts Center in Downtowm Canton,Ga. is the website. The Jotem Down Boys are almost always playing music there and It's a great building.

8:04 AM  

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