Over de loop der jaren zijn er natuurlijk heel erg veel huisconcerten geweest in Joke en Rienk Janssen’s huis aan de Molenkampweg in Harpel. Sommige huisconcerten maakten wat minder indruk op me, maar er waren gelukkig ook een scala aan huisconcerten die erg veel indruk op mij hebben achtergelaten. Een van de huisconcerten in deze laatste categorie was het huisconcert van het trio Bill Clifton, Red Rector en Art Stamper, stuk voor stuk legendarische namen in de bluegrass. Het was inderdaad een gedenkwaardig en fenomenaal optreden, precies zoals ik verwachtte! Alle drie vriendelijke en bescheiden mannen, maar eenmaal op het podium mensen om met respect naar te luisteren en kijken… Theo Lissenberg was naar Harpel gekomen om een en ander aan elkaar te praten (denk ik). Op verschillende foto’s is hij te zien terwijl hij het publiek toespreekt…

Ik vind het nog steeds prachtig om Bé Holtman terug te zien op mijn foto’s (hier met blauw geruit overhemd). Steevast zat Bé vooraan op de eerste rij in zijn karakteristieke luisterhouding zoals op deze foto…

Bill Clifton was voorafgaand aan dit optreden al verschillende keren in bij Joke en Rienk Janssen in Harpel geweest en was min of meer kind aan huis in The Home of Strictly Country. Veel mensen spreken nu nog steeds met mooie en respectvolle woorden over de optredens die ze van Bill mee hebben gemaakt. Ik begrijp dat wel. Zijn rol binnen de bluegrassmuziek in z’n algemeenheid is een belangrijke; maar zijn rol binnen de bluegrassmuziek in Europa is minstens net zo belangrijk. Bill Clifton heeft aan de wieg gestaan van een groot aantal ontwikkelingen; het was Bill die in 1961 voor het eerste een bluegrass festival organiseerde . Bill Clifton was (en is nog steeds) een ware ‘zendeling’ met betrekking tot de muziek van The Carter Family. Ik kan mij geen optreden van Bill Clifton voor de geest halen zonder meerdere songs van The Carter Family. En terecht! Het is en blijft prachtig materiaal!

Ik heb het filmpje hierboven al eens eerder gebruikt, maar plaats ’t filmpje nu nog maar een keer. Ik vind het ronduit ontroerend om te zien hoe Bill zich verhoud tot de muziek van The Carter Family.

Meer informatie over Bill Clifton...
If you attend a bluegrass festival, thank Bill Clifton for having the idea to present the very first one. Clifton was not the most famous of the first generation of bluegrass artists, but he did much to establish the idea of bluegrass as a preserver of half-forgotten songs and styles. Clifton’s background was hardly a typical one for bluegrass – although the players who would populate the distinctive Washington, D.C., bluegrass scene often shared Clifton’s professional background. He was born William Marburg to a wealthy family in Riverwood, MD, in suburban Baltimore County. As a child, he became fascinated by country music he heard on the radio. A folk-music enthusiast, he made the obligatory trip to New York to visit Woody Guthrie. Attending graduate school in business at the University of Virginia, he formed a trio called the Dixie Mountain Boys with folksingers Paul Clayton and Dave Sadler, adopting the stage name Bill Clifton because his family objected to his musical activities. In 1952, the group made their first recordings and enjoyed some regional success. The trio then added banjoist Johnny Clark and began playing more traditional bluegrass music. After signing with Blue Ridge Records, they appeared on the Wheeling Jamboree radio barn-dance program. While there, Clifton made the acquaintance of the Stanley Brothers and A.P. Carter. In 1955 he published a songbook, 150 Old-Time Folk and Gospel Songs, which circulated widely among bluegrass musicians. After a stint in the military, he began recording in the late ’50s, releasing five albums over the next seven years. They were suffused with the sentimental imagery of old-time songs, and several singles, including ‘Little Whitewashed Chimney’, became bona fide hits and bluegrass standards. On July 4, 1961, Clifton organized an outdoor ‘Bluegrass Day’ concert at Oak Leaf Park in Luray, VA, featuring a reunion of Bill Monroe’s original bluegrass boys, the Stanley Brothers, the Country Gentlemen, Jim & Jesse, and several other top bluegrass acts. Although it was only an all-day rather than weekend-long event, the concert is generally recognized as the first bluegrass festival, as the progenitor of the hundreds of grassroots campground gatherings that flourish annually all over the U.S. and Canada. Clifton’s concert didn’t make much of a splash with the general public at the time, but key figures in the folk-music world were paying close attention. Clifton himself was hired as one of the organizers of the Newport Folk Festival in 1963, and Carlton Haney, one of the attendees at Clifton’s Luray concert, went on to organize a larger event in Roanoke in 1965. From that point on, the modern bluegrass-festival movement grew rapidly. In 1963, Clifton and his family moved to England; he played in local clubs and other small venues around Europe. In 1967 he joined the Peace Corps and spent three years in the Philippines. While there, he visited New Zealand, recording an album with the Hamilton County Bluegrass Band. Clifton occasionally returned to the U.S. to record, and also kept recording in Europe. In 1972, he returned briefly to America to play his first bluegrass festival circuit. Encouraged by the experience, he began visiting the U.S. more frequently and recorded more regularly, signing with County Records. For his third album on the label, he formed the First Generation with mandolinist Red Rector and banjoist Don Stover. After the album’s release, the trio toured the bluegrass circuit for the remainder of the 1970s. In the early ’80s, Clifton and his family moved to Virginia, where he worked as a businessman. However, Clifton continued to perform at bluegrass festivals and occasional concerts into the ’90s.

William Eugene ‘Red’ Rector was niet alleen de bescheidenheid zelve, maar beslist een meester op de mandoline. Red Rector had een prachtige ingetogen manier van spelen en materiaalkeuze. De combinatie van Bill Clifton en Red Rector is legendarisch en een waar genot om naar te luisteren. De heren hebben jaren geleden een erg mooie LP gemaakt voor het Duitse Bear Family label. Red Rector heeft over de loop der jaren samengewerkt met Reno & Smiley, met Hylo Brown, met Charlie Monroe, en met John Hartford. Allemaal grote namen! Ik heb de LP die hij samen met Jethro Burns maakte in m’n platenkast staan. Daar staat een geweldig nummer op als een plaagstootje naar Bill Monroe…

Meer informatie over Red Rector...
Based for most of his career out of Knoxville, TN, Red Rector was one the great second-generation traditional bluegrass mandolinists, which means, for one thing, he grew up listening to the sounds of Bill Monroe. In his playing, there were almost as many individual strengths as there are strings on a mandolin. He was known for a durable sound that could cut through whatever ensemble he was in, even when a dynamic banjo player such as Don Stover was trying to drown him out. In a music the uninformed listener might associate with ‘hicks’, Rector played with a musical sophistication that could make a hip jazz musician or studied classical virtuoso’s ears stand at attention. He could make an audience laugh with a mandolin solo, although he never got as deeply connected with humor in music as his fellow mandolinist Jethro Burns. His playing could be as precise as a triple scale session player, and as sincerely sentimental and moving as any mountain musician picking a tune on someone’s front porch. And, boy oh boy, could he ever play fast! When told by one interviewer that his solo on ‘Blackberry Blossom’ sounded like it was going at 6,000 miles an hour, Rector calmly corrected him: ‘Maybe a little faster’. Born Eugene Rector in North Carolina, his early listening experience was dominated by the popular sounds of Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys. He was so quick to want to become a mandolinist that he was even picking away on the little instrument for something like three years before he knew how to properly tune it. Besides wanting to master the complicated art of tuning, his main motivation was to sound just like Monroe. At 15, Rector was already playing in a group called the Blue Ridge Hillbillies, which featured guitarist Red Smiley and fiddler Jimmy Lunsford. He even got some personal advice from his idol at a festival where both their bands were appearing, Monroe telling Rector that his wrist was too stiff. In late 1946, Rector went on tour with the old-time duo Johnny and Jack, having worked all year on loosening his wrist. Now he was a bold and brave sweet 16, and the older musicians around him began to try to assert some influence over his playing, steering away from copying an established star and encouraging him to instead develop his own playing style. Rector resisted this advice mightily, believing that there was only one way to do things on the mandolin, and that was the way Monroe had done it. In this way, one of the many jokes in the ‘musician meets burned out lightbulb’ genre could have been made up about Rector. How many bluegrass musicians does it take to screw in a lightbulb? Answer: Fifty. One to do the job, the other 49 to tell you how Bill Monroe would have done it. Rector’s bandmates kept up the pressure, trying to tell him about one mandolinist they knew about who was fixing the lightbulb, so to speak. That was Paul Buskirk, a West Virginia mandolinist who had indeed developed his own concept. When Johnny and Jack finally scored an invite to play on the Grand Ole Opry, the young mandolinist was so frightened at the prospect that he refused to play, meaning the old-timers went ahead and hired this Buskirk fellow to replace Rector for this high profile appearance. This was when Rector actually got to hear Buskirk for the first time, since he tuned in to the program to see how the boys would do without him. To his surprise, the mandolin playing of his replacement had an even stronger impact on him than Monroe’s had. Rector rethought the idea of developing another mandolin style, since he now saw clear evidence that such a thing was possible, and that lightning bolts aimed by Monroe would not come blasting out of the sky. He first did what most young musicians would do in this situation: attempt to create a new style by fusing his Monroe imitation with whatever he could pick up from Buskirk, especially his more intense use of notes on the low strings. But he steadily began absorbing the work of other mandolinists as well, now that his ears had been opened to the idea. Ernest Ferguson, who picked with the Bailes Brothers band, was another formative influence on Rector’s picking style. Rector relocated to Knoxville, TN, as the result of a new job with Charlie Monroe. One of the first concerts he went to there was a performance by the bluegrass comedy duo Homer & Jethro, which, needless to say, introduced him to the mandolin artistry of Jethro Burns. Putting all the pieces together, Rector recalls that by the age of 18, he thought he had finally gotten his own style of playing together. That much is plainly evident from the ample documentation on record, with artists such as flatpicking whiz Norman Blake, banjo man Bill Keith, fiddler Kenny Baker, and the previously mentioned Don Stover, with whom he toured England in the ’80s. Mandolin lovers are particularly fond of the album Old Friends which he recorded with Burns for the Rebel label. But well before this type of artistic triumph from his mature years came more than a decade of honing his talents with early traditional bluegrass outfits such as Hylo Brown & the Timberliners and the co-operative band led by banjoist Don Reno and Rector’s old buddy Red Smiley on guitar and vocals. The mandolinist worked off and on with the latter outfit between 1951 and 1959, much of the material collected on a CD box set released by the King label in 1996. Of course, when the city of Knoxville created a mural dedicated to the players who had come out of its rich musical traditions, Rector was given a prominent spot. In that city he is also remembered for his local activities, such as the bluegrass comedy duo Red and Fred, as well as appearances on the Knoxville television series the Farm and Home Show. Erudite listeners who might be taken aback by this type of exposure, bordering on the Hee Haw mentality, can balance it out with an equally strong academic quotient to Rector’s legacy. His mandolin performances have been the subject of a doctoral thesis, as well as articles in scholarly journals with titles such as Mandolins and Metaphors: Red Rector’s Musical Aesthetics. But Rector never became overly stuffy about his achievements or place in bluegrass history. He even calmly put up with being introduced as ‘Red Rectum’ by the multi-instrumentalist songwriter and old-time music enthusiast John Hartford, with whom he recorded tracks for the 1971 Warner Bros. album ‘Aeroplane’, later reissued on CD by Rounder.

Art Stamper heeft fiddle gespeeld bij The Stanley Brothers en Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys en is te horen op ontelbare andere opnamen. Afkomstig uit de Appalachen besloot hij al in de jaren vijftig van de vorige eeuw om kapper te worden. Dat verschafte hem een vast inkomen en hij hoefde daardoor niet in de kolenmijnen te werken (gek veel meer mogelijkheden waren er toentertijd niet). Muziek was de jonge Art met de paplepel ingegoten; zijn vader speelde fiddle op squaredances en was daarmee behoorlijk succesvol. De kapsalon ‘Art’s way’ in Knoxville (toevallig ook de woonplaats van Red Rector) was dan ook een manier om een basisinkomen te genereren en de jonge Art de mogelijkheid te geven z’n muzikale dromen na te jagen. Ik vond het geweldig om vier foto’s te vinden waarop Michiel (Joke en Rienk’s zoon) door Art onder handen genomen wordt…

Meer informatie over Art Stamper...
Art Stamper is a classic Kentucky fiddler and a giant in traditional mountain music and the bluegrass style that evolved from it. When the old-time music heavy soundtrack for ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ became a hit, there was speculation that the ‘Art’ in the title might be Art Stamper, veteran of the Stanley Brothers, Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, and countless classic bluegrass recording sessions. When Stamper was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2000, the bluegrass community poured out for a subsequent benefit concert, the lineup of the artists on the roster like flashing one’s eyes across the spines of the albums on a bluegrass collector’s shelf. His health problems coincided with yet another bloom in his career, as the new millennium also marked the release of one his most praised albums to date, ‘Goodbye Girls, I’m Going to Boston’, the title-track a programming favorite on several prominent radio shows devoted to this genre. Fiddlers and classical violinists alike can sometimes be accused of winning audiences over by making them submit to mind-numbing displays of technical virtuosity, yet Stamper can never be accused of this artistic fault. His fans love him for his superb grasp of very basic musical issues: a firm and inventive grasp of melody, heartfelt sincerity, and a constant sense of enjoyment in what he is doing. All the same, a look back at his career does reveal that he was somewhat swept away by the tides of technical one-upmanship that temporarily flooded the bluegrass scene as it moved into the progressive or newgrass stage. His recordings from this period are still loaded with feeling, however, especially when he matches licks with banjo master J.D. Crowe on the superb 1982 County release ‘The Lost Fiddler’. Even though it might have been hard for a listener to really notice, the fiddler eventually felt that he was lost, drifting away from his Kentucky roots toward an anonymous picking paradise. He began emphasizing a return to his homeground of making music, resulting in music what bluegrass fans apparently find overwhelmingly beautiful. He joined the Stanley Brothers’ band at a crucial time in country music history, as the 1952 entrance of fiddler and mandolinist Jim Williams into the band is considered the end of a transition between the old-time string band sound and what would come to be regarded as a bluegrass instrumental lineup. Stamper has received the Best Old Time Fiddlers award three years in a row at the SPGMA bluegrass awards in Nashville. Since the ’80s, he has also been active as a teacher, including a regular residency at the Blackwell Farm Fiddle Camp in Niangua, MO. He began undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments at the Veterans Hospital in Louisville, KY, sometime in 2000, and the following year underwent surgery on his throat which involved a tracheostomy. He has still been able to keep up a schedule of concert appearances from time to time, including bluegrass festivals, as well as reunions of surviving members of the Clinch Mountain Boys, one of strawboss Stanley’s main backup aggregations.

Michiels’s haren worden helemaal ‘Art’s way’ geknipt…

Kleine aftermeeting…