End of 2020 Musings

Cartoon by Terry McGill

I remember back when the Covid virus broke out in March, thinking, we may be living with this at Christmas! How true that has turned out to be, and it’s now the worst it has been. Those of us who WANT to protect ourselves know what to do. Gayle and I are doing just that – protecting ourselves.

I read a provocative article in the NY Times a month or so ago that said the ONLY thing other than a widely accepted vaccine that could stop the pandemic, is erecting FENCES to stop travel. Probably true, but I can’t imagine how it would be implemented. All those science fiction movies about the authorities charging in to lock down epidemics turned out to be highly imaginary!

So two big things (bluegrass-wise) have come out of the Covid pandemic for me. First, NO LIVE MUSIC. No jam sessions. No festivals. No concerts. No travel to Nashville or the IBMA. I tell you what, when the plague is gone and we’re comfortable leaving home and being with crowds, I will attend all the live music I can!!! You don’t know what you’ll miss til it’s gone! (I think that’s a Joni Mitchell line in a song about parking lots.)

The other big thing was Lynn’s request late last spring for me to whomp up a weekly Bluegrass Trivia article for the newsletter and website. We’ve now done over 30 of the things, and I still have another 30 on my hard drive in case there’s enough interest to do it some more. I sure have learned who the local “experts” are! I have also been EXTREMELY pleased to see new participants giving it a try as the weeks and months passed.

I vividly remember rushing back to the dorm after lunch when I was in college to catch “Jeopardy” with Art Fleming on the only little tv on our floor. As many as 10 of us would crowd in there and participate, loudly. I have enjoyed Jeopardy even more under the calm, firm hand of the late Alex Trebek. He had an outstanding run. PERFECT host.

I’ve speculated a bit on the new Jeopardy host. Word is out that Greatest Of All Time contestant Ken Jennings has taped some temporary hosting duties, but he won’t be the permanent new host. I thought maybe Jeopardy could take a bit of a turn toward the daffy version on Saturday Night Live with Will Ferrell as Trebek, bouncing between shock and disbelief at some of the terrible celebrity players. So I’m suggesting John Cleese of “Monty Python” and “Fawlty Towers” fame, as a strict headmaster type, for the next host. Contestants would quake in their shoes at drawing his wrath for a stupid response. If not John Cleese, then maybe Rainn Wilson who played Dwight Schrute on “The Office” as the insufferable know-it-all.

I’m sure Jeopardy will continue, with or without my advice.

Dick Bowden

What else in 2020? I sold a banjo. I bought a banjo – no wait, I bought two banjos. And another fiddle, because my fiddle developed a huge top crack. Got it fixed, but I can’t trust it any more for traveling. Took a Skype fiddle lesson from Jason Carter of the Del McCoury Band and the Traveling McCourys, to try to fix my horrible bow technique (it helped!). Got my old Kay bass fiddle expertly repaired by the wondrous Bill Merchant in High Falls NY! I’ve learned some new things on fiddle and banjo, and even composed a banjo song for a friend’s birthday. I’m so pleased observing Gayle’s steady progress on the fiddle, too. She takes Skype lessons from Mike Hartgrove of the Lonesome River Band.

Finally, I am so grateful for the Internet! It has been my trusty link to bluegrass music (along with Sirius/XM’s Bluegrass Junction radio). I’ve heard some new bands and new music that I like VERY VERY much. I’ve also heard a bunch of crap that just makes me shake my head. I could do an entire column on the awful stuff invading bluegrass, but I’ll let Colonel Buff-Orpington deal with that. I’ve learned a lot from Bluegrass Today’s website, especially their weekly feature “Ask Sonny” where retired Sonny Osborne answers questions. He doesn’t pull any punches! And I’ve bought a lot of books on-line about bluegrass and learned a lot (source for some of my Bluegrass Trivia!).

So let’s all stay hunkered down, and hope the vaccine is effectively administered. Perhaps by summer we’ll be ready to come out of our burrows and get together comfortably.

Thank you to my faithful readers!! I hope you get something for your time and attention. Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year to all! Support HVBA and bluegrass music in any way you can. Stay healthy, be safe, and be kind. And please remember any bluegrass friends who are living completely alone. They need your contact.


Dick Bowden

Dick Bowden recently retired after a 45 year career in the paper industry, and moved from Connecticut to Big Indian NY (Ulster County) where he ekes out a precarious existence as a groundskeeper. Dick has been performing bluegrass music on banjo and guitar since 1966 in his home state of Maine, throughout New England, and internationally with The Case Brothers - Martin & Gibson. He has performed for HVBA with the Old Time Bluegrass Singers, and also sent in a squadron of Dick Bowden's Flying Circus. Most recently Dick has played Dobro (tm) with the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band. Dick has written many articles for Bluegrass Unlimited, Bluegrass Today, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass magazine) and HVBA.

One Response

  • Your well written musings capture very well what 2020 was like for a lot of us. I hope everyone can be well in 2021.

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