Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Marty Stuart's Telecaster (Clarence) and Esquire

These are iPhone photos from Iowa City, 8-31-2013. I believe the Esquire is tuned up a half- step. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


August was a good music month. I had two great experiences with fine musicians and really nice folks . . .

On August 3rd, my good friend Bill Melton and I traveled to the Watseka Theatre to open for the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band. Our buddy Bob had told us about the great guys in the TMJB (see my July 23, 2013 post). Bob wasn’t exaggerating.

All the guys in the TMJB are good men. When we met them they’d just driven from Nashville. They had been in the Carolinas a day earlier. The guys must have been tired and felt a bit rushed. Regardless, they said hello, talked to Bill and me, wished us well and cheered us on. They seemed to enjoy Watseka and the Theatre. They played and sang their hearts out to an appreciative crowd.  

The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band’s show is part comedy, part bluegrass/old time music, and part country music.  Roger Miller fans (like me) will love these guys.  Their musicianship is first rate and their singing is phenomenal. I went thinking we were going to hear a lot of great old time banjo music and was pleasantly surprised to hear the TMJB’s diverse repertoire.

After the show, the guys talked to us like we were their Nashville neighbors. And, when we complimented each of them on their parts in the show - every man praised his band-mates' talents.

A few days after the concert, when my oldest son had a medical issue, I got nice notes from two of the TMJB guys (dad-to-dad). Then, Bill and I received a compliment on Facebook from the TMJB’s guitar player.  Good guys.

On August 31st, the Bomber (my ten-year-old) and I drove to Iowa City's First Avenue Club to see Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives.  We saw this band in Watseka in February and they were fantastic. The highlights in Watseka (besides the magnificent Watseka Theatre and great show) were the band’s stage guy showing us Marty Stuart’s famous telecaster and mandolin (see entries from March 7th and 11th) and meeting the band. We couldn’t wait for the Iowa City show.

We arrived at the First Avenue Club and waited in line for a few minutes. When we entered I was surprised at the venue. It's cool. Essentially, it’s a large room in the basement of a strip mall. The ceiling was kind of low. There was a small bar.  It was intimate. 

Our general admission VIP tickets guaranteed us seats at a table in the front half of the room. The hostess looked us over and helped us find good seats; seats fit for a guy with a ten-year-old. We ended up one table removed from the stage. We were seated with a pair of non-drinking couples who seemed delighted to have us join them (how cool is a venue that forces you to make new friends?). Bomber and I went for root beer, visited with a friend, and sat back down for the show.

Following a really, really, good opening act (Iowa City’s Slew Grass) Marty and the Superlatives came out and completely floored us with musicianship, excellent harmony singing, and showmanship.  I’ve seen some great (famous) musicians over the years - - - I can honestly say this band is in the top two-percent; a “must see."

When the lights came on, we talked to the same stage guy with whom we visited in Watseka. He gave Bomber a copy of the set list and one of Marty’s guitar picks. In Watseka, and again in Iowa City, he went above and beyond the call of niceness.  I am kicking myself because I didn’t get his name. I hope, if he sees this, he knows how special he made the concerts.

After their shows, Marty and the Superlatives greet fans.  We said our thanks and goodbyes to the stage crewman, grabbed Bomber’s guitar, and took our place in line to meet the band. In Watseka, the guys seemed nice. In Iowa City, while we waited, I watched Marty Stuart interact with the concert-goers. When a woman mentioned she couldn’t get tickets to the Marty Stuart Show’s Nashville taping, Marty and his tour manager talked to her. I'm not sure exactly what was said but I heard them assure her she’d get tickets. Marty could have blown her off. He didn’t; she'll get to see the show.

When it was our turn to meet the band I mentioned we were at the Watseka show and that Watseka is my home-town. The guys seemed delighted and told me how much they enjoyed the Theatre. They said that they’d like to play there again. They each autographed Bomber’s guitar and encouraged him to play – really encouraged him. They acted like he did them a favor by asking them to sign it. Their affection was genuine. Bomber was beside himself with delight.  I was so happy for him and so grateful to the band - I got a little choked up.

As we left the venue, Bomber said:  "Dad, I'm NEVER selling this guitar!!! . . . I can't wait to show Gary (his guitar teacher)!"  I had to explain to Bomber that while mom would be excited, she might not want us to call and wake her up at midnight to tell her about the autographs.

The next day, I exchanged messages with Paul Martin, the band’s bass player (a talented multi-instrumentalist and singer).  In a dad-to-dad exchange he told me he and the guys in the band love to see children interested in music. He said his band-mates treat his four children the same way they all treated Bomber.  Very cool!

We could all learn a few lessons from the guys in the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band and Marty Stuart and the Fabulous Superlatives.  If you get a chance, see these bands.

* TMJB photo by Joy St Peter