Aug 26, 2009

Another Musical Legend has Passed...

When I was serving in the Navy in the early '60's, I was stationed in Newport, Rhode Island. Newport was also the location of several festivals, including the Newport Folk Festival and the Newport Jazz Festival. It was at one of the Folk Festivals, probably in 1962, that I first saw and heard Mike Seeger. He was a member of a string band called the New Lost City Ramblers.

Mike was a remarkably versatile and talented musician, skilled at playing many different instruments and in a variety of styles. He performed some real magic when playing the Autoharp and was probably one of the main reasons I took up that instrument a few years later. I bought a lot of the recordings of the New Lost City Ramblers and still know their arrangements of many early folk and traditional songs.

Mike's path and mine crossed many times over the years. I had the good fortune to take lessons from him for a week in the 1980's at the Augusta Heritage Arts Workshops in Elkins, West Virginia. I got to spend some time with him during and after a concert he did in Tullahoma in the '90's. Then about four years ago, I had a conversation with him while he was performing in Murfreesboro. We talked at that time about the possibility of my working on one of his autoharps -- a beautiful instrument built by Bob Welland in Evanston, Illinois. Indeed, I learned that Mike was a long-time friend and former music colleague of my good friend Tom Morgan, of Morgan Springs, Tennessee. In fact Tom Morgan built Autoharps for both Mike Seeger and me! It's a very small world among Folk music afficianados.

Mike Seeger was a member of a very famous, creative and musical family. His uncle, Alan Seeger, who died in World War I, was fighting for the French Foreign Legion when he wrote the famous poem, "I Have a Rendezvous with Death," that many of us read in high school:

I HAVE a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air—
I have a rendezvous with Death 5
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.
It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath—
It may be I shall pass him still. 10
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.
God knows 'twere better to be deep 15
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear...
But I've a rendezvous with Death 20
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

I had a call from Tom Morgan today advising me that Mike had passed on. He died on August 7th at his home in Lexington, Virginia. He had battled cancer for many years and had recently been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable and aggressive form of cancer. He chose hospice care rather than prolonging the fight.

Mike, I will miss the sound of your voice and your playing, but you live on in your gift of music. Enjoy the Angel Band!

A few days after I posted this item, I ran across a video of a very young Mike Seeger playing his Tom Morgan autoharp and singing. I was recently informed that this instrument still exists and is undergoing restoration for its current (and very fortunate) owner.

Aug 22, 2009

Swine Flu Precautions...

I encourage everyone to take the necessary steps to slow the spread of the Swine Flu...

Aug 10, 2009

Another New Experience...

I took vacation on Friday and made a mad dash for Louisville (pronounced "Loo-vull") to witness over 11,000 street rods in one location - the National Street Rod Association national convention, or more commonly, the "NSRA Nationals." Fortunately, I found a motel room at the last moment, since I didn't decide to go until last Monday. So Friday morning I drove up Interstate 65, arriving at the Kentucky Fairgrounds and Exposition Center around 1:00 PM.

Parking was available not far from the main gate. I put on plenty of sun screen and headed in with camera in hand. It's more than I can describe. I was on kind of a mission:
  • Get ideas for the car I'm building -- got lots of ideas; took lots of pictures,
  • Look for 1932 Plymouths -- I found a total of only 5, none of them roadsters, and
  • Look for 241 Hemi engines -- I found none!

Conclusion; My 1932 Plymouth with a 241 Hemi will be one of a kind.

When I checked into the motel, I was shocked to see a yellow '32 Plymouth coupe in the parking lot. I did get a chance to meet the owner and have a long conversation about his car, which was powered by a 400 cubic inch Hemi. He has driven it all over the country for many years, but it looked pristine.

Saturday morning, I returned to the fairgrounds for another session. I did get the opportunity to speak with the owner of one of the Model PB Plymouths that I had spotted on Friday. It was a more traditional, full-fendered 2-door sedan, beautifully executed in a deep ruby red metallic. Sweet!

By around 12:00, I was done in, suffering from sensory overload. You had to see it to believe it.

Aug 2, 2009

Really Nice Occasion...

Thursday was our 5th anniversary. We exchanged gifts that morning, but we had a date last night to really celebrate. We went to 801 Franklin in Huntsville, the same place we had our reception five years earlier. They were great hosts. Angelo waited on our table and the service couldn't have been better. We enjoyed their wonderful Cullman County fried green tomatoes with crabmeat salad and sun-dried tomato chutney as an appetizer -- Wow! Mary Ann had the filet mignon and I had the coffee-rubbed New York strip. Both were fabulous. And we splurged with a chocolate volcano fudge cake and ice cream dessert that turned out to be complimentary! How nice.
Bill Harden and Gina Morgan work in the kitchen at 801 Franklin. Harden is chef de cuisine, and Morgan is executive sous chef at the restaurant.