Bluegrass Jams Remembered

Music Memories

                In the Crider household there was no shortage of music: live or otherwise.  Nearly every weekend and usually at least once a week, there would be a practice session or weekend jam.  When the music wasn’t live, my dad would have the radio on, tuned to a public station that had entirely too much static for my liking.  At least when my dad played records or cassette tapes the music was clear and I didn’t feel the urge to rip out my hair while yelling “find a different station already!”

                The weekend jam sessions were cool.  I’m not going to rant and rave about them only because I wasn’t that interested in bluegrass music.  That genre of music is what my dad’s life revolves around.  My father, Walt started his own music bands as far back as I can remember.  The first was The Creekside Ramblers as all the members lived near or beside the Conewago Creek.  That was back in the early 80’s so I don’t remember much about that group.  Walt was also a founding member of a bluegrass association in Pennsylvania.  Once this group grew in size, our entire family became involved as musicians or as audience members.

                Some jam sessions were at other people’s homes or at a hall rented for The Seven Mountains Bluegrass Association.  There were large numbers of people at these gatherings and we made countless friends, often only seeing them once a month.  As we made new friends we would nag our parents to invite them over to the house for dad’s picking sessions.  We became very good friends with a family by the last name Horn and another, last name Eng and everyone in the Crider house was excited when the parents started playing music at our home. 

                My most vivid memories are the families coming to play in the front yard of our home.  In the winter they played in the basement with the woodstove warming the corners and creating a perfect jam session area.  We were thrilled when musicians arrived and brought their families.  It was certain there would be other kids to play tag, hide-n-seek, climb trees and shoot hoops on the weekends.  The kids split off into two different groups.  The older kids hung out with my brother Joe and me, the youngsters hung out with my little sister Sue and my brother Sam.  The younger kids stayed close to the house or played in the basement because we would ditch them as soon as possible.  There was a ten year gap between them and Joe and me.  The gap was enough for us elder children to find the youngster group annoying.

                When we were lucky and the weather was in our favor, Joe and I would take off with our friends on foot into the woods or ride bikes up and down the lane.  We would hunt rabbits and ground hogs with or without having a BB gun.  We hid in the woods and created our club houses with fallen trees and broken tree branches of leaves, keeping an eye out for snakes.  Our friend Tim would help Joe drag cut tree trunks to the new forts to use as seats.  As the day passed and the sun would start to set, we would come out of the woods to check in with the adults.  After the moon had taken the place of the sun, our fun would turn to the nocturnal life.

                The bats were cool as shit.  I recall a night the parents were picking their banjos and guitars while the kids, all the kids, threw Frisbees, Whiffle bats and balls and shot Nerf guns into the sky.  The bats, using their radar would swoop down at our toys in hopes it were food.  We all found this hilarious, laughing at the bats and even falling on the ground to avoid their dives.  This eventually caught the attention of our mothers who shut down our bat entertainment.  Nearly as cool as the bats were the lightning bugs.  All of us would run around catching bugs and giving them to the little kids to put in margarine containers with holes punched in the top. 

                The jam sessions brought a diverse group of people to the Crider household.  We met people outside our race and economic group, people who had religious and political opinions different than what I had learned in my first eighteen years of life.  While I memorized countless country, bluegrass and gospel songs growing up, what I learned was, music touches all people and breaks down barriers that may have kept people from associating.  Most importantly, I learned bluegrass folk have awesome kids that looked forward to the weekend jam sessions just as much as we did. 

Go ahead...take a swing. I'll duck and listen.

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