Friday, December 23, 2005

Kin of the Carter Family ... The Carter Brothers

Guitarist Tim and banjoist Danny are keeping up the family tradition with country music influenced by Bill Monroe to the Byrds. Get more from their official web site.
Bluegrass Blogs You're Likely To Enjoy
  1. Cybergrass - "The Internet's Bluegrass Magazine Since 1992" has many forums and discussions going on.
  2. Bluegrass Preservation Society - A non-profit organization "dedicated to the preservation of Bluegrass," the BPS has an online musical instrument store, a streaming radio show and, of course, lots of bulletin boards.
  3. Dr. Berlin's Bluegrass Audio Guide - A fan site that lists streaming audio shows for each day of the week.
  4. Old Surber Station - This site's podcast is also available via iTunes. There's a blog, too. And you can even stay awhile at the OSS bed and breakfast.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Xmas Eve Morning at the Buzz Café
If you haven't seen it, check out this week's Wednesday Journal newspaper for a photo of Joe Hammon peering enigmatically into Ben Stark's guitar along with an announcement of our Saturday morning Xmas Eve Morning gig at the Buzz.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Compendium of Fiddle Tune Lyrics
This online resource was compiled by The Bluegrass Messengers.
It's quite extensive. Check it out!

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

More "Ballin' The Jack" Trivia
Thanks to Jim Polaski
2. A railroad signal indicating full speed ahead.
In railroad terms, there was a time when signals were done with "Balls" on a tall stand. When the track was clear, the ball was hoisted to the top indicating a "high ball" or the train could move at high, or track speed. A derivation was "balling."
"The Highball Signals ... " were thirty (30) feet high and located about three miles apart. The first signal used black and white flags but they did not unfurl properly all the time. Bell-shaped peach baskets were suspended from masts thirty (30) feet high, located about three (3) miles apart. They were later replaced with large metal spheres. They were known as ball signals."

Monday, December 19, 2005

Free Online Music Theory Lessons
This site is a great supplement for students of all ages. It certainly does NOT work as a substitute for taking real lessons with a real, live teacher. But it's got great content. Check it out.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

"Ballin' The Jack"
Sure, But What Does It Mean?!?

Mike Casey raised an interesting question the other day. What's "Ballin' the Jack" mean? We've heard it and sung it in tunes from the traditional "Wanderin'" to the Grateful Dead's "Easy Wind." Well ... here's a long-winded answer found via a Google search:

1 - origin: balling the jack is a phrase from the jargon of railroadsmen in the beginning of [the 20th] century in America and simply means going at top speed (highballing). The "jack" is the locomotive [a carry-over from when a "jackass" pulled the freight] and "ballin'" means to work fast or get rollin' [from the 19th century slang "highballin'"].

Balling the jack (and variants like balling or having a ball) later acquired other, non-railroad related meanings like having a wild good time (drinking), to move quickly, going flat out, dancing, having sexual relations in a vigorous way and in gambling circles of risking everything on a single throw of the dice or turn of a card and in general use risking everything on one attempt or effort.

2 - metaphor for having sex, see also balling the jack and grinding. Dave Vanderslice says: "Means literally: use a jack hammer, but also to have sex." Thanks to Dave Vanderslice for his contribution to the list;

3 - name of a once popular dance, dancestep. Gray "Grayotis" Martin writes: "Ball the Jack---also likely a juke joint dance, with a reference to the act of sexual intercourse. "Ball" in verb form, is a slang word for sex, in white and black lingo. [One post claims the dance pre-dates the railroad metaphor.]

3.1 - Southern Louisiana's John "JohnnyB" Bradford says: "The "eagle rock" and "ball and the jack" are 1940's dance moves. "First you put your two knees close up tight, then you sway 'em to the left. Then you sway 'em to the right, step around the floor kind of nice and light. Then you twist around and twist around with all your might, Stretch your lovin' arms straight out into space, Then you do the Eagle Rock with style and grace. Swing your foot way 'round then bring it back. Now that's what I call Ballin' the Jack."

4 - going fast, doing the best. Jesse Fowler adds: "I know that it meant going fast (especially on a freight train). Paul Simmons wrote: " Balling the jack can also be an early reference to having your hands (ball of your hands) on a Jackhammer and pushing down with a great effort. I've often heard the term used to mean that you're "working it hard" in whatever your doing. For example I've heard people working on road crews say, "you best be ballin' it and not just doggin' it"... or translated, "you should be working and not just doing the motions". Think of it more as an adjective rather than a verb."

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Jeremy's Dad Took Some Mighty Fine Photos
See the scene at the Buzz Café from last April. Click here for the slide show. You can even order prints for only $00.15. (I did!) Choose 4x6, 5x7, 8x10 and more sizes.

Update -- Jeremy has also posted these images on his own site. Click here to see them. Of course, you can't order prints. But you can download them and print them yourself!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Mighty Fine Pickers -- Dry Branch Fire Squad!

The line-up has changed fairly dramatically since the 1990s. But the music's still "mighty fine."

Here's their official Web site.
Here's their online store.
Here are 12 free downloads from

The Artists Den Volume One - Singer-Songwriter Compilation
- Get info and order CDs here

Culled from performances of The Artists Den, a traveling showcase for independent singer-songwriters who cross genres and expectations. This compilation, Volume One, includes songs by David Poe, Duncan Sheik, Emiliana Torrini, Jesse Harris and Tracey Bonham; many of whom have been written up in the Tribune, Paste and other publications.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

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There is a fantastic web site where you can download tons of free bluegrass music and listen to non-stop, commercial free bluegrass radio. It's got more bluegrass music that you'll probably ever want to hear.

It's They don't use mp3 files because they say they lose much too much information. So they have their files in different formats that convert to WAV (and/or AIF) files. In order to use this, people need to have some computer skills, such as using FTP software. Once you have the music on your computer, you can then burn CD's or just leave it on your hard drive.

Note: Most audio files are posted in Shorten format (*.shn) which requires a free application to decode and convert to WAV or other audio format. Get information on Shorten here.

Anyway, I thought others would want to know about this, so please pass it on. Thanks, Bob Althouse

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Mighty Fine Bluegrass from Chatham County Line

This young band is awesome! Click here.
"Unauthorized" Tabs & Lyrics "Completely Illegal"?!?!
It seems the Music Publishers' Association is planning to be next into the fray, shutting down web sites that offer "unauthorized" tablature and lyrics. From BBC News online:

The music industry is to extend its copyright war by taking legal action against websites offering unlicensed song scores and lyrics.

The Music Publishers' Association (MPA), which represents US sheet music companies, will launch its first campaign against such sites in 2006. MPA president Lauren Keiser said he wanted site owners to be jailed. Guitar licks and song scores are widely available on the internet but are "completely illegal", he told the BBC.

Mr Keiser said he did not just want to shut websites and impose fines, saying if authorities can "throw in some jail time I think we'll be a little more effective".

Complete article here: BBC News

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Sunday, December 11th

[ The following is reprinted with edits from a notice submitted by Jim Polaski, MHG ]

Featured this time will be one of the all time great Chicago singers and perennial favorite JIM CRAIG. As an artist, Jim has carried on, almost single-handedly, the belle epoque of the Chicago scene dating back to his first performances at the Wise Fools on Lincoln Avenue decades ago. His choice of material, arrangements, and masterful guitar accompaniment perfectly compliment his rich vocals.

Also appearing will be the great poet-songwriter JAMES McCANDLESS. Some years ago, James was force to limit his performing due to an illness which he has since defeated. This will be his first full concert in a long time. His work is incomparable.

Accompanying James will be JULIE MACARUS on the violin. Julie's taste
for melodic fills and solos that expand the song are as masterful in texture as they are rich in tone.

You'll find this to be an exceptional evening of warmth on a winter's night. I hope you can make it. The cammeraderie, as always, will be priceless.

Bill's Blues Club
1029 Davis Street
847 424 9800
7 PM
$10 cover, no minimum

Friday, November 25, 2005

• • • Nola's Cup Update to Come • • •

Happy Thanksgiving to all ... The good news is that Nola's Cup will continue to be our Saturday Morning venue of choice this winter. Jim and Mary, Bob Locke, Bob Huston, Jack, Rick, Miguel and Mike are the regulars who're playing there every week. Show time is 8 a.m. til 11 a.m.

Meanwhile, Bob Lopardo has posted a note regarding the opportunity to play Saturday mornings at the Oak Park Arms, which has a renovated ballroom as the performance space. Nice place. Nice folks. And nice acoustics. Bob will follow up with more info as time permits. Stay tuned!
Mighty Fine Cajun Fiddler - Sadie Compton
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Listen to some of her tunes ... MP3 streaming samples only.
Check out her stupendous list of links to roots/old time/bluegrass music.
Read her bio ... born and raised in south Louisiana.
Buy her debut CD ... if you'd like.

Turtle's 78RPM Jukebox
A compendium of early 20th century recordings in download-friendly MP3 format.

The Hillbilly Madman - Zane Campbell
a.k.a. Ola Belle (Campbell) Reede's Nephew

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Here's a Quartet called Jackstraw ... with free downloads here!

The Wilders of Kansas City, MO
Another mighty fine old time music makin' machine!
Go see for yourself! Plus free downloads here!
Foghorn Stringband
Free MP3s from Portland-based New-Fangled Old Time String Band
Great sound. Mighty fine pickin'. And a cool Web site to boot!
Get clickin' rightchere

Sunday, November 06, 2005

• • • New Venue Update • • •
Nola's Cup "Test Run" Next Saturday

Jim and I met with the owners of Nola's Cup on Friday morning. We gave them our CD and the latest Wednesday Journal article. And they've agreed to give our former SB group a try. They've never hosted live music before, so this is a test run to see if everybody feels comfortable with it ... namely the owners, their patrons and our musicians.

First and foremost, the room is small. So we're purposefully limiting the number of musicians to six ... including Jim, Mary, Jack, Bob, Rick and Mike.

After the date, Jim and I will follow up with the owners to see if they'd like us back every Saturday. Please contact me by posting comments using the link below with your concerns, compliments and/or ... well ... comments.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

If Doc Watson and Jimi Hendrix Had a Love Child Who Played Uke ...
Monday, November 14 on WGN-AM 720 in Chicago at 12:10am, Steve & Johnnie will be joined in studio by Jake Shimabukuro, a 28-year-old master of the ukulele. Jake is a virtuoso who is shattering musical boundaries and bringing respect to the ukulele. (

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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

- - - NEWS FLASH - - -
Something's Brewing Is CLOSED

We're looking for another venue. Stay tuned!

Meanwhile, the Buzz is OPEN! So go play starting at 8:00 a.m.

Post your thoughts and ideas by adding a comment below.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Two Way Street Coffee House in Downer's Grove is having it's 35th anniversary celebration on Saturday, November 12. Two Way Street is one of the best and oldest (if not the oldest) still-existing folk venues in the Chicago area and is nationally known. These anniversary celebrations started in 1990 (20th) and are held every 5 years.

The day starts at 2pm and includes a barn dance, an evening concert, lots-o-jamming, and plenty of fun. I hope everyone will try and stop in -- there is no admission fee, to boot.

Thursday's Child is very pleased to be invited to participate in the evening concert. (We've been performing at TWS since 1984, initially as a trio with a neighbor friend and since 1987 with Bob and Mary Kay Lopardo.)

It will be a hoot!

Here's the website for address info -- -- and just in case anyone wants to see what Thursday's Child used to look like when we were younger --

Thursday, October 27, 2005

- - - THIS SATURDAY - - -

Don't forget to be there at 9:00 a.m. for the Twenty Fifth Anniversary CD Release announcement and celebration!
Musicopia Sessions are 86'd
Sorry to say, but the folks at Musicopia are changing their approach to live events ... that's a nice way of saying they're givin' 'em up ... so our once-a-month Wed night gig is now cancelled.
Thank you for coming.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Anyone want to buy a Flatiron mandolin?
Lane's got an F model that is his second mando. "I usually play my Gibson at the market and the Buzz - and with a daughter in college I really can't justify two great instruments." This one has a ding in the pickguard area (which wouldn't be there if it had a pickguard but Flatirons don't have pickguards). At any rate, if you're interested email Lane and he'll bring it to you at the market or somehow get it to you. He wants $1900 for it, which is what it cost him. "I'll even throw in a shaped Gibson case. Thanks for listening and keep on picking." -lanek

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Final Berwyn Farmer's Mkt Session >>> This Saturday!
Mike Casey requests musical accompaniment at the final Berwyn FM of 2005 ... this coming Sat, Oct 22nd at 7:30am. The session is held on Grove Street (one block West of Oak Park Ave; behind Macneal Hospital) just a wee bit South of the Metra tracks in downtown Berwyn.
More Upcoming Shows ...
Oct 21 - Martha Wainwright (daughter of Loudon III and Kate McGarrigle; sister of Rufus) at Double Door
Oct 22 - Del McCoury at Old Town School
Oct 22 - Raul Malo (lead singer of The Mavericks) at Schubas
Oct 23 - Jim & Jennie and the Pinetops (bluegrass/old-time from PA) at Old Town School
Oct 26 - Nickel Creek at the Vic Theater
Nov 4 - Bonnie Raitt at Chicago Theater
Nov 5 - Robbie Fulks at Fitzgeralds
Details at Ticketmaster and the respective venues; info culled from Time Out Chicago magazine
Seen the Chicago Tribune article?
[ Get to clickin' right about here ]
The Trib writes about bluegrass old and new with Nickel Creek, Tim O'Brien (ex-Hot Rize) and Jim & Jennie and the Pine Tops.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Ukulele Like You've Never Seen!
Thanks to Jim Polaski for bringing up this unbelievable Hawaiian Uke player Jake Shimabukuro. He's playing at the Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake on Fri, Nov 18th (click here for info + tix). You must, must, must check out this video of Jake playing "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." There are several more videos of Jake at Midnight Ukulele Disco, including this stunning amateur performance video. Clearly, this is progressive/fusion music more in the mode of a Jerry Douglas or Sam Bush. But ... wow ... it's a whole new horizon for the instrument.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Steve Gilette and Cindy Mangsen at Off Square Music
Friends of Jim Polaski's are performing in Woodstock on Nov. 19 . More info on Off Square Music at 815-338-5164. They're also appearing at Acoustic Rennissance in Hinsdale on Nov. 13 (708-802-0236). Jim says, "John Denver recorded some of Steve's songs and Cindy has nothing less than a wonderful voice." You can find their stuff at "The photo of Steve on the left is one of mine from some years ago," says Jim. "Cindy has also sung some of Michael Smith's tunes as many of us have."

Thursday, October 06, 2005

UPCOMING SHOWS ... that will be "mighty fine" (most likely)Listings compiled from The Chicago Reader and other sources

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Just a Cool Photo of a Banjo
What the heck kind of chord is that ?!?!

See more like this at

Monday, October 03, 2005

It's Unkle Parppi Time!
Save the date ... Sat, Oct 8th ... at Molly Malone's .... the FMB's own Jack Swain and his friend/guitarist Jim Kaseiwicz (who teaches at Guitar Fun and regularly plays at Fitzgerald's on Tuesday Nights) perform as Unkle Parppi. Jack says, "It's not exactly bluegrass or folk. It's Jim and myself doing a variety of pop, rock and folk stuff." Expect to hear several of Jack's fantastic original compositions, plus the dynamic interchange of Jim and Jack's complimentary guitar playing and harmony vocals.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Uncle Earl from North Carolina is "Mighty Fine"

This bluegrass/old time combo is made up of four women with primo chops and lots of mountain soul. Check 'em out ... right here.

Musicopia was "Fun" to "Great"
So ... let's do it again. Next session is Wed, Oct 26th. Please save the date. We'll try to design some flyers and post them in advance of the session. Meanwhile, we're in the home stretch at the Market. Only four more Saturdays 'til we're back at the Buzz and Something's Brewing.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Berwyn Jam This Weekend
Early a.m. on Saturday, some of our regular players will be jamming at the Berwyn Farmer's Market in a lot down there by MacNeal Hospital on Oak Park Ave just south of the Metra tracks.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The Next Musicopia Session is Coming Up

It'll be Wed, Sept. 28th at 7:00 p.m.
at 6907 West Roosevelt Road in Berwyn/Oak Park
Free MP3 Sampler from Nettwerk Records
Click here for the download page
It's "Reverend Rico's Travelling Roadshow" and it features
Old Crow Medicine Show, Abigail Washburn, the Hackensaw
Boys, The Be Good Tanyas and more. It's got a downloadable CD cover booklet too. Ya cain't beat free!

Friday, September 16, 2005

Jim Polaski's Picture Gallery from the Columbia College Sessions
Click Here to See the Photos

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Free Yonder Mountain String Band Downloads
Find 'em over at then click the "Music and Video" link on the main menu (or just go directly to the download page by clicking here).

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Monday, September 12, 2005

Free Bluegrass MP3s on the Web
Kennedy Center Archive
There are literally dozens of performances captured in streaming video. I'm listening to King Wilkie in the background as I write this. Many more are available free -- click here.

[Black and white photo of the Kennedy Center.][Kennedy Center Millennium Stage.]
Off Season Alternative to the Buzz?
Wendy Back, from Grounds for Appeal, 3242 S. Oak Park Avenue, a coffee house in Berwyn across from McNeil Hospital, said she would be happy to host the market group. She would open at 7 am and we could stay until around noon. Free coffee, of course.

The plus is that Grounds for Appeal can comfortably hold the group that normally plays at the Buzz. The minuses are that it is a little farther away, it doesn't reunite the entire group and parking might be a little bit harder. Also, Wendy permits smoking, though she has a pretty good ventilation system.

Please post your comments using the "comments" link below.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Jim's Links to Bluegrass On The Web

Friday, September 09, 2005

Go see who's been nominated for the 16th Annual International Bluegrass Music Awards. The Award Show is the centerpiece of IBMA’s week-long Business Conference and Bluegrass Fan Fest, slated for October 24 – 30, in Nashville.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Vicki's Latest CD Update: Hi everybody. Good news. Just spoke with Erik today and we are rolling. I am meeting with him on the 18th and 24th to finish things up - mixing and mastering. After that, we will start the process of duplication and packaging. So - you'll be hearing from me more to verify song credits.
Setting Up the Tent - Tim has suggested that the tent be set up as far from the hedges as possible. This will create an arc of shade given the direction the sun falls in the morning.
Musicopia Session CD Update - Miguel has a single CD from the Wed, Aug 31st session at Musicopia. But due to time commitments he can only duplicate about five before this Saturday. He'll bring them to the market. Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Bayou Benefit Concert at the Old Town School
Old Town School of Folk Music staff, friends of the School, and students will gather for a night of music to benefit their fellow musicians in New Orleans struck by the recent flooding tragedy. All proceeds from this concert will donated to the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic.

Sunday, October 02, 2005 -- 6:00 PM - 11:00 PM
American Airlines Concert Hall :: 4544 N Lincoln Ave. :: $15
Open Mic Nights

Molly Malone's

It's every Sunday at 9 p.m. (sign up at 8 p.m) at 7652 Madison Street in Forest Park, 708-366-8073. Many traditional, folk and bluegrass pickers show up; including some associated with the OPFMB. Here's the link.


Every Tuesday night at 9 p.m. (sign up at 8 p.m.) on Roosevelt Road west of East Ave. Several members of the OPFMB are regulars, including Jack, Miguel, Vicki, Rich, Bob and others. Here's a link.
A Note From Vicki - Apparently there has been some confusion - I tried to make it clear in my last email that we cannot do further edits to the songs. Please DO NOT contact Erik directly with edits. If you have something you want to talk about, please contact me. Erik had asked me to not pass out any rough drafts - I forgot about that when I got preoccupied trying to meet everyone's needs. This was my fault and I will try to make it up to Erik somehow. Please help me by honoring this request. Erik is doing a good thing for us here and his feelings should be respected.
Upcoming Shows Of Note at Fitzgerald's Nightclub
FitzGerald's Niteclub Logo
  • Thu 9/8 - Chris Scruggs: young grandson of that Scruggs, sings 'n' strums rockabilly/honkytonk
  • Thu 9/22 - King Wilkie: the young bluegrass band from Charlottesville, NC
  • Fri 9/23 - Sam Bush: mandolin virtuoso
  • 10/14 - The Green Cards: progressive bluegrass, toured with Bob Dylan/Willie Nelson over the summer
  • 10/20 - The Avett Brothers: band also from the Carolinas
  • 10/27- Susan Cowsill: the girl's all grown up
  • Sat 11/1 - The Commander Cody Band: "Hot Rod Lincoln"
  • 11/16 - Rodney Crowell

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Roger McGuinn's Folk Den
The founder of The Byrds is a well-known "folkie." He also happens to be an audio recording aficionado. And McGuinn's got a home studio like you've never seen! To put all that high-tech hardware to good use, he's been making home recordings of the classic American repertoire and posting them song-by-song on his own Web site, the Folk Den at Many tunes associated with the OPFMB are represented: Haul Away Joe, Banks of the Ohio, Home on the Range, John Henry, I Am a Pilgrim, Salty Dog Blues (a bit different than Flatt & Scruggs' version) and others. More than 150 tunes in all. And they're all available to download for FREE.
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Five Minutes with Wichita
Check out this funny Podcast featuring short interviews with Bluegrass and Country stars. Click this link. It's also available free on the iTunes Music Store in the Podcast section.

The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Jack Swain says, "Check out Folk Alley"
Go visit for lots of good stuff. Thanks, Jack.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The Wed Night Session at Musicopia was Good!
So, we're going to do it again. The next Musicopia Session will be Wed, Sep 28th at 7pm - 9pm. This time we'll add a lead vocal microphone and have an electric bass ready in case we have no bass fiddlers on hand. Plus, Stephan and Wes will try arranging the space differently to accommodate the band's size. We had 11 this time, but we should expect up to 15.