Thursday, November 11, 2010
Singin' without our supper
We knew when the first few bars of rollicking bluegrass sounded, there would be no dinner tonight.
After a confusing day of following the GPS directions to campgrounds that seemed not to exist, we rolled, travel-weary and in increasing darkness, into Rainbow Plantation in the wilds of rural Alabama — perhaps not where you want to hear banjos playing.
But at the campground desk, the hostess mentioned there was an ice cream social at the clubhouse, starting in about a half hour, with bluegrass and gospel to follow. After a quick set-up, we had to decide whether to check out the music or fry up the fresh jumbo Gulf shrimp we had picked up earlier to go with red rice and black beans for a southern feast.
Never having been to an ice-cream social, we let our curiosity get the better of us and set off for a bowl of ice cream and a brief listen before dinner.
But once the music started, we knew there would be no leaving early — and no dinner.
The musicians, collectively known as the Wayfarers, played a delightful selection of bluegrass, country and gospel tunes — without a banjo, in fact — that drew large applause from the collection of 70 or so RVers gathered on a Sunday evening.
Rainbow Plantation is one of eight or so Escapee RV parks, located mostly in the south, where travelling members get breaks on the cost of campsites, gain an instant social network, and catch up with old friends from previous visits here or at other Escapee parks.
The Wayfarers, a group of part-time musicians from nearby Daphne, are monthly regulars here during the high season, and are very well received by the crowd.
Steve Bauer, a body-shop estimator by day and a mandolin-guitar fiend by night, said the nucleus of the group has been together since about 2000 after they connected at the Eastern Shore Baptist Church.
“We all go to the same church and all played guitar and there was a woman at the church who wanted to sing, so we kind of got together and played for her and it worked out pretty well,” Bauer said.
“One of the fellows also played a banjo that we didn’t know about, and he brought a mandolin and taught me three chords — enough to play I Saw the Light — and we decided we liked it. Nobody listened to bluegrass then so we had to learn a lot about it and went to a few concerts and festivals and one or two guys taught me a few things and that’s how I learned the mandolin.”
Bauer said that at one festival there was a two-hour open mic session before the headliners performed, and the Wayfarers strutted their stuff for the crowd. The promoter liked them well enough to invite them back the next year as one of the featured groups.
“It just kind of grew from there,” Bauer said, with a shrug.
The group offers Bauer on mandolin and guitar; Kevin O’Hara, an insurance broker in real life, on guitar; and dentist Richie Parsons on dobro. All three share vocals, with Bauer featured most often. Larry Harmse, a cabinet maker and bassist, plays the strong but silent role.
“We had a banjo player too, until a couple of years ago, but without a banjo now we don’t do the true bluegrass stuff,” Bauer said. “But we do what we can do and a lot of people seem to like it.”
They must like it. In season — the winter months — the Wayfarers play two or three times a week. In the summer it slows down to a couple of times a month. The Wayfarers are also putting together a CD, which will be available soon — Bauer said hopefully — at www.wayfarersmusic.net
The group passes the hat through the RV crowd for a token payment — a $3 donation is suggested.
“We get about enough to pay for gas and strings, we don’t make any real money at it,” Bauer said. “But we really enjoy it. If I wasn’t getting paid I wouldn’t play as much, but I’d still be playing.”
And we’d never get our dinner.