Exploring the South – Travelogue USA #1

by | 17 Jun, 2010 | 2 comments

Submitted by John Werner – Victoria.

Two of Victoria’s Strzelecki Stringbusters have set off on a trip to discover the origins of their favourite music. Garry Roberts and John Werner, at our insistence, agreed to send us a regular update of their activities, experiences and picture from their various destinations. Given that John Werner has a penchant for words both in conversation and script, we bring these travel notes to you in several installments:

Well, with 2½ weeks down, and 2 to go, here’s the first trip-log installment:

Although this piece is primarily about our jamming experiences, it’s appropriate to a paint a brief picture of our trip so far, as it’s not all about Bluegrass and Old Time music.

We have just spent 2 weeks traveling through Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana & central Tennessee in a brand new Ford Mustang. There’s been Festivals, numerous live shows, the awe-inspiring Mississippi river, many personal interactions across a wide variety of socio-economic groups and over 2,500 miles on the road. We have taken in the music from Blues, Zydeco, Cajun, Jazz and Fyfe & Drum. All in all, very exhausting, but hugely interesting and worth the effort.

The only picking session for this section of the trip was in Jackson, Tennessee. It was held at the Casey Jones Museum (including restaurant and gift shop), right next door to the motel. It was hosted by The Jackson Area Plectral  Society, an association of around 150 members from Madison, and neighboring, counties. Deciding to grab a meal there as the jam was kicking off, we lined up for seat and got talking to a local couple, and ended up sitting near each other, continuing the conversation. After they had left, we called for our check and were surprised to find they’d already paid for us. Welcome to the South.

There were several areas of the complex where the music was happening, with one room dedicated to harmony Gospel singing, another to old-time country and a third to Gospel bluegrass, complimented by several outside sessions held under the verandah due to rain. We settled on the bluegrass, and were delighted to meet Andy Pollack and his Uncle Denis, who were heading up this session with their fine duet singing and Denis’s high-standard playing on his pristine 1947 Gibson A-style mandolin.

With my loan bass still several states away, Thomas, the session’s bassist, graciously offered his instrument, allowing me to join in. Nearly all tunes were regional gospel favorites and completely new to me, and were played and sung with obvious great love of the messages contained. Those not playing, joined in the singing, and solos were handed around in the traditional manner. We were told that the weekly session is keenly anticipated, with folks driving up to 2 hours to be present for the fellowship of jamming.

After the 9pm closing time, the crew kicked on at the local IHOP store, filling up on pancakes and soft drink, and were still calling out tunes when we left at 11pm to catch some sleep. They are wonderful, inclusive people, who were very appreciative of us dropping by, and fascinated that Aussie’s would be into this stuff. I highly recommend a visit to this jam, and a hit on their thorough websiteJohn Werner.


  1. Mike

    John & Garry,

    I don’t know if your plans will allow it, but I’d love to see you show up at our “little” festival in Morganton, NC. It’s Called The Red White and Bluegrass Festival, in it’s 7th year and you can see tons of musicians/bands and participate in lots of jamming. The dates are June 30th (that day is free) thru July 4th.

    We’ve got folks coming from all over the US and even have some folks arriving from Germany. We’d love to see you!


    Mike Ramsey

  2. Gary White

    Hey Rainbow and Johnny,
    Sounds like the Stringbusters will have a whole new set list by the time you boys get home.

    Thanks for the update Greg, we were starting to worry they wern’t coming home. lol