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Music

Where Bluegrass Comes From

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Where Bluegrass Comes From

While all modern forms of music have roots somewhere, it’s always fascinating to trace them back and try and discover where they came from and how they evolved. The blues will take you back to Dockery Farms in Mississippi and jazz to Congo Square in New Orleans, although the influences of those music forms go back much further. Hip-hop got its start in New York City. Many would say Sun Studios in Memphis was where rock and roll was born, although I tend to think otherwise. Each genre tends to have its early influences and groundbreaking shifts which led to how we define them today. Bluegrass music really gained that definition in the mid 1940’s when Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt joined the already extant band The Bluegrass Boys. There is no doubt though that the man who brought them together and nurtured the evolution of the sound was the founder of that group and the undisputed Father of Bluegrass: Kentucky native Bill Monroe.

Bill Monroe was born in a small house on Pigeon Ridge in central Kentucky. That house was torn down and a new one built in its place when Bill was a kid…

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This Week on the Road - September 14th-20th

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This Week on the Road - September 14th-20th

It’s been a great week out here in North Central Ohio. Even though I haven’t gone very far, I’ve been seeing a lot of cool things and spent the entire weekend at the Little C Music Festival in Canton. The weather has warmed up again, but the days are starting to get noticeably shorter. The first hints of fall are starting to show up in the natural world, with more obvious ones like pumpkins at the stores and Halloween shops opening in the man-made one. I love the fall and am very happy to welcome the cooler weather and beautiful changing colors. It means warm apple cider and campfires and that all of my favorite holidays are right around the corner. I’ve had a great summer, but I am definitely ready for the change of season.

My week started with a second great day in Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I enjoyed a few walks in the park including out to Blue Hen Falls, one in The Ledges area and another through the Beaver Marsh. The weather was a bit overcast that day…

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The Big Three of Northern Ohio

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The Big Three of Northern Ohio

From the wonderful lakefront communities of the northeast like Geneva-on-the-Lake to the tiny Lake Erie islands like Put-In Bay, and from the bright lights of Cleveland to the natural wonders of Cuyahoga Valley National Park, there is a lot to do in Northern Ohio. The three big mega-attractions, though, are definitely the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, and Canton’s Pro Football Hall of Fame. I visited all three during my time in the area and thought I would jot down some thoughts on them for anyone who might come for a visit to one or more of these attractions in the future.

First and foremost, there are a lot of different ways to get tickets to these attractions, and the worst possible way seemed to be buying them at the ticket-window. Navigating the ticket buying process is a bit of a nightmare, but you definitely need to figure out how to buy your tickets in advance which will save you a considerable amount of money..

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Little C Music Festival - Local Roots Run Deep

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Little C Music Festival - Local Roots Run Deep

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Little C Music Festival in Canton, Ohio. While I have been to quite a few music festivals this year, this one was different because I got a peak behind the curtain. My old college friend Jason, who runs JLS Artist Management, was running the festival along with one of the bands he represents Hey Monea who are from Canton. It was really cool to see this festival from the inside and get to meet everyone involved, and I had a great time at the festival and hanging around in Canton.

The name “Little C” comes from the idea that Canton is often overlooked among the “Big Cs” of Ohio: Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus. In recent years Canton has tried to reinvigorate itself from the inside and create more of a tourist draw with events like Little C Music Festival. While the Pro Football Hall of Fame is excellent and will always be a big draw, it’s great to see a town moving away from being a one trick pony…

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These Weeks on the Road - August 16th-September 6th

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These Weeks on the Road - August 16th-September 6th

Whew, I'm taking a deep breath. Sorry for the lack of content over the last few weeks. I've been out guiding a quick tour from New York to Miami for my old tour company. I had planned on getting a bunch of work done as I went, but running a tour is just always so all-consuming. Even with 12 years experience and being in a region I'm really comfortable and familiar with, there's just so much to do behind the scenes to keep a tour running smoothly and keep up with all the paperwork etc. And that's not even mentioning the 5,000+ miles I've driven in the last few weeks. It was awesome to be back in the driver's seat though, and it was a really good tour all around. But it's also good to be back on my own and back with my Shadow Catcher. 

I met my group in Newark on a rainy Sunday morning and we set off to historic Philadelphia. Despite the rain, they kept their spirits up as I gave them a quick tour through Independence National Historical Park, pointing out some of the more important buildings and recounting stories of our Founding Fathers and their lives. We stopped into Carpenter's Hall, site of the First Continental Congress and also in to see the Liberty Bell. From there we headed out for cheesesteaks at Reading Terminal Market and a quick run up the "Rocky Steps" at the Philadelphis Museum of Art before departing the City of Brotherly Love…

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This Week Off The Road - June 22nd-28th

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This Week Off The Road - June 22nd-28th

Hello everyone! It's been another quiet week at home here in Washington D.C., trying to get caught up on my work and spending time with my friends and family. The cicadas are out here and the lightning bugs are in full force giving our backyard its own summer sound and light show. Despite being in the city, we have a wonderful array of birds, rabbits, squirrels and other wonderful critters running around the backyard. The weather has been significantly cooler than it was down south, and overall it has been very good to be home. 

Last Thursday I got together with a lot of my old friends from around town and around the country over at my friend James' house. It was wonderful to catch up with so many good people in one place at one time, but was a little overwhelming after being basically by myself for much of the last 6 months. It was definitely a good evening though…

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Tennessee Music

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Tennessee Music

Tennessee is one of the country's most visited states for music lovers, and for good reason. From the Birthplace of Country Music in Bristol to the one-time home of W.C. Handy in Memphis, Tennessee's musical tradition dates back to the very beginnings of recorded music and beyond. Cities like Memphis and Nashville have multiple options for great live music seven nights a week, and incredible museums like the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Memphis Rock and Soul Museum provide plenty of information when you finally wake up. Tennessee is a great destination for any fan of American roots music, and will no doubt leave you tapping your feet and humming along. I'm going to break this post into East, Central and West Tennessee for easy reference. Also, be sure you check out my Spotify playlists for Tennessee…

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This Week on the Road - June 6th-15th

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This Week on the Road - June 6th-15th

It was certainly an interesting week out at Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tennessee. Since I was there all week, I don't have much else to write about today. It was both wonderful and strange to park my van for a week and just leave it there, but it didn't move an inch from when I arrived last Tuesday until I left "The Farm" the following Monday. When I did leave, it was hot and I was pretty tired and had already seen what I had come to see in Tennessee, so I pretty much made a beeline towards home. And that is where I am writing this from today - home sweet home, Washington D.C. Two things happened out in the world while I was tucked away in Manchester though, both of which brought out some pretty strong emotions. First, my Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup for the first time, which was long overdue and very well deserved, so congratulations to them. Sadly that same night we lost one of our own as Anthony Bourdain took his own life in France. I had met Tony once, and he seemed to be the same in person as he was on TV. His books and his shows had a deep impact, not just on me but on many. He changed the whole travel show genre by focusing on real people and real places - places I've been and places I'd like to go. Before Tony travel shows all seemed to be about 5 star resorts and palm trees and umbrella drinks - places I couldn't afford and didn't really want to go anyway. His shows were raw and gritty and real and game changing. They showed the world as it really is: challenging, sometimes ugly but full of good people, delicious and always beautiful. Thank you Tony for all your inspiration through the years, and I hope you're resting easy somewhere tonight. Those being said, this is how I spent this week on (or more accurately off) the road…

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The Road From Memphis To Nashville

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The Road From Memphis To Nashville

I have driven Highway 40 from Memphis to Nashville many times. In fact, when discussing the trip I'm currently on, I often reference this drive. I tell people that when I was working as a tour guide I always rushed between the two cities because there is SO much to do in each, but I always wondered what was happening in between. Now I have an answer to that question, and the answer is A LOT. If you have the time to spare, making a day of this journey is well worth it. Here are just some of the things you should definitely check out on the way, with stops in Jackson and Brownsville… 

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This Week on the Road - May 24th-30th

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This Week on the Road - May 24th-30th

It's been another great week on the road, this one spent in wonderful West Tennessee. It's been a hot week, as summer is moving in fast here in the south, but with it come the festivals and fun of the season. My week has been full of barbecue and music and really good people. West Tennessee is very distinct from the eastern part of the state, more resembling the Mississippi Delta which it is intimately connected to, than the rest of Tennessee. This region is flatter and poorer than the east of the state, but it is still full of wonderful stops and cool things to see. 

When I finally left Nashville, I headed down the Natchez Trace Parkway. The parkway roughly follows the old Natchez Trace, an ancient trail which leads from Natchez, Mississippi to Nashville. In the days before the great paddle wheelers plied the Mississippi River, boats carrying cotton, hides and other goods made a one-way trip down to the major port of Natchez. The boatmen would then sell their boats, whole or for scrap and walk back up the Natchez Trace 400 miles or so back to Nashville and start all over again. It was interesting to duck off the Parkway and walk some of the historic trail and imagine myself back in those days doing the same.

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This Week on the Road - May 17th-23rd

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This Week on the Road - May 17th-23rd

I haven't gotten very far this week! When I wrote last week, I was in Nashville, and this week I am still in Nashville. I did spend three days in nearby Franklin, which was really great, but otherwise I've been in Music City. It's been a good week though, full of great music, good food and good times, so I guess I can't complain. Plus I finished a podcast and got some other work done as well. I have signed up to work at the Bonnaroo Music Festival the second weekend in June, so I won't be l leaving Tennessee until after that. That has left me with a little extra time in Tennessee, so I've been getting to know one of my favorite cities a little better. I've been able to explore some areas of the city I have been wanting to check out but haven't had the time, and been catching up with some friends too. In all, it's been a fun and productive week, even if I have been in one place.   

After I finished writing last week, I headed back to Bobby's Idle Hour to check out Sam's Jams, a local singer/songwriter show which is held every Wednesday from noon until 8 p.m. It really is a great thing to see, and very Nashville. The musicians were great, and I got to hang out for a little while with Sam Cooper, the host…

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A Perfect Saturday in Franklin

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A Perfect Saturday in Franklin

I've had a lot of good days since this trip began back in November. I've had a good number of so-so days and a few bad ones as well. This last Saturday though, was a pretty awesome day out here on the road and darned close to perfect in my opinion. The stars aligned over Franklin, Tennessee to create a day which left me tired but feeling really good about life and this journey. If only we could all have a day like this last Saturday was for me now and again, the world would be a better, happier place. 

The day started off cool, allowing me to sleep in a little bit in my van. As spring has started to give way to summer here in the South, and as I have moved into Central Time, it starts to get warm in my van pretty early. Saturday I had myself parked in the shade of a nice tree, though, allowing me a little extra sleep and waking up well rested for my big day. Once I was up and caffeinated, I headed off to the gym for a good morning workout..

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