Bluegrass Jams (You Don’t Need a “Ball” Jar)

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Where does one go to listen to some good bluegrass music? The Del McCoury band isn’t in town. Neither are Dailey and Vincent, Pine Mountain Railroad, Ricky Scaggs, the Grascals, or Rhonda Vincent and the Rage.


Find your local bluegrass jam, pull up a chair, and enjoy. You don’t even need a “Ball” jar. (In this case by “jam” I mean a loose association of musicians who get together to play and enjoy music and camaraderie.)  Now, I’m not saying that all jams are equal. Some are definitely more accomplished than others, but they are all fun.

Check the Handsome Man in the Middle

We started going to jams when Jim re-found his interest in guitar. Bluegrass is his music of choice. We found that our Tennessee neighbors (we hope to build and retire there someday) get together on the Fourth of July and play lots of different kinds of music – some of which is bluegrass.


There are all manner of  jams in east Tennessee. Some are regularly scheduled, but many others are spur-of-the-moment gatherings of friends. It’s easy to find a place to play when there; check out local firehouses, ask at music stores, or follow your ears to the garage of a local home.


Where would we find like-minded folks in Michigan? Seems all we had to do was check local town newspapers and the Internet. We’ve been lucky enough to find several “jams” in our local area. Two are in church buildings, one is at a government building, and one is at a township park. There are also several regular jams within driving distance.

No matter where you are, you should be able to enjoy a bluegrass jam. They’re fun for kids of all ages. From the tiniest of tykes to oldsters who are young at heart (and in their feet). Check it out! You may just find that you’ll be a fan, too.

(By the way, if you like to pick, you’ll be most welcome.)

Up Next: Sugar Beets vs. Cane (It’s All Sweet!)

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Our Fantastic Journey – Day 3

Day 3 (Memorial Day): Nashville, TN

 Our last day in Nashville. It was rather surprising to find out that Nashville traditionally doesn’t have any large Memorial Day functions. All the little suburban areas are left to do their own things. This year, I’m sure due to the floods, we didn’t find anything of note going on.

 Our sightseeing target for the morning was Belle Meade Plantation. This was especially interesting to me as it was one of the earliest – and best – thoroughbred nurseries in the U.S. The entry foyer was jam packed with portraits of the stallions who stood at Belle Meade. Our guide told us how the master of the house would invite guests in and spend 4 hours extolling the virtues of each of the stallions. I imagine I would have been enthralled by the whole thing, but understood that the majority of those there that they would have run screaming. This was the home of Bonnie Scotland who is one of the most important American foundation sires. His blood runs (what little there is from all those generations back) in every Derby ENTRANT for the past 10+ years. The house was really very nice, but the BARN… Those horses had lights (gas) and running water even when the house barely had them. The stalls were absolutely enormous and so plush – even by today’s standards. We could surely see that the real focus of the whole endeavor here was on the horses.

From there, we went to lunch at a restaurant we’d read about in “Urbanspoon” (an on-line website that has reviews of restaurants in cities all over the place). Havana Grill is a Cuban restaurant that had received excellent reviews in Nashville. We both love Cuban food, so we were anxious to try it out. The restaurant is in a decidedly Hispanic part of town, so we expected we were in for a treat. The building was pretty non-descript, but the food… DEVINE! We had Cuban sandwiches (which we should have split because they are HUGE) and split some black beans and rice. Everything was so good! Going to pay attention to Urbanspoon suggestions from here on out.

On to the Ryman Auditorium! The Ryman Auditorium is the former home of the Grand Ole Opry. Growing up, I’d never had any exposure to country music. The closest thing would be hearing the barn dance caller when we would visit Aunt Jean and Uncle Frank in North Carolina. In the evenings on weekends, we could hear the music and the calls from down the road. I always remembered that as part of the most idyllic times in my life, but had never cultivated an affection or real knowledge of early American music or country music. Of course, later on I’d heard of the “Opry” and many of the performers (such as Patsy Cline, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Loretta Lynn, Minnie Pearl, Johnny Cash, and others), but was still not really a fan. I guess I still am not a huge fan of “Country,” but I do love Bluegrass. The Ryman is the “home” of bluegrass music.

We took the full tour, and it was completely enjoyable. However, the highlight of the whole Nashville experience might just have been when Jim got up on the stage of the Ryman Auditorium. The look on his face was one of pure joy! He tried to get me to go up on stage with him (God bless his heart), but this was HIS moment. He really does play guitar pretty darned well, and this is his favorite music to play.

I think he looks right at home on that stage!

After our exhausting day, we went back to the hotel to pack and get ready for the continuation of our trip south. There was only one more dinner target we had to hit. Martin’s Barbecue! We had heard about this place on “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives,” and it sounded like just the kind of barbecue we love. We were both anxious to try the “red-neck tacos” that they had featured on the television show. Their “taco” is a large, cornbread, fry-cake filled with massive quantities of pulled, smoked pork and topped with really excellent coleslaw! Again, I think there was easily enough food in one “taco” to split, but we didn’t and were completely stuffed. They also advertised that they had Cheerwine! Cheerwine is a memory from North Carolina. It’s still made in the small town in western NC.