“How do you get to the Grand Ol’ Opry?”

with Crystal Gayle after our show with her in Lancaster, PA at the American Music Theatre (Sep. 18, 2008)
Me with Crystal Gayle after our show with her in Lancaster, PA at the American Music Theatre (September 18, 2008)

Practice, practice, practice?

That’s one way.

Two years today it was just part of my regular gig.  I mentioned the other day that one of the search phrases that brought someone to this blog was “don helms” who was the steel guitarist of the Drifting Cowboys, who were the back-up band for Hank Williams Sr.  I mentioned that I played a tribute show in Nashville after his passing–the tribute show happened two years ago tomorrow (March 8, 2009).

So what’s a classically-trained/world/experimental cellist doing at the what is otherwise known as the “Carnegie Hall of Country Music” (hence the joke in the blog post title)?

Well, a little over a year before the weekend referred to above I started playing in the back-up band of another Country Music legend, Ray Price.  He’s a multi-Grammy award winner with a group called the Cherokee Cowboys named in honer of the Drifting Cowboys and Hank Williams Sr. since the Chief (That’s what we called Mr. Price) was with Williams in the last year or so of his life.  After Hank Williams Sr.’s death, he took over the band and called them the Cherokee Cowboys.

Some former members of this band were Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, Darrell McCall, Johnny Paycheck, Bobby Flores and Johnny Bush (amongst many others).  This was the band I was a member of (so yeah, it’s kinda cool to say I played in the same band that Willie Nelson played in!).

How did I get there?  That was due to my brother, Joe.

Continue reading ““How do you get to the Grand Ol’ Opry?””

Experimental Cellos and Cellists

Charlotte Moorman playing Nam June Paik's TV Cello
Charlotte Moorman playing Nam June Paik's TV Cello

Some time ago I had started a community on livejournal (back in January of 2003) called “Avantcello.”  It was a space for folks interested in non-standard cello practice to post their interest or work.  I had given a number talks on Experimental cellos and cellists over the years up till that point and wanted to have some place to connect with folks who were interested since I wasn’t really finding any sort of community at the Internet Cello Society forums interested in this kind of thing.

Back in the mid to late 90s I was really experimenting a lot with cello.  I was heavily into improvisation and started performing my own house concert series doing works by some of the “Academic Avant-Garde” composers and Fluxus artists as well as getting into electronics and amplification.  I pretty much quit playing [the cello] by 1997 and got involved with the non-academic Experimental and Noise Music scene.

I toured around a bit and did a number of Performance Art shows (another interest I had at the time) as well as multi-media performances involving Experimental video that I was starting to do. In the end, some of that was becoming unsatisfying as well though I enjoyed the journey.  The cello was starting to call me back. Continue reading “Experimental Cellos and Cellists”