Bluegrass music crossed state lines

By Don McAlavy: Local columnist

“Bluegrass Music is coming back!” said bearded Jack Jackson in 1983 and more musicians with fiddles, mandolins, banjos, guitars are playing songs like “Arkansas Traveler,” “Boil the Cabbage Down,” and stompin’ music made by the great Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Mac Wiseman and other old timers that took up the fiddle. ‘Course country music was more popular in Clovis.

I was out at Jack Jackson’s house on the south side of Clovis back then where a few pickers were sitting around in the kitchen with their fiddles, mandolins, etc., and pickin’ and singin’ some of the old time songs.

They met there about once a week, or at another home, to keep the Bluegrass sound.

“It’s good,” says Jack, “’cause some of the younger generation is gettin’ into it.” Coleman Jackson (no kin to Jack) also played his Gibson guitar or his fiddle at different homes. Another Bluegrass player was Doyle Green from Texico.

About 23 years ago some folks started a Bluegrass association over in a big empty auditorium in Farwell just across the state line.

About 12 to16 musicians brought their instruments every Thursday night, and played for couple hours or more. Many came to sit and listen, and at a break, the ladies such as Betty Henson and Frances Burnett, took to the kitchen and had great food they cooked up and served all that were hungry.

Then more music for an hour or so. Some musicians drove from Amarillo or from Hereford and some from Portales, but most came from Clovis.

The musicians I got to know when I rode over to Farwell on a Thursday night with fiddle player, Harold Kilmer, were Dale and Betty Henson (Dale was running it), Fred Chandler, Stella and Hershel Parker, Joe Hughes, Jim Elliott (until he moved to Ft. Sumner), Ron (or Rod) Carpenter, and a half dozen others.

Most of the musicians were flat-straight-out Country-Music musicians, but some of the country musicians would fall in with the total Bluegrass sound. A few of the group of musicians were women, and could they play!

(Toby and Louise Phillps were there to listen to the foot-stompin’ music as was some 12 to 15 others and me too, Don McAlavy who liked to be with gals too.)

Bluegrass differs from country and western music in a normal absence of electronically amplified instruments and in the very prominent place given to the banjo, always playing in the three-finger Earl Scruggs style, which is unique to Bluegrass. Mandolin and fiddle are generally featured considerably more in Bluegrass than in country and western music.

The Bluegrass style was originated by Bill Monroe in 1938, who, by the mid-1940s, had experimented considerably with new methods of presenting string-band music.

Jack Jackson was born in Arkansas before coming to Clovis in 1954. He grew up learning to play mountain music. He retired in November of 1980 and devoted his time to promotion of the local group and the Bluegrass type of music here.

Jackson died on April 2, 1988. Coleman Jackson died on Oct. 6.

1994. Doyle Green died Nov. 11, 2008.

All good musicians!

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: dmcalavy@telescopelab.com