Signal Mountain Opry
In my travels, I always try to find a good jam session. When I stopped at the Mountain Music Folk School they said to go back towards Chattanooga and turn right on Signal Mountain Road. Then go past the Fire station and hang on right in Fairmont; you can’t miss it.
About the time I thought we were lost we came up on a parking lot jammed with cars and a building that looked like an old church that had been converted to a music barn.
We walked in. I asked the man at the soundboard if it was a stage show only or if it was O.K. to jam.
“See that American flag hanging there?” he asked.
“The first door past that is the bathroom. Go to the next room on the left; they’ll be jamming in there.”
“O.K. for strangers to join in?”
I walked past the stage. The fiddler nodded to acknowledge me as a newcomer and motioned towards the jam room. No one had the mandolin covered so I got mine out. A teen-aged girl with a powerful voice sang some old time country. A fellow wailed out ‘Sweetheart of Mine Can’t You Hear Me Calling.’ A lady guitar player covered the tenor, so I took the baritone; it made for a tight trio. Some young man named Chris Rutherford played an excellent Scruggs style banjo.
Most of the group went out to play and the teenagers (and me) were left behind, and I played on with them. The girl singer had a fine voice. When she did Ron Block’s ‘Living Prayer,’ I stood up, walked over her way and did some mandolin back up. An older gentleman in the corner came over to listen. “She’s on next. Will you help her out?”
We went through a couple of numbers and with no more rehearsal than that we were on the stage. She did ‘Wayfaring Stanger’ and “Delta Dawn.” She turned and asked if she should do ‘Hotel California.’
“It’s not exactly bluegrass,” she said.
“Sure kid. Play whatever you want. I’ll follow you.”
We did the Eagles tune then closed with ‘Living Prayer’ we had worked up backstage. I liked this young lady’s voice; strong, good emotion, right on pitch; easy to follow with a harmony line. For fifteen minutes of rehearsal I thought we did pretty good.
“What’s your name, kid?”
“Hm. Seems like everyone I know named Megan can sing. Do you know Megan Peeler in Nashville?”
“She’s about ten years older than you. She’s setting it on fire. I’d keep a lookout for her work.”
We exchanged cards and e-mail. She’s a myspace young’un and I am on FaceBook (I called it MyFace) I had to admit I had no idea how to text anyone on the planet, but I promised to get back up with her for a book store gig if I ever got my book placed in Chattanooga.
I’ve got a notion I haven’t played my last gig at the Mountain Opry. They all asked me to come back, and directed me to a table with all sorts of fliers for regional events. Like N.C., Tennessee is strong bluegrass country, and these were fine bluegrass folks; friendly and hospitable. I was glad I found the Mountain Opry. It is a must for a mandolin guy wandering through Chattanooga area.
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