Thursday, June 09, 2005

Bicentennial

The Fourth of July will be here soon, and it always makes me think of Independence Day in Jackson Hole in 1976. For two weeks, three of the finest, most outstanding country rock bands ever – anywhere – played within one minute’s walk from each other around the town square in Jackson. Cow Jazz was at the Rancher Bar, Tarwater was at the Cowboy Bar, and Sawmill Creek was rocking the Wort Hotel. It was country rock bliss. After the show at Dirty Jack's Theater each night we orchestra guys would all crawl from one packed pub to the next, soaking up the amazing music.

As far as I know, all three bands have become defunct, but Sawmill Creek still has a web presence and still sells CDs. The first two albums are still some of the finest country music ever recorded. My old friend Jimmy Christensen was a member of the band then, playing pedal steel guitar. Highly recommended.

When I came back to Dirty Jack’s in 1979 I saw a band in Jackson that was absolutely amazing… A bluegrass/Celtic band called Succotash was rocking the World Famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar to its rafters. The smoky, rough, tough Cowboy Bar liked its country music on the hard side, yet this bluegrass band had ‘em hootin’ and frothy. They were that good. And I was secretly in love with the girl who played fiddle and sang lead.

In 1980 I became the manager of the Pink Garter nightclub in Jackson Hole, and I made it a point to hire Succotash (who had changed names to Swallowtail) to play at my club. The bandleader was a guy named Steve Kritzer, who is still making terrific music around Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. Catch his act if you can.

The most important stuff I ever learned about playing music I learned nearly 30 years ago prowling the bars of Jackson Hole, listening to and playing with bands like Sawmill Creek, Cow Jazz, Tarwater, and Swallowtail. It would be cool if I could inspire some young musician the way those guys inspired me, lo, these many years ago.

Were you in Jackson back then? I was the tall guy playing harp. Please post a comment.