Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tuesday's Jam

Tuesday's jam brought in some folks that we haven't seen in a while, and also a number of our contest winners. We were joking that "the rest" of us weren't good enough to pick with Saturday's winners! Things went a little later than usual because we were having such a good time. Make sure you take a look at our video by clicking here. You don't want to miss Terry L.'s ending!!!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Cole Plays the Fiddle

Okay folks! This was something I couldn't pass up! Cole is 2 years old and has had his fiddle for 2 weeks. He brought it in today and did Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star for me while sitting in his stroller.

More Pictures

Here are some more pictures from the Fiddle & Banjo Contest!

Contest Pictures & More Thank-Yous

Please send me your contest pictures. I would like to post them here for everyone to see.

I would like to send out a big thanks to our judges -- Bill Barttelbort and Iggie Tiemann. They are great musicians and great judges. Thanks also to Zane for providing guitar backup; Carla for registration and scoring; Marilyn for handling the raffles; Denny for admission; the Halls for help with decorating and "un-decorating"; and all the folks who stayed late to help us put up chairs and throw away trash. If I have forgotten you, please let me know so that I can add you to this list! Also, thanks once again to L&B's for the free hall rental!

Here are a few pictures that I got from Carla.

James is warming up before the contest with Zane.

Ron & Lorraine help John prepare.

Tyler shows his winning form.

Who IS this stranger????

Chris announces five minutes to contest time.

Some pictures of the crowd:

Finally! Something Denny can help with!

Even Dogs Need Treats!

Alexa and her mom, Kay, came into the shop yesterday for Alexa's lesson. They brought along the smallest member of the family -- Pinky. Pinky is a teacup Chihuahua weighing in at only 2-1/2 pounds. As it turns out, Pinky is quite fond of suckers!

Biggest and Best Yet!

Hello Everyone! We had the biggest and best fiddle & banjo contest yet! First off, I want to thank L&B's for giving us the hall rental for FREE! If you have a chance, please send them a quick thank-you note. Their address is: L&B's Eastend, 1215 Spotsylvania, New Athens, IL 62264. They served food until 3:00 p.m. and beverages all day.

We had a total of 44 contestants, and we were able to get through them all in just under 3-1/2 hours. Everyone was very cooperative and ready to go -- thank you for making the contest run smoothly! Here are the results:

Open Fiddle
1st - Brian Smyth (Most Entertaining Award)
2nd - Mickey Soltys
3rd - Chelsea Perkinson
4th - Tim Dever
5th - Dave Hollinshead

Senior Fiddle
1st - Ron Dailey
2nd - John Bell
3rd - Merle Jones (Oldest Fiddler)
4th - John Barnett
5th - Pat Sorrell

Junior I Fiddle (16-18 Years)
1st - Tyler Moore (Most Entertaining Award)
2nd - Jennifer Robbins

Junior II Fiddle (13-15 Years)
1st - Jake Hammel
2nd - Ashley Heyen
3rd - Makayla Smith
4th - Charlie Hall

Junior III Fiddle (12 & Under)
1st - Veronica Steibel
2nd - Paige Johnson (Most Entertaining Award)
3rd - Colton Dever
4th - Nathan Poenitske
5th - Reggan Farney
Lindsay Martin (Youngest Fiddler)

Open Banjo
1st - Justin Robbins
2nd - Carrie Gallagher (Most Entertaining Award)
3rd - Jeff Miller
4th - Brian Smyth
5th - Terry Hill

Senior Banjo
1st - John Bell (Oldest Banjo Player)

Junior Banjo (15 & Under)
1st - Nicole Warnecke (Most Entertaining Award)
2nd - Makayla Smith
3rd - Emily Hall
4th - Benjamin Politte (Youngest Banjo Player)

If I've left something out, please let me know! I'll update this post with more information then.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Contest Preparations

This was a busy week getting students and "stuff" ready for Saturday's fiddle & banjo contest. Come on out to L&B's Eastend in New Athens on Saturday, October 27th. To view the full details of the contest, click here. We will have contestants of all ages and abilities. Feel free to dress up in your best hillbilly, western, or Grand Ol' Opry style costume. This is our annual October contest and we have a great time every year!

Click here for a preview of Saturday. This is Nicole who just turned 10 this month. She has played banjo for one year. The banjo was last year's birthday present. Nicole made up her own arrangement complete with several variations.

Chris Talley Trio at 1st Baptist Church Belleville

If you're looking for some good entertainment Friday night, come on over to the First Baptist Church in Belleville, IL to hear The Chris Talley Trio play! We'll be doing a mostly gospel show and it's open to the public. The church is located at Route 161 and Frank Scott Parkway -- right on the corner at the stoplight, so you can't miss it. We really enjoy playing here every year and look forward to seeing everyone again!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Updates to Website

Just wanted to let everyone know that I spent some time updating the website this past week and weekend. You will find many more gift items, more new and vintage fiddles, and more vintage guitars (now with soundclips)! As I get time (ha!!!!), I'll try to enter even more stuff. Now I can be even more behind than I was before.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Benefit Concert

Last night, we had a group of students from The Bluegrass Shack play at a benefit concert at the New Athens Methodist Church. The band Ol' Hick'ry started things off, then the students played, and then the Brewer's sang. The money raised will benefit "Kids for Christ," which is an after-school Bible study group for local children in Freeburg, Smithton and New Athens. Everyone did a great job, and we had cookies and fellowship afterwards. Here are some pictures:

Friday, October 19, 2007

Great Old Time Fiddler

(UPDATED) I received an e-mail from a former college professor of mine (Dr. Matt McCready) this morning with a very interesting attachment. It seems his father, Ervie Burge, was an old time fiddle player and made an album in the 70's. Ervie is now in his 90's and plays occasionally in the hospital. He remember Amazing Grace & Wabash Cannonball (two really great tunes, huh?). Ervie learned to play in Clark Co., IL (Fiola maybe?) in the 1920's. Anyway, Dr. McCready sent me two mp3 files from his father's album. It's not too often that I get to hear old time fiddling as good as this.

To those of you who don't know, there are actually a number of different styles of fiddling which can be heard in this area. They include traditional (which is what I play), old time, Texas swing, and then mixtures of them all. I suppose there are probably other styles, but this is all I can think of at this time. I am posting the mp3 of "Wild Indian" played by Ervie Burge. Chelsea has been working on this song in a more traditional/Texas swing style, so maybe you'll recognize the melody. We call it "Lost Indian" around here, but it is the same song. Click link to hear: Ervie Burge fiddles Wild Indian

If you want more, take a look at:

This was from a vinyl album they made for the participants in 1973 at the "First Battle Ground Fiddlers' Gathering" in Battle Ground, Indiana. There is a review on the web at

They later did a compilation of 1973 to 1976 that he apparently played on:

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tuesday's Jam

We had another great jam session last night. I thought it was the perfect number of people. Good singing and good playing! I finally was able to get a new video posted on the main page of website. I made a collage of sorts, with each person getting some "air time"! I wish I could have made this a sharper video like it is on my computer, but it is just too large (28 MB). View the video by clicking here.

Can someone tell me a great video editing program that lets me save in .avi format, with small file size and still good looking video???? Something not too expensive???

Friday, October 12, 2007

Stelling Crusader Banjo is Now Here!

Just wanted to let everyone know that our new Stelling Crusader banjo came in yesterday. This is a beautiful mahogany banjo! It has a new peghead shape and logo, and a slightly longer scale. If you're a fan of Stelling banjos, you need to check this out! Go to

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Stacks of Trophies

We've been hard at work on the trophies for the fiddle & banjo contest, and here's the proof! They're not quite done yet, but it won't be long.

Fiddle & Gift Certificate Raffle

To help raise money for our Annual October Fiddle & Banjo Contest, we are having a Winner's Choice Raffle for either a Vintage Fiddle or a $100 Bluegrass Shack Gift Certificate (for merchandise, not lessons). We do not make a profit from any of our contests (in fact, we usually lose money). This helps us pay for prizes ($1000 in cash & trophies this year) and judges. We hope that you'll be interested in our raffles and have fun promoting bluegrass music in the process.

The cost of the tickets are a donation of $1.00 each, or six for $5.00. You do not need to be present to win. Winner will be drawn on October 27, 2007, at L&Bs Eastend during the fiddle & banjo contest. You can get your raffle tickets at The Bluegrass Shack or at L&Bs on the day of the contest. If you are not from around these parts and would like to make a donation, please feel free to contact Chris at The Bluegrass Shack at 618-475-3678 or by e-mail.

Here is a picture of the fiddle (complete with old case) that will be raffled. If you click on the picture, it will enlarge.

This instrument was made in Germany, and has a spruce top with flamed maple back & sides, new bridge, new strings, new metal tailpiece with four built-in fine tuners, and new ebony tuning pegs. It is approximately 100 years old and has been completely restored. It is ready to play!

If you choose The Bluegrass Shack Gift Certificate, you can use this for any merchandise in our shop, excluding lessons and consignment items.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

October 19 Church Concert Fundraiser

Come for a night of bluegrass music! October 19, 2007 at United Methodist Church, at Clinton & St. Clair Streets, in New Athens, IL. The concert will be from 7:00 - 9:00 p.m., and will feature Hick'ry Gospel Bluegrass Band, John & Rosemary Brewer, and Chris Talley Armstrong with Student from The Bluegrass Shack. Funds raised will help support the New Athens Kids Community Bible Student that is held at the grade school. There will be refreshments following the music. Here is the program:

7:00 - 7:40 p.m. - Hick'ry Gospel Bluegrass
7:45 - 8:25 p.m. - Chris Talley Armstrong & Students
Free Will Offering
8:30 - 8:50 p.m. - John & Rosemary Brewer
8:50 - 9:00 p.m. - All Musicians (Amazing Grace)
9:00 - ?? - Refreshments in the Fellowship Hall

Feel free to contact John or Rosemary Brewer for any questions at 618-475-3785.

Here are a few of the students who will be performing. First photo is Paige & Makayla; then Emily & Charlie; and then Chelsea.

Tuesday's Jam Session

Wow! What a great jam session we had last night. We had 24 people in all. I was pleased and surprised to see Nicole, my 9-year old banjo student, show up with her parents. Others in attendance were Terry H., Terry L., Mike, Ron, Lorraine, John Bell & his wife, John Brewer, Dennis & his wife, Denny, Warren, Anna, Verlan, Jim, Sonny, Sara, Dan, Kelsey, Doc, Gary and myself.

I think Nicole played every banjo tune she knew. I am hoping that she will enter our banjo contest in October. Terry H. did a fine job on Salt Creek, and then he played a new tune to the group called Uncle Dell. I learned this tune from another student of mine, Ron. It's a great tune.

Ron played guitar last night, but he also plays fiddle. His wife, Lorraine, plays bass. They brought several other friends along with them last night, including John Bell and Dennis (and their wives). This was the first time John Bell came to our jam session. Although his wife doesn't play or sing, she sat next to him the whole time and was tapping her feet and moving to the music. She really enjoyed it all. John plays a number of different instruments, but he played banjo last night and sang some harmony. Everything John plays sounds good!

Doc played his mandolin and did some fine singing. Doc brought a 1978 Alvarez Yairi 12-string guitar with him to put on consignment. This is a solid spruce top instrument, complete with hardshell case. It's a good looking and sounding instrument. Know anyone looking for one?

Gary did the Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road song. I still think that's a funny song! Sara sang three or four songs as well. Nice job everyone! I didn't get out of the Shack until 11:00 p.m.!