The Bluegrass Alliance
Reprinted from Bluegrass Unlimited Magazine
October, 1969 — Volume 4, Number 4
Mr. Webster, in his oft-quoted book, defines alliance as being “a union of interests”, “any union by relationship in qualities” and “a connection for mutual advantage between any groups or bodies”. They named themselves well, this band about which I am writing. The Bluegrass Alliance is certainly a union of members having many interests (ranging from paperhanging to preaching!), and including one of mutual interest in and devotion to performing and promoting bluegrass and old time country music. The related qualities each member possesses which make up the union are talent, personality, dedication and a good knowledge of the music they play—as well as a fine spirit of teamwork. The Alliance and the audience for whom they play are the groups needed to satisfy the third definition—the mutual advantage is immediately apparent to anyone who hears them play: Great pickin’ and great listening!
I have known of The Bluegrass Alliance since December of last year when they first were listed in “Bluegrass In The Clubs”. The Alliance opened up the Red Dog Saloon in Louisville, Kentucky in October of ‘68 and have played there ever since. They also play for parties, country music shows and are available for all types of bookings. At this writing, they are considering offers for a recording contract and hope to have a single released by October and an album recorded in the near future.
I had the pleasure of seeing this great band in person at Reidsville, and they alone were worth the trip down and the price of admission. The Alliance wasn’t formally scheduled to be on the Festival. They played several times at the informal concerts and workshops held Tuesday through Thursday, and received such a warm (and well-deserved) response from the audience that the officials there hastily arranged for them to appear on the Festival program. In my opinion, The Bluegrass Alliance was the most exciting and well-received new bluegrass group at the Festival, and ranked among the top four bands in over-all audience response and appreciation.
During most of their appearances as a band at Reidsville, the Alliance had a guest musician sitting in with them who is certainly deserving of recognition. Though he is only 17 years old, he is already one of the finest mandolin and fiddle players in the country—I’m talking about Sam Bush from Bowling Green, Kentucky. It is Sam and other young musicians like him who will be maintaining the traditions of bluegrass and keeping the music alive for future generations to enjoy. Along with the established artists of today, these budding talents are fully deserving of our support.
For the next year or possibly longer, The Bluegrass Alliance hopes to keep busy playing as much music as they can. They sure all fine singers, musicians and instrumentalists so they are off to a good start there. Their occupations range from skilled craftsmen making $400 per week to graduate students who don’t make quite that much, and full-time music will necessitate a few adjustments in their lives, routines and probably their eating habits as well.
Their material is divided between standards and classics in the field, new and original songs and traditional tunes, some of which are seldom heard numbers very well suited to their style. The arrangements and presentation by the band are both outstanding. They enjoy playing music and the audience is aware of this and enjoys listening to them a little more because of it.
To sum up, the story of The Bluegrass Alliance will be repeated wherever they go from now on as it took place in Reidsville. That story can be told in a short phrase from ancient history, slightly modified (with apologies to Julius, Baby): “They came, they were seen, they conquered”.
Members of The Bluegrass Alliance:
DAN CRARY—Dan is originally from Kansas City, Missouri and is 29 years old. Dan has been a disc jockey on several country music radio stations, and at present he is a divinity student working toward teaching theology later on. “Big Dan” sings baritone and lead, is the emcee for The Alliance, does the arranging for the group and plays lead guitar.
And does he ever play lead guitar! Dan has been playing for about 15 years, and this has included all types of music. With this background, a great sense of timing plus his amazing skill at flat-picking and cross-picking, he is nothing short of phenomenal. Dan is not just another note-for-note carbon copy of Doc Watson, as some lead guitar pickers strive to become. Dan puts his own ideas, interpretations and arrangements into his playing with beautiful and tasteful results. There are few musicians whose name I would mention in the same breath with that of Clarence White, the greatest bluegrass lead guitar player of all time. “Big Dan” is one of those few—he demonstrates the same kind of affinity for the guitar that Clarence has.
At Reidsville there was no guitar workshop scheduled, but because so many people wanted to hear Dan play lead and demonstrate his style, the officials quickly put together a workshop consisting of Don Reno, Clyde Moody and Dan. Very ably assisted and accompanied by Wayne Stewart, guitar player for Poor Richard’s Almanac, “Big Dan” once again testified to his skill and accuracy on the guitar, and blew many minds in the audience!
DANNY JONES—Danny is the newest member of The Bluegrass Alliance and does a good job singing lead, playing the mandolin and also guitar. Grayson County, Kentucky was originally Danny’s home, and he played with a band there for several years. He is also 29 years old, and “Big Dan” introduces him by saying that Danny used to be a linebacker in professional football!
He would make a fine member of any football team or bluegrass band, and the Alliance is happy he has chosen music.
BUDDY SPURIDCK—Buddy is 28 years old and plays banjo. He has been playing about nine years. Before joining the Alliance, he played with several other groups locally. Buddy is originally from Dwarf, Kentucky which is about 10 miles north of Hazard on Highway 80. When he’s not picking the five, Buddy seems to stay as busy as a one-arm paperhanger. That was an awful way to lead into the fact that Buddy is a paperhanger by trade. (Since Buddy has two arms, does this mean he is twice as busy when he hangs paper as the cat with only one?)
LONNIE PEERCE—Lonnie has been playing the fiddle for 20 years, and he must know nearly every fiddle tune ever invented. Lonnie is 42 years old and is originally from Grayson County, Kentucky. He sings tenor and has played mostly old-time style as well as modern and country and swing fiddle before bluegrass.
Lonnie loves to play music, and is indestructible. On several occasions in Reidsville I was staggering around the grounds in the wee hours of the morning, getting ready to turn in for a few hours sleep, and I’d hear one last group picking in the woods somewhere. On investigating, sure enough—there was Lonnie, sawing away on his fiddle and enjoying every minute of it.
EBO WALKER—Ebo is the bass player—he started out playing washtub bass for backyard groups and switched to upright bass in September ‘68. Ebo is originally from Louisville, Kentucky and he sings the bass part on the Alliance’s quartet and sings lead on some novelty numbers. “Big Dan” affectionately refers to Ebo as the “Flower Child” of the group. In addition to being long on hair, Ebo is also long on brains—he is doing graduate study in college and is the business manager for the Alliance.