Bluegrass Music Coronavirus

Live Music and the Battle with COVID

Last Saturday night, I went and saw a live show. I mentioned it in my blog last week, but I wanted to talk a bit about it, and live music during this whole COVID garbage in general.

The show was Joe Mullins & The Radio Ramblers, a traditionalist bluegrass band that divides about 70% secular and 30% Gospel bluegrass in their set. Joe is a great leader of the band. A good banjo player and vocalist, he loves to talk to his audience, probably due to his DJ work on Ohio radio stations. His fiddle player, Jason Barie, is not only a great fiddler, but also makes his own violins. I hope to get a story from that for Fiddler in the near future.

The band was great, the audience there was appreciative, and it was an enjoyable evening. The show was held at the Kentuckians of Michigan fraternal hall in Romulus, southwest of Detroit. I have seen a number of bluegrass shows there, with both national and local acts. You step into the hall, and you would think that you were in 1950. The atmosphere is perfect for traditional bluegrass music.

The best part about it is, no one is bugging you about whether or not you were vaccinated, or that you should be wearing a mask. I am used to wearing a mask in most places (work, grocery store, etc.) for rules posted. However, the entertainment industry, especially with music halls and concert venues, has been on the firing line of these restrictions the most due to the close proximity of the audience members. It was great to be able to sit at a table and watch a show without some “Karen” bugging me to keep my mask on. In fact, I was one of the few people having one around my neck.

The Ark in Ann Arbor has re-opened recently, and is back to having quality roots-music acts nearly every evening. However, I doubt that I will be attending any show there in the near future, if ever again. The venue’s policy is that one must show proof of vaccination before entering. I have chosen not to take the vaccine for many reasons, primarily religious and lack of long-term effects studies. The world has come to a point that, unless you get the vaccine, you are considered an enemy of the State. Venues, restaurants, and even places of employment can deny you access unless you have been vaccinated, many without an alternative choice like showing proof of negative infection.

This craziness has extended to the most crucial jobs – first responders. A year ago, doctors, nurses, fire fighters and police officers were considered heroes for having to deal with the COVID pandemic while others hid in their homes. Today, these people are losing their jobs because of their decision to not get vaccinated, despite just cause. I am glad to see that some unions and officials are fighting back, filing lawsuits against companies and municipalities forcing the vaccine mandate.

It is so ironic that the same leftist liberals that were against Donald Trump, who initiated Operation Warp Speed to get a vaccine out to the public as soon as possible, are now the same people who are attacking anyone that has doubts about the vaccine. The powers-that-be have become true hypocrites!

Back to the music. I’m not as young as I used to be, and I don’t get out much any more (sounds like a song there). Pre-pandemic, I maybe went out one Friday or Saturday evening a month, as well as hitting two or three meetings during the weekdays. For the year and a half of lock-down, I never left the house except to shop, go to work (although I was laid off for most of it), or attend church. Now that some venues are opening for shows, I may get back to once-per-month outings. I thoroughly enjoyed hitting the Milan Bluegrass Festival for two days back in August, and the Joe Mullins show last week did wonders for my relaxation. I hope that venues will not be as dystopian-leaning as The Ark. I understand that the non-profit concert hall has bills to pay, but at what price to cut off a large chunk of its donors (including me, as I do not plan on getting a shot just to attend shows, nor will I be making any yearly membership donations).

Winter is nearly here, so there will not be a lot of opportunity to see live music. We will need to wait until late spring for any outdoor shows (a bluegrass staple). I will keep my eye open for shows at places like the Kentuckians of Michigan, where all are welcome.

Chew on it and comment.

Bluegrass Guitar Coronavirus Musical Instruments

Tidbits #3: Shure – Part 2, Mandolin Straps, Bluegrass Rhythm Guitar, etc.

A few more ramblin’ thoughts for this week.

For some reason, maybe due to my ordering of the fake Shure SM58 microphone a few weeks ago from, I received another microphone in the mail that didn’t cost me anything. This one is labeled a Beta 87a, but it definitely is not a Shure Beta 87a! It came in the same packaging as the SM58, with a faux leather zipper carrying bag, mic clip, cable tie and owner’s manual. Just by looking at the body of the mic, with the poor attempt at engraving the Shure label, one could tell that this was a fake. However, the big giveaway that it was not a true Shure Beta 87a was plugging it in. The 87a is supposed to be a condenser mic, which requires a phantom power of at least 24 volts to operate properly. This fake Shure mic had a dynamic element in it, so it worked without power, and sounded like a dynamic mic. Granted, I got this for free somehow, but true Shure Beta 87a mics list for about $250.00. has these advertised for under $30.00. Use common sense when ordering something like this. If you see a Beta 87a under $200.00 new, it is most likely a fake. Unfortunately, some jerks are getting away with selling the fake ones as real. Do yourself a favor if you want a true Shure mic – buy it from a reputable dealer.

Besides doing some lutherie work, I have also been making braided mandolin straps during the pandemic. I learned to braid from a friend a few years ago, and usually while I am resting up in the evening and watching TV, I like to be a bit industrious by making straps. I started making leather guitar straps a few years back when I was gifted a bunch of nice-sized leather hide pieces. Once that ran out, I started using the leftover scraps and some laces to make mandolin straps. I make them for both A and F models, most are black with a different color ends, but I am making a few pink, blue and green ones. If interested, contact me here and I’ll email you some prices.

This past week I started working on my bluegrass rhythm guitar playing. Man, am I out of shape, musically! Seriously, I forgot how much of a job it is to keep good timing, proper strumming, and make a G run that doesn’t sound lousy, all at the same time! Since I haven’t worked with any band for a number of years, I have used the guitar almost exclusively for songwriting and recording with myself playing all instruments. Now that I’m practicing along with some jam tracks, I recognize what I’ve forgotten and let drift away from my rhythm technique. Lester Flatt and Jimmy Martin knew how important a rhythm guitar was to a bluegrass band, and as phenomenal of a lead player that he was, Tony Rice always stressed the importance of rhythm, and his was like a metronome. Speaking of a metronome, that is what I will be working with for a while.

Well, it looks like the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America (SPBGMA) has cancelled this year’s Nashville Convention, which is usually scheduled for the last weekend of January. Yes, it is due to COVID-19, but they are setting the date for 2022 to be January 27-30. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.

One positive note is that the 47th annual Kentucky State Fiddle Championship is scheduled to happen March 20 at the Bluegrass Hall of Fame and Museum in Owensboro. With what little has been available, I am SO tempted to make the trek! Go to for more information.

Chew on it and comment.