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Nobody Special

Nobody Special

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Price: €21.56

Product Notes

In February of 2012, Harry Bickel, Harry Sparks, Doc Hamilton, and Vince Gill gathered in Nashville to record these seventeen songs. Even though they had all lived in the same house in the 1970s and had remained in close contact with one another, it was the first time in over thirty years that the four of them had gotten together to play music. Here is how it all happened: In 1975, I was a dentist teaching at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry, playing banjo in a local Bluegrass band and doing a small amount of instrument repair. I had learned to play banjo from J.D. Crowe in the 1960's and instrument repair from a local repairman named Tom Haile. In May of that year, I purchased a twelve-room Victorian house in an historic Louisville neighborhood called the Cherokee Triangle. The house had lots of big rooms and was the perfect place to play music. It wasn't too long before the house became a gathering place for local musicians. It also became a haven for out-of-town musicians who needed a place to stay. My best friend at the time was Harry Sparks (know hereafter as Sparky.) Sparky was an architect who lived about a mile from the house and also worked for the University of Louisville. He was a good musician and singer who played both Bluegrass and old-time music. Sparky had cofounded the Famous Old Time Music Store in Cincinnati when he was in college and had already established himself as one of the finest instrument repairmen in the country. Doc Hamilton had recently moved to Louisville from Austin, Texas. He was well-known out West as a multi-instrumental Bluegrass musician. He was also a great tech guy. He knew everything there was to know about cameras, amplifiers and other such things. His philosophy was "I will not be bested by a machine." Doc needed a place to stay, so he became one of the first residents of "the house," as it was then called. Since Sparky and I both had a background in instrument repair, it wasn't too long before we established a repair shop in the limestone-walled basement of the house. We were able to keep everybody's instruments up and running and build a few banjo necks on the side. Sparky and I also had a love for vintage instruments which were quite plentiful in the 1970s. We bought, sold and traded instruments all over the country and were able to put some of them in the hands of the younger musicians who lived at the house. One room on the second floor of the house was reserved for practicing, playing, and listening to music. It was, and still is, called simply "the music room." One of our favorite things to do was sit around the music room and compare a half a dozen or so Loar mandolins or Gibson flathead banjos, all of which were fairly common back then. In the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s, Louisville was arguably the best place in the country for Bluegrass music. It had become a haven for young musicians, most of whom were in their late teens or early twenties. Since we were all in our 30s, Sparky, Doc, and I were the "old men" of the group. We were also the only ones who had steady jobs. Two things that young musicians trying to make a name for themselves should not have to worry about are a roof over their head and something to eat. Fortunately, we were able to provide both. One of those young musicians was an 18-year-old named Vince Gill who had just moved from his parent's home in Oklahoma City to Louisville to play in a band called the Bluegrass Alliance. The Alliance was a progressive Bluegrass band that had once contained the likes of Sam Bush, Tony Rice, and a host of others. Having no place else to live, he moved into the band's motor home, which was not the most desirable place in the city to live. Some of the Alliance members who lived at the house told me about him, and they introduced us one night at the Great Midwestern Music Hall. There he was, a tall, lanky unassuming kid with a great smile. I said to him, "I understand you need a place to live," to which he replied "Yea, I kinda' do." I told him to get his stuff and come on over. It was one of the best decisions I ever made. He was the final player in a circle of friendships that have endured for over 37 years. At some point, Sparky, Doc, and I decided to form a band. After trying out several names we finally settled on The Buzzard Rock String Band, which was named after a place in Western Kentucky, near where Sparky had grown up. At the beginning, it was both a Bluegrass band and an old-time band. Sparky played guitar and some old-time banjo and sang most of the vocals. Doc played fiddle and sang a little when we let him. I played Bluegrass banjo, old-time banjo and occasionally guitar and sang a few vocals. When he wasn't working with his own band, Vince would join us on our jobs, thus becoming the unofficial fourth member of the band. Our repertoire came from a variety of sources. All of us were well versed in classic Bluegrass music. We had travelled to festivals and concerts for many years and seen all of the early Bluegrass bands. Doc had lived out west and had learned from some of the great Western fiddlers like Benny Thomasson. We were also fortunate to have seen the last wave of old-time music greats like Clarence Ashley and Tommy Jarrell. Sparky and I went to the Galax Old-Time Fiddler's Contest in Virginia every year and brought back lots of fiddle tunes. There is one real unique song that we played back then called "Nobody Special." It was written by Sparky's brother, Phillip in the early 1970s when he was living in Nashville and going to graduate school at Vanderbilt. Phillip said he was walking home one night from Bishop's Pub, feeling somewhat down, when the song suddenly came to him. He went back to his apartment and wrote it down. We're glad he did. It was one of the numbers we played in the original band and, until now, it has never been recorded. Over the next few years, the three of us played together in the band while hanging on to our day jobs. After about a year, however, Vince moved to California to play with Berline, Crary and Hickman. I can remember the exact spot in the front hall where Vince, Sparky and I were standing when Vince told us he was leaving. Of course we were excited to see him get this opportunity to move forward with his career. What we didn't let on, however, was how sad we were to see him go. He was a wonderful teenager and a rare talent, and we hated to lose him. Fortunately, it wasn't the last time we would all see one another. Doc hung around Louisville until the Fall of 1978, when he moved back out West. Sparky moved away in 1980. As people left, new members joined, many of whom had taken up residence at the house, which by then had acquired the name "the Bluegrass Hotel." Over the years, people came and went from the band until the early 90s, when it finally dissolved. In 1988, the "Buzzards" recorded an album for June Appal Records called I've Got the Blues for My Kentucky Home. Now, fast forward some 37 years to 2012. Sparky is retired and living with his wife Carol in Ryland Heights, Kentucky. Doc is retired, living with his wife Virginia in Austin, Texas. I am retired, living with my wife Ann in the same old house in Louisville, Kentucky. As most people know, Vince has done quite well for himself since he left Louisville and is living with his wife Amy Grant in Nashville, Tennessee. What is amazing is that the four of us have kept in touch and have remained close friends all these years. In the Fall of 2010, I called Sparky and suggested that the two of us record some of the songs we had done together back in the 70s. Sparky loved the idea and we decided we would start working on it. Shortly thereafter I was talking to Vince and mentioned that Sparky and I had decided to do an album. Vince said, "That's great, I've got the perfect place for you to record it." I said, "Where's that?" and Vince replied, "My house. I've got a brand new studio. You guys can come down here and hang out, and we'll lay down some tracks." Obviously, I said, "Yes!" I called Sparky later that day, and we decided that we would call Doc and have him come up from Texas to play fiddle. During that conversation, Vince said something else that was pretty amazing. He asked me if we could record Phillip's song, "Nobody Special." He had remembered that song for over 30 years and wanted to record it with us. It's not surprising that "Nobody Special" became the title song of the album. After several delays, we finally gathered in Nashville the third week in February, 2012. Sparky, Ann, and I arrived on Monday in time to see Vince play with the Time Jumpers at the Station Inn. The next day, all of us gathered on the second floor of George Gruhn's shop to practice. Doc had just driven up from Texas, so he and his wife Virginia were there. Vince was there, as was Michael Cleveland who just happened to be in town at the same time. The five of us just sat around all day, picking and telling lies. The following two days were spent in Vince's studio. Vince had arranged for Charlie Cushman to come and play bass with us. Charlie is a great musician and was a perfect fit for the band. The engineer was Matt Rausch. Matt is a wonderful young engineer who was able to capture exactly the sound we wanted. Matt was also pleasantly surprised to find out that actor, writer and comedian Hal Sparks was Sparky's son. Over the course of the two days, we sat around the studio and recorded our songs, in no special order. We used various instruments, and combinations of people as the needs for each song dictated. Sometimes two or three of us would sit down and start playing something and Matt would set up microphones and record it. It was such a great atmosphere that we were all as relaxed as Vince's dog Chester, who was usually lying at our feet. Basically, it was a live recording, done in a studio. Vince played guitar or mandolin on most of the songs. He overdubbed his vocal harmonies later. Charlie played bass on most of them, banjo on one, and guitar on another. Whatever struck us, we did. We ate pizza one day and Amy brought us barbecue the next. My wife Ann was there for the entire session and was helpful in telling us what did and didn't sound good. Virginia was there for part of the session and Jim McGuire came on the second day to photograph us. In all, we came up with seventeen songs. It is really good that the four of us did this now. Sparky and Doc are both in their seventies. Of the original band, I'm the youngster at sixty-six. Vince of course is still just a kid to us. One day, one of us will be gone and the four of us will never have this opportunity again. We're just glad that we had the opportunity at all. We would like to dedicate this album to Vince. Vince was a wonderful teenager and he has grown into a wonderful adult. His talents and successes are unrivaled in Nashville, but more importantly, he has been unchanged by it all. The three of us couldn't be prouder of him. It was a pleasure playing with him then and an even greater joy now. We love you buddy! Harry Bickel 2014.


Artist: Buzzard Rock String Band
Title: Nobody Special
Genre: Folk
Release Date: 01/02/2014
Label: CD Baby
Media Format: CD
UPC: 700261395791


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