Tuesday, October 30, 2012

In Munich... as "alert as an Indian...."

An ad from the Munich public transport system... The caption reads, "Be alert like an American Indian and simply act .... Helping in an emergency case? Yes you can!"

Thanks to Renate Barti for passing this on!


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Bluegrassing in Germany and Czech Republic

Banjo Camp Merch. Photo © RuthEllen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

The remarkable attraction of bluegrass music in parts of Europe/segments of Europeans was brought home to me this month when I attended -- albeit briefly -- two bluegrass workshops, one in Germany, near Munich, and the other in the Czech Republic.

The two events, which were held on successive weekends, had similarities and differences.

The annual Banjo Camp Munich, a workshop founded in 2007,  took place Oct. 5-7 at Aschau, near Chiemsee in Bavaria, in a sprawling country hotel complex. Dozens of people attended -- I don't know the full number, but there were a lot! Far from just being banjo, there were classes and workshops on mandolin, guitar, dobro, fiddle, singing and harmony, and more. Teachers came from Germany and other countries and included American banjo player Bill Evans, British banjo player John Dowling, American dobro player Jimmy Heffernan and a list of others.

Information for next year's Banjo Camp -- Oct. 4-6, 2013 -- is already online.

I got in too late (on a rainy afternoon) to observe any of the classes, but you can see photos from this year and from previous editions by clicking HERE.

I did get to see the concert Saturday night. The various workshop teachers performed the first half and then the second half was given over to a German "nouveau bluegrass" group called 54 Idaho -- one of whose leaders is one of the organizers of the Banjo Camp. I thought they gave a great show -- very iconoclastic, giving a slightly ironic bluegrass take on pop/rock tunes, with a charismatic singer fronting the band.

54 Idaho. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

My friend Willie Jones, an American based in Germany who is one of the first people I met in the country music/western scene in Europe, taught singing and harmony. Willie now plays with groups in Germany (the Huckleberry Five) and Slovakia (Neznami).

He got me jamming, of sorts -- for the first time ever -- on my uke....

The very next weekend found in me the village of Male Svatonovice, in the north of the Czech Republic near the Polish border, for the 17th annual autumn Bluegrass Dilna (workshop). There were a lot of top Czech bluegrass musicians taking part as teachers -- from banjoist Petr Brandejs and members of the band Bluegrass CWRKOT, to fiddler Jiri Kralik, to my friend the banjoist Lubos Malina, of Druha Trava and other groups, who got me to go there.

Petr told me that there were about 120 students and 11 instructors, at classes featuring banjo, bass, guitar, mandolin.....It all took place in a big school building (we all had to take off shoes and put on sandals to enter). I sat in on Lubos's banjo class, which had 10 students and ran simultaneously with about three other banjo classes.

Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

You can see a lot of pictures of the workshop by clicking HERE

I also got there in time Saturday night to attend the big concert given by Bluegrass CWRKOT and all the instructors -- all men, BTW.

Petr Bandejs on Banjo. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

The concert was streamed live on internet and now can be seen in its entirety on YouTube.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Great Resource for the Imaginary Wild West in the UK

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

Just want to call attention to this web site -- http://www.americanwestgroup.org/. I haven't explored it fully yet, but it seems to be a pretty cool and comprehensive resource for the Imaginary Wild West and all its varied manifestations in the UK.

And it's not just for "fans." From the Home Page:

We can be of use to you if any of the five categories outlined below spark an interest:
  • BUSINESS: If you manage an American West oriented business such as Artistry; Dance Tutoring;      Horse Riding; Insurance; Promotions Management; Radio presentation; Retailing or Writing, we can help you promote your business on our  site links page.
  • ​MUSICIAN: are you a solo artist or duo, maybe a trio or band? Do you play Blues, Country, Jazz, Popular, Rock, and/or Soul?  We can help you. You can publish your events (even charge for them), create a Group for your fans, link to your website from ours, tell our members what you do on your very own customizable profile!
  • PASSION: ​perhaps you are someone with an interest in the subjects we cover, maybe a re-enactor or researcher, looking for information or wanting to start an interest group, or just have an interest in a particular time in American history, we can help you find people in your area, make new friends, perhaps establish contact with old friends and provide a base for that passion.
  • RE-ENACTMENT: what era interests you; Independence, Civil war, Old west, Prohibition, World war II, Vietnam? you can tell others about your interest on your profile, promote your club on our Site links page, or even host you group through our site.
  • VENUE: Do you run your own music venue, period setting? You can promote your venue with us. Charge entrance fees online, announce dates, link to your own website. You could create a member group and promote your interests.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Recalling Lucius Reichling, of Germany's historic country band Truck Stop

Lucius Reichling & Truck Stop at Geiselwind Trucker and Country Festival, 2007 Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

I've just learned of the death six weeks ago of Lucius Reichling, one of the founding members of Germany's oldest and most enduring country music band, Truck Stop. Lucius, who was 65, passed away August 15, from complications of pneumonia and cancer.

I met Lucius, who sang and played fiddle and guitar, in 2007, when I attended Truck Stop concerts at the Geiselwind Trucker and Country  Festival and at Pullman City Harz, the wild west theme park in central Germany.

Lucius Reichling (c) and Truck Stop at Pullman City Harz, 2007. Photo © Ruth Ellen Gruber

Truck Stop is Germany's most durable country western band and set the tone for a lot of the home-grown, German-langauge country scene that developed in Germany from the 1970s.

It was was formed in Hamburg in 1972, and though its musicians came from rock and jazz backgrounds, Truck Stop adopted a cowboy image from the start. Band members, then in their 20s, wore long hair, beards and moustaches like any rock musicians of the era, but they dressed in cowboy boots and hats and over the years have adopted ever more elaborate cowboy costumes. 

The Truck Stop logo includes a pair of western pistols forming one of the "T"'s. At first, the group sang American country western standards in English. Hoping for a bigger market, however, they switched radically in 1977, and began to sing in German.

They have recorded numerous of CDs, LPs, DVDs and tapes, more than two dozen of which are available on their online store.

Their 1977 LP "Zu Hause" (At Home) included a song that became a hit, defined their style and helped them achieve cult status. It also opened the door to a broader genre of German-language country. "Ich Moechte so Gern Dave Dudley Hoer'n" (I'd Love to Hear Dave Dudley) tells of the frustration felt by a German truck driver, on the road late at night, unable to pick up the American Armed Forces Radio (AFN) signal and hear his favorite American country singers: Dave Dudley, Charley Pride and Hank Snow.

Here's a clip of it from a few years back -- with Lucius Reichling on fiddle.

For more information, clips, photos, etc, see this NDR.de report