55 Years of Vermont Music
Thanks for your entertaining and informative “Bridge” of Oct. 14, 2020. Like Will Lindner, I have many memories of the decades-ago Vermont music scenes. In fact, it was partly music that brought me to Vermont fresh out of college in 1963 to work as a reporter for the Rutland Herald. My friends, Tom and Mary Azarian, had just bought an abandoned Cabot hill farm, and one of my first Herald bylines was on a story about the first Craftsbury old-time fiddle contest, held in the mostly empty Craftsbury Academy auditorium and featuring Tom and other musicians I had played with in the vibrant Massachusetts “folk music” scene, as well as some old-time Vermont fiddling farmers. Many fine music parties took place at the Azarians’ Cabot house.
I was never a commanding stage presence or instrumental virtuoso like some of the subsequently famous people I knew, but I was competent enough for the roles I played in several lesser Vermont bands. One such band was “Old MacDonald and The Fallen Arches” consisting of myself, Fred Carlson, and his partner, Suze Norris. Fred, now a renowned maker of exquisite, idiosyncratic stringed instruments, writes witty, sometimes deeply moving songs. We had a regular lunchtime gig at the hippie-inflected Horn of The Moon restaurant on Langdon Street, and a few other venues. I also played in a band with Fiddlin’ Slim Baker, an over-the-top young character from Morrisville who followed the Grateful Dead around the country, sleeping in his pickup truck with his dog, Chase, named for Crazy Chase, a 1950s-era cross-dressing Middlesex fiddler whom Slim sometimes channeled. A few years after my return from a stint in graduate school in music-rich and welcoming Dublin, Ireland, I sang with a mostly British Isles-oriented band that variously included Charles Woodard, Steve Hinds, John Drury, and my wife, Janet. We played some First Nights and smaller events. My first Montpelier residence after returning from Ireland was a studio apartment next to the State House sublet from Carla Occaso’s dad, Dan Neary, also a young newspaper reporter. I remember singing all the verses of Dylan’s “Tambourine Man” there to the bemusement or consternation of the newshounds and legislators who had gathered there for a party.
In the late 60s, early 70s I was the Burlington Free Press reporter in St Albans, where I got to know the great singer/songwriter Michael Hurley, who lived in Fairfield and played regularly in a local bar. In St. Albans I also got to know Banjo Dan Lindner, who was working as a social studies teacher at Bellows Free Academy. In fact, I was fortunate to know or sit in with several of Vermont’s outstanding musicians in their early days. I went to performances by Pine Island, the Throbulators, Arm and Hammer, which included Pete Sutherland and others, and I danced the night away at the Zodiac Lounge up on Route 302 in East Barre.
I attended concerts by Bill Monroe in the Barre auditorium, the Osborn Brothers at Thunder Road, and memorably, Doctor John the Night Tripper who, in full New Orleans voodoo regalia, scattered glitter at the Gathering of The Tribes, a crowded hippie commune event at Goddard College. Also memorable was a Plainfield concert by my college roommate, Rick Lee and his wife Lorraine, accompanied on pedal steel by New York musical wizard Winnie Winston, Rick Winston’s older brother.
In the mid-60s I was evicted from my apartment on Loomis Street following a very loud music party with friends including Danny Coane, Doug Peck, who is a fine country gospel singer from Marshfield, and Richard and Dinah Bryan from Montpelier, who did full justice to Ian and Sylvia duets, among others. There were also brilliant, raucous music parties with Tony Washburn and the WDEV Radio Rangers in Hardwick and other cherished times in auld lang syne.
Thankfully, the music continues, in many forms ranging from the superb to the wannabe.
Andy Leader, North Middlesex
Enjoyed Lindner’s Article on Local Music Scene
It was a treat to read Will Lindner’s article reflecting on the dynamic music scene in this area. I first heard Danny Coane in the 1960s, when he and Kathi were performing blues music in the Burlington area with Betty Smith and Tony Mastaler. A decade later, I was active in the Barre Alliance, which held fundraisers at the Country Cuzzin’ in Barre. Coco & the Lonesome Road Band always kept the dance floor hopping. The night we featured Fiddlin’ Slim and the Woodbury Woodchucks, it cracked me up when a customer remarked as I stamped her hand to let her inside: “I’m not interested in this political stuff you guys are involved with, but I sure am glad someone is bringing culture to Barre!”
Mary Carlson, Montpelier
People Living Houseless Deserve Much Better
During the last two meetings of the Montpelier City Council, there have been concerns raised by some about the Guertin parklet structure, situated along the pedestrian and bike path (just behind the state heating plant), which is regularly utilized by people living houseless in the area.
This is by no means a new or recent matter that has been raised. It actually predates COVID-19 and the era of social distancing, etc. I had finally managed to find the structure in question while out running errands early Thursday morning (Oct. 29). The structure and area was in fairly good shape. Apparently it had been cleaned up recently. Based upon my personal observations, the so-called concerns over COVID-19 and social distancing being employed don’t really wash, at least in my opinion. If it were either tourists or more socially acceptable locals mostly using it, I don’t think there would be the same concerns being raised. Just saying. In addition, the two picnic tables near the train bridge over the North Branch river have been removed, so if the Guertin parklet structure was removed and not immediately relocated elsewhere, most of those who have been relying on it would have nowhere else to go. In my opinion, the current location is as good a place as any and is somewhat centrally located as well (i.e., still relatively close enough to downtown). I came across someone hanging out there and we had a lengthy conversation. They were very welcoming, friendly, and knowledgeable. They have been working on getting housed, have managed to get governmental benefits, and just cannot find housing, or, as they put it, a landlord in the area who is willing to rent to them. We spoke for nearly an hour or so.
By the way, additionally, it comes to mind about how, although to my knowledge most if not all of the other parklet structures in downtown Montpelier either have been or will be removed for the winter, most if not all of the business-related outdoor seating or parklet structures situated along the streets or on sidewalks during spring, summer and early autumn months create the exact same bottleneck issues and potential concerns about COVID-19 and social distancing issues being raised by some over the Guertin parklet structure; however, one never hears concerns being raised over those particular outdoor seating areas or parklets by those raising concerns over the Guertin parklet structure. This is rather telling. Go figure!
People living houseless in the area deserve much better.
Morgan W. Brown, Montpelier