Dobro Nights

Texans do love their dance halls. The ties remain strong even among those forced to leave the state, so strong that families often will hold annual picnics or reunions at their favorite pavilion or hall.

When the big oak at Crider’s burned, rumors began circulating that the dance floor had been lost, and people grieved. When the re-opening of Gilley’s in Pasadena was announced, urban cowboys everywhere rejoiced.

From Austin’s Broken Spoke to Gruene Hall to the old pavilions in Palacios and Garner State Park, Texans continue to waltz with Ernest Tubb, two-step with Willie and hoot-n-holler their assent when Asleep at the Wheel declares Bob Wills still is the King of Western swing.

But here and there, away from the halls and saloons, far from the honkey-tonks, pavilions and bars, music flows on, fresh and sweet like an underground spring, bubbling up through unexpected cracks in the routines of everyday life to provide beauty, solace and cheer. The harmonica tucked into a saddle-bag, the fiddle easily plucked from the wall, the well-worn guitar or mandolin carried onto the porch of an evening – these not only entertain, they help to give voice to the mysterious bond between a people and their land.

In prickly-pear country, in the land beyond the gaps where even fences disappear, the best instrument of all may be the dobro. “A house without a dobro is a house without a heart” – or so the saying goes.  While necessities of the day may require the head to rule, it’s no less true that, as the sun eases down the mountain and the breeze begins to rise, the dobro has its say.

I wish you could have been there to hear it.

Dobro Nights

Cracked
cedars
bend and bow
beneath driftings
of sweet-tendriled smoke.
Arpeggioed ridges
rise and fall to the river
unfenced, still unridden, alive
with the descanting coyotes’ cry
  swirling up toward the muffle-voiced moon.

(Click to hear one of the best – Tut Taylor – playing “Lonesome Dobro”.  It’s a favorite on my “Traveling Texas” playlist and a fine accompaniment to the poem.)
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96 thoughts on “Dobro Nights

  1. Oh yes, that tune represents the feeling I derive from your poem. Old TX roads and dance halls — reminds me of the 40s … They do love those dance halls! Inspiration from this past weekend? Great one!!

    1. becca,

      Yes, ma’am, it was indeed a result of this weekend. I’ve been carrying the phrase “Dobro Nights” around with me for at least four years. I had no idea what it was supposed to be, but when I walked into a friend’s kitchen on Friday, there was a dobro on the table. One thing led to another, and… well… Here we are.

      There’s nothing like the open road and a wade in a low water crossing to get the juices flowing. I’m glad you liked it!

      Linda

      1. I am in great need for one of those type of weekends … but alas, will have to put it off until after my mom’s journey is complete! Thank you for sharing!! Have a blessed remainder of the week!!

  2. “the well-worn guitar or mandolin carried onto the porch of an evening…”
    What an incredible line and vision. I can see it before we heard it. Beautiful sound, your Texas dobro sound.
    So sweet,
    CheyAnne
    ps and I can’t believe I’m your first commentor tonight

      1. CheyAnne, I wouldn’t care if you were my tenth or my twentieth commentor. It’s just a delight to see you – always!

        I was sure this would strike a chord with you. After all, by the time I get past San Antonio, Ozona and Ft. Stockton, I’m nearly in your backyard. A lot of good things are shared between West Texas and New Mexico – including geography that just suits a dobro. It is a beautiful sound, and I’m glad you enjoyed it.

        Linda

  3. I have heard the dobro and heard it often at the folk concerts I often attend. I think it’s a wonderful instrument — and the fact that they are in so many homes must attest to its versatility and ease as an instrument. I’ve always been fond of the strings like dulcimer and of course guitar, banjo and uke. But this is great — and the song you included is indeed perfect to hear as we read!

    1. jeanie,

      I gave it a try this weekend, and discovered pretty quickly that my guitar skills weren’t up to it. I wasn’t used to the neck, the finger picks or the tuning. But I’m a good listener, so I listened!

      I have a feeling you’ve witnessed some memorable performances, and suspect your work may have made some unique opportunities available for you. I think I remember either you or Rick – or both of you – being involved with the ukelele somehow. Maybe you just were messing with it for fun. But you’re right – all of this “homemade” music is a delight.

      Linda

  4. I see you managed to get out of your etheree quagmire! I could smell the smoke.

    I’m hoping to hear that dobro soon.

    1. Gué,

      Oh, I do hope so! I thought about you when I was adding the song. It’s a nice one – you’ll like it.

      And you were exactly right. Letting things “rest” a little works with bread and poetry. Of course the solution depended on a little “down home language”, but what’s not to like about that? After all, we’re talking West Texas here, not the West side of Manhattan!

      Linda

  5. Good Evening Linda:

    Never heard the word “dobro” before. Had to look it up in the dictionary. This is not to say I have not listened to a dobro before, without knowing the brand name of the resonating guitar..

    I’ve been listening to Country music since the dawn of time. I grew up with it way back as a kid in the lush vegetation of Bocas del Toro. Most of the Americans working for the United Fruit Company were from the South and played Country music in their homes. Barbeques and Country music blended very well while I was growing up.

    Names like Loretta Lynn, Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Dolly Parton comes to my mind. Many, many more are buried in the corners of my brain. Your poem and the music link, woke up those precious moments.

    Thank you,

    Omar.-

    1. Omar,

      Isn’t it amazing how music stays with us, and how firmly attached memories can become to certain songs? It’s really quite delightful to think of your exposure to country music coming not from a radio but from a community. The fact that you got barbeque to go along with it is even better!

      Not only that, you were listening to some of my favorites, too. Patsy Cline and Willie are treasures, and even though I’m not a Dolly Parton fan generally, I’ll confess that her “Hard Candy Christmas” always brings at least one little tear to my eye. It reminds me of the stories my mother used to tell about their own hard times.

      There’s another song you might not have heard but would enjoy. There’s a strong vaquero tradition in south Texas, and Ian Tyson captures it beautifully in “Jaquima to Freno”. Tyson’s Canadian, but also a cowboy, and the rhythms in the song are recognizable to anyone who gets at all close to the cowboy/ranch hand life.

      Enjoy those memories!

      Linda

      1. Morning Linda:

        “Vaquero”, “Jáquima”, and “Freno” are Spanish words that I’m very well familiar with. We don’t have cowboys in Panama, but they’re well known through the silver screen.

        Ask any kid about Roy Roger, Gene Autry, the Lone Ranger, and Hopalong Cassidy and they would surely know who they are.

        “Hi-yo, Silver! Away!”

        Omar.-

    1. Roberta,

      I’ll confess – I wasn’t too sure about the first minute, as I’m not a fan of ethereal piano. But! By about 1;40, when the other instruments were added, I began to really enjoy it. Thanks for sharing it, and making me aware of someone I’d never come across. I see from the comments on the song that he’s beginning to gain a bit more exposure, too. It can happen!

      Linda

      1. Hi Linda, Doug Smith had an accident in 2008. It was a spinal injury. I have not stayed up to date on his recovering but do know that he is back to playing the piano. I enjoy bluegrass and am partial to mandolin and fiddle and if the beat is right I will do some clogging at home that is..

        1. My gosh – I’m glad he’s recovering so well. That explains a few things I saw on various youtube posts.

          I have a cousin who fell in love with clogging – she and her husband joined groups, entered contests, traveled. I’ll say this – after the first couple of years, she was in terrific shape!

    1. Lisa,

      It does have that combination of laziness and longing, doesn’t it? All we’d need to add is the sound of cicadas (they just began here a few days ago) and perhaps an occasional car crossing over the metal bridge down at the creek, and it would be perfect…

      Linda

        1. I haven’t read it, but I just scanned the wiki. Interesting that you should mention it. There was a Supreme Court decision this week (Fisher vs. University of Texas, Austin) that’s related. I haven’t read it yet and can’t comment except to say “separate but equal”, affirmative action and all of the related issues in the novel still are with us. No surprise, I suppose. But as for other aspects of the story – the tight-knit community, for example – it surely does reflect a time we once knew, no matter our color.

  6. Linda; How wonderful to spend some of my evening in Texas…. even as I sit here New England. You’ve whetted my travel-appetite once again with your winsome stories and simple, yet profound prose. Some day I’ll make my way to Texas, for real! Thanks for tonight’s journey! ~ Beth

    1. Beth,

      Oh, it’s been too long since I’ve checked in on you – I hope the weather’s dried out so you can get started again on your project – getting Parnassus “up to speed”. When that happens, Texas is possible – I’ll make an extra pan of cornbread and be waiting!

      “Winsome” is one of the nicest words in the world, and it’s quite a compliment to have it applied to my words. Thanks so much!

      Linda

      1. We’re overdue for a good gab-fest.
        Parnassus is coming along; she’ll be a work-in-progress for some time to come, but I still smile every time I see her. :-) And yes, Texas, is definitely on my list of places to venture!
        I like “winsome” too, and it most certainly applies to your work!

  7. “alive
    with the descanting coyotes’ cry”

    Yowsa! What a great image.

    Guess I’m not as trad as you are, and I have to confess I lean more toward bluegrass than western swing (must be my Scots blood), but I like Jerry Douglas (Alison Krauss & Union Station)

    1. WOL,

      Actually, one of my must-do’s around here is the monthly Bay Area Bluegrass jam and concert. I’m pretty eclectic in my musical tastes, and would be just as happy with Tony Rice, Alison Krause and David Grisman as any of the older dobro greats.

      Time and place is everything, I suppose. Out in the country, I like to turn it down a notch. When I’m making tracks across I-10, Asleep at the Wheel makes pretty good traveling music.

      I’m glad you liked the coyote line. That was one of “those” words. I had to look up “descanting” to be sure it was real and usable. Truth to tell, I probably would have used it even if it weren’t, but at least now I know it is.

      Linda

    1. Rosie,

      Once you know what it is, it’s easy to pick out of a group. One of the most interesting tidbits I learned is that the instrument was developed to help the guitar stand out in a group by amplifying its sound. (That’s what the resonator is for.) Once electric guitars came along, that wasn’t necessary, but a lot of people still liked the dobro sound.

      Linda

  8. The Wikipedia article at

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dobro

    says this:

    The name originated in 1928 when the Dopyera brothers formed the Dobro Manufacturing Company. “Dobro” is both a contraction of “Dopyera brothers” and a word meaning “goodness” in their native Slovak (and also in most Slavic languages). An early company motto was “Dobro means good in any language.”

    So let me say доброе утро (Dobroye ootra), i.e. good morning, which it likely will be when you read this.

    1. Steve,

      Slavic word play! What a treat. I’m not sure how you’d say, “He’s a good dobro player” in Slovak, but it has to involve multiple “dobros”.

      Despite Gibson Guitar having the rights to the Dobro name (obtained in 1993), I’m assuming “Dobroye ootra” still is in the public domain and available for use. It would be a shame for Slovakian “good mornings” to be added to the list of perfectly good words “lost” to misunderstanding or corporate claims – but that’s another topic for another day.

      Linda

  9. Linda, this post is marvelous. I especially liked the dobro music. Well really all of the post. You really leave no stone unturned when you write a post. Who’d ever believe that you are not a native Texan?

    It was interesting to read about all of the dance halls. Some are popular still that is for sure.

    1. Yvonne,

      I think that old saying was meant for me – “I wasn’t born in Texas, but I got here as fast as I could”.

      The dance halls are wonderful, but many of them, like Gruene Hall, are so popular they’re a bit overcrowded for my taste. The best dances often are the ones with local musicians, held in places like the Sons of Hermann Lodge. You can get gossip and good pimento cheese with your music – what’s not to like about that?

      I thought there would be some people who’d enjoy the music – I’m glad you did.

      Linda

      1. Sons of Hermann Lodge. Never heard of that place. We have the Elks Lodge here where I live.I think they call it Geneva Hall.Now that I write this I’m not even sure if dances and music is still played on those places. But they were quite popular quite a few years back.

        That CD is one that I want to get. I really liked it and I have to say that your taste is always excellent.

        ~yvonne~

        1. Here’s a link to the Sons of Hermann. The social events really are a sidelight, but they’re still around. My dad belonged to the Elks, but I never knew what they did, apart from the fact that my folks and their friends always went to the New Year’s Eve party there and I got the left-over noisemakers and confetti rolls.

  10. What a picture you paint. We’re at Dad’s and H is sleeping just over there. I will have to wait to click to hear the song. Will do in a few hours.
    Thanks.

    1. Bella Rum,

      I thought about you on my way home Sunday. Halfway between San Antonio and Houston, I couldn’t take the bumper-to-bumper 75 mph business any more, particularly when combined with traffic clumps caused by the occasion RV or hay-hauler. So, I headed south, added two hours to my trip and enjoyed every minute of it. Wish there were some back roads for you to take.

      I think the hill country’s for me what the beaches are for you. I still remember “that photo” you posted of the fence along the dunes. I hope your visit’s exactly that placid.

      I suspect H might enjoy the song, once he wakes up. ;)

      Linda

  11. Ahhhh. The perfect summer post. You are right some memories settle back and are waiting in perfect form to be revived.

    Great sadness everyone doesn’t have that dance hall experience – just like stepping back a bit to a more relaxed – friendlier- time. (noisy AC often optional) Gilley’s old spot is owned by the Pasadena ISD. The sign was rescued. Not sure it can really be recreated – if they try, they better take it seriously and not just a tourist spot (cringe)

    Great great title! Some things just have to simmer until it’s time.
    Well done here.

    1. phil,

      I read a recent interview with Mickey Gilley. He seems to have the blessing of the city now, and mentioned that Sherwood Cryer might be brought back in – that they’d be doing it as a joint venture, or at least with Cryer’s involvement. If so, I have high hopes for the project.

      The venue was different, but some of my best early memories are of the dances up at the Masonic Lodge on Friday nights in my hometown in Iowa. The similarities with the Texas dance hall culture are obvious: whole families could come, everyone had a chance to dance, there was good food and live music.

      There’s one musical treat I’ve not witnessed yet – the polka Mass. Many communities will have weekend festivals that include one, but one of the “painted churches” around Schulenburg has a polka Mass monthly. The very thought gets my travel juices flowing again.

      Glad you like the title. Somehow over those four years I lost the first photo I wanted to use with it – a prickly pear cactus embedded in limestone with nothing but sky behind it. I took it up on the Sabinal river, and the next time I get out that way, I’m going to look for it. Prickly pear and limestone don’t move around much.

      Linda

      1. No doubt the mayor and city are pleased – just think of the tourist draw(Super Bowl was mentioned)…and money. Fingers crossed.
        Prickly pear shot sounds worth the trip…hope the goats, cattle and fires skipped over it – those are pretty hardy plants – due some recognition!

  12. Ah, it’s all about slow and easy, living at a pace in time with the heartbeat. Even though I live away from the frenetic pace of modern life, as soon as I heard the opening bars of this music I could feel my body relax and a smile arrive on my face. :-) Thank you!

    1. eremophila,

      Sometimes there’s a need to “get up and go”, but clearly there are times when a slower pace is good for everything – blood pressure, mental state, and so on. The irony is that very often I find myself being more productive rather than less when I trade in the freneticism for a slightly easier approach.

      Of course, I’ve got another reason to slow it down a bit. While you’re celebrating the winter solstice with wonderful, refreshing walks, we’re moving into the “I can’t breathe!” sort of heat and humidity that means full-bore summer. The nice thing is that the dobro suits both seasons.

      Linda

  13. Linda, like Eremophilia said above, I could feel “[the] smile arrive on my face” but I have no explanation for the tears in my eyes. I am so complicated/complex of late. I wasn’t clear when reading your post, is the poetry yours, or from a song you know? Whichever the case it is lovely.

    1. Lynda,

      Yes, the poem is mine. If I had posted someone else’s, of course I would have given credit.

      That mix of smiles and tears is precisely what appeals to me about the dobro. It seems able to catch up and hold that kind of complexity. There are specific songs that evoke the same response for me (like this one,) but no other instrument compares. Well, except the fiddle. The fiddle’s pretty good, too. ;-)

      Linda

        1. My mom’s father played the mandolin. One of the great mysteries in our family is what happened to the instrument after his death. There’s a suspicion a fringe relative made off with it, but who knows? Things happen, as they say!

  14. I love the dobro. I’m not sure where I first heard it, but it must have been some cool rock band in the 70s.

    1. Martha,

      There were some good ones, for sure. The Allman Brothers had some great road songs – were you riding back then? Maybe you don’t even listen to music while you’re riding – I suspect it could be more distracting than in a car.

      I really drew a blank when I thought about “Wisconsin music”. I took a look at the wiki page for “Wisconsin music” and discovered that early Wisconsin and early Texas had a lot in common, musically. It was those Germans, don’t you know!

      Linda

      1. I knew that the Germans were responsible for bringing the accordion to Texas and there are all those German named towns in TX to prove it!

        WI music would be accordion (Blanch- think Lawrence Welk), polkas, and….and that would be about it. Oh, can’t forget Les Paul!!!! But he’s just from here and WI isn’t really identified with him musically, I’d say.

        Loved the road music of the Allmans. I wasn’t riding then, and I don’t listen to music when I ride (never could understand the appeal of music when you can listen to the world around you), but sometimes I hum.

    1. kayti,

      It is a cool instrument. It’s always intrigued me that it has more in common with a banjo than with a guitar – it’s the resonator that’s the commonality.

      Another thing that’s interesting is that very few women play the Dobro. One of the best is Cindy Cashdollar . (Yes, that’s really her name!)
      She’s a wonderful performing artist – not only skilled, but warm and approachable, like so many bluegrass, Cajun and Western musicians I’ve known.

      Linda

    1. Arti,

      Actually, one of the best Dobro players is in your part of the world! Doug Cox was born in Alberta. Here’s just a bit from his site.

      “His music has been featured on many soundtracks, including Terry Gilliam’s Tideland. He was the first featured Dobro player ever booked by the Montreal Jazz Festival, and the first Canadian invited to play Dobrofest in Trnava in Slovakia, a unique festival set in the birthplace of the Dopyera brothers, the men who invented the Dobro nearly a century ago…”

      “He is also the producer and artistic director of Vancouver Island MusicFest, which is closing in on its 20th year and has long been one of Canada’s most popular and respected music events.”

      I’m pleased to introduce you to him! And I’m really pleased you like the poem. It was fun to work on it while I was up in the Hill Country, trying to distill a place into words.

      Linda

    1. The Bug,

      I’m so glad the poem gave you some pleasure – likewise the music. You’d get a kick out of something you still can see in the dance halls of small communities – husbands and wives with matching shirt and blouse combinations! Check out the first couple in this video from the Swiss Alp dance hall.

      Linda

  15. What a fun post, and a beautiful poem for the dobro. I was just thinking yesterday how much I miss those old country dances. My son gave me a mandolin for Christmas three years ago, but I still am struggling to stay dedicated to learning it. It’s such a thing of beauty, it’s nice just to look at, but it deserves to be played. One of these days…

    1. Teresa Evangeline,

      So many projects, so little time – a reality we all face. I finally gave my guitar to a friend. It had been sitting in the closet for years. I brought it out occasionally and enjoyed playing, but I didn’t play regularly and my skills began to erode. Better she should use it (or not). If I ever get the urge again, she says she’ll give it back.

      Mandolins are beautiful instruments – what a lovely thing for your son to give you. Have you ever heard Jimmy Buffett’s song, “There’s Something So Feminine About a Mandolin”? It’s a wonderful song. I couldn’t find it on youtube, so this link provides only a snippet, but you can at least get a feel for it and see the lyrics. For some reason it feels perfect for you and your place.

      Linda

  16. Brings back such wonderful memories of Texas. I used to frequent a couple of the dance halls – Floore’s Country Store was one of them. Hot nights, mosquitos, but fantastic music. You can’t find this in too many places.

    1. SDS,

      The nights still are hot and the mosquitos abound, but the music’s just as good. I just peeked to see who’s playing in the next couple of weeks (one of my favorites, Gary P. Nunn will be there) and found they’ve posted a photo of the historical marker on their site.

      I love the cross-generational appeal of these places, not to mention a certain genteel rowdiness that’s just so much fun. There’s not enough fun in the world these days – good thing we still have places like Floore’s.

      Linda

  17. I feel like I’ve stepped into a foreign land with their unique musical inventions! Have never heard of dobro and was fascinated by the photo in the link you posted. And that Doug Cox video was eye-opening. Thank you for the education!

    1. nikkipolani,

      I guess I’m going to have to be more careful now in my use of “Dobro” since Gibson got the rights to that particular guitar. It needs to be capitalized, though I see most people aren’t using the TM symbol. Many people use Dobro as a generic term for resonator guitars, much like “Kleenex” or “Coke” are used rather than “facial tissue” or “soft drink”.

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. If you’d like to hear an older version of the song Cox and Nunn are playing, here’s Mississippi legend R.L. Burnside with “Rollin’ and Tumblin'”. The fellow on drums is his grandson, Cedric.

      Linda

  18. I love the sound of the Dobro (and National Steel, which is related in sound and body at least) and had wondered about buying one some years ago, but am glad I didn’t as my own body isn’t strong enough for playing guitar anymore – hurts my back and arms eventually. Do you play Dobro?

    1. Val,

      I started with a six-string, then moved on to a wonderful 12-string and played that for years. I’ve given the Dobro a try or two, but very casually. The skills I’d learned with my guitars weren’t immediately transferable, shall we say? And, despite the fact that I love the Dobro sound, I wasn’t willing to purchase or practice.

      At this point in my life, I’m content to be one of the listeners, although I do wish I had that 12-string back now and then.

      Linda

  19. I remember friends teaching me how to Two-Step when I lived in Texas — what fun! Another friend, back in college, taught me to play guitar, but I must confess it’s harder than it looks (and harder on hands!). Thank you for a lovely post, Linda!

    1. Debbie,

      So you’re another two-stepper! It is fun, whether you prefer it plain or fancy. And you’re right about guitar-playing being hard on the hands. It helps to have the right guitar, but building up those calluses takes time. I’d have to start all over again – all my time with the 80-grit sandpaper has left me callus-less.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the post – and remembered some fun times.

      Linda

  20. Supposed to be thinking about a Dobro and your lovely poem, Linda, but I got hung up on Bob Wills. Peggy and I were driving through the Panhandle of West Texas a few years ago and ended up in the small town of Turkey, which happened to be the hometown of Wills. In honor of the visit, Peggy and I picked up a Bob Wills CD and listened to it as we crossed the lonely stretches of West Texas. Later I told my sister about the experience and she asked if I remembered the night that Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys ended up holding a jam session in the house next to where we lived. I was maybe four years old and I actually remembered the music, but not the fact it was Wills. Apparently his drummer owned the house next to ours in Diamond Springs, Ca. –Curt

    1. Curt,

      There’s no “supposed to” around here, you know that. Besides, what’s not to love about someone getting hung up on Bob Wills? There’s no better music for traveling, especially across the Panhandle or Trans-Pecos. I honestly believe that certain music takes on the qualities of the land where it is born, and forever after lives on as the “perfect” music for that place.

      That’s a great story about the jam session. As the old saying goes, everybody’s got to be someplace, and sometimes the “somebodies” of the world end up right where we are. I still remember the day I met Jean Seberg at the eye doctor’s office in Marshalltown, Iowa. I was in grade school, and she just had made the film “Joan of Arc”. Then there was the time some friends and I came across Allen Ginsberg in a Holiday Inn coffee shop, also in Iowa. That was a slightly stranger experience.

      Of course there’s nothing better than a good tribute band that doesn’t just imitate the past, but builds on it. Around here, that means Asleep at the Wheel. They’re just fine for cruising West Texas, too.

      Linda

  21. Gruene Hall is an old fave, but I also miss another old dance hall near Gruene that is now a Bar-B-Que palace – it was called The Crystal Chandelier. In the early 80’s when I was in high school, George Strait and his Ace in the Hole band would play there – cost me $3 to get in the door. Then a few months later, $5. One day, it was $8. When it went up to $12, I couldn’t afford it. After that, George didn’t play the Crystal Chandelier.

    Eventually it closed down, who knows why. I was happy to see George Strait’s career take off; it was a great honor to be a part of that young audience. Texas is a great state with so many talented musical artists, and some landmark dance halls like in Gruene. We are lucky to have all of that rich culture! Enjoyed the post…..reading your work is like swimming in very calm waters……..your style is so calming and relaxing.

    1. Office Diva,

      I got caught up in the history last night – not to mention the reviews of the barbeque place. Rudy’s! I had no idea.

      What a wonderful experience, to have been in on the very beginning’s of George’s career. He’s always a huge draw at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, quite apart from all his other successes. His music’s wonderful, yes – but he’s the consummate showman, with an ability to treat an arena full of folks just like they’re still at that country hall.

      The beauty of Texas music (and other states and regions, too) is that so much that’s good isn’t on stage. It’s tucked away here and there, on front porches, at wedding dances and Saturday night jams in small towns. In fact, my all-time acoustic favorites from Texas call themselves the “E-Flat Porch Band”. I first heard them at the Arts & Crafts Festival in Kerrville, and liked them so much I even made pilgrimage to their home town of McKinney to hear them play on their very own front porch. Notice that their catch phrase is “angst-free acoustic”. It’s true – although they can kick it up a notch when needed.

      Linda

  22. I recognized the sound but never knew the name of the guitar! It’s a great sound! You (and the warm summer evenings) have inspired me to bring out my old Goya and see what I can remember.

    1. montucky,

      It is a memorable sound, isn’t it? And you’ve brought up one of the great virtues of the guitar. Even after some time, it’s possible to pick it up and enjoy playing it again. It seems to be like photography in that respect – there’s not much difference between practicing and playing.

      Happy to provide a little inspiration!

      Linda

  23. I’ve been trying to comment here since I first read the story and listened to some of the music videos. I start the music and come down here to comment but can not think and type while listening.

    The image of the “Dance Hall” reminds me of my mother’s excitement if she could drag my dad to a local “Old Time” dance hall evening in the late ’50s and early ’60s. Now and then the same musicians would set up in our living room, the furniture would be moved to the walls and a few couples would take the floor. If I could curl up quietly in my favorite corner by the couch no one bothered to send the kid to bed so I would doze with the music and conversation as my pillow and blanket.

    Dad had built an “Hawaiian Steel” Guitar from bits and parts scavenged from the workshops that kept the Mosquito Night Fighter Squadrons flying from ’42 to ’45 over Great Britain. He served as a Radar Technician. So every now and then that guitar would be brought out and the aroma of the “Dope” he had used to seal the cardboard case would fill room (or at least my nose).

    Dad was a much better carpenter than musician but the sound of the Dobro is “Bred in the Bone” for me.
    I still have the guitar in that case but the early epoxy “Dope” has finished outgassing.

    1. Ken,

      My, you made me laugh with your comment about thinking and listening. So many people I know have whole playlists designated as “writing music”. I can’t do it. If I’m writing – even commenting here or there – I need the quiet. If the music’s playing, I’ll get distracted and listen – and lose my train of thought.

      Your memory of that guitar case tickled me, too. We’re into the “outgassing season” here. I don’t work with much raw wood these days, but I happen to have been recently and in this heat the first coat or two bubbles like crazy. And woe betide the one who decides to put a second coat on too quickly – that outgassing will lift it right off.

      We never pushed back the furniture, but there were plenty of barn dances. They were just as much fun, and had the great advantage of haymows for young couples to hide behind. If you’ve never seen this video , I suspect you’ll really enjoy it. The music and dancing is different that what went on in your home (this is more Ylee’s area!) but it’s just as appealing. Even the comments are interesting – there are plenty of people with a longing for those times when something other than tv and Wii took up the living rooms.

      Linda

  24. About 40 years ago I used to house sit for a couple who had the sole rights for Dobro (and several other instruments) distribution in Europe. While they were away and I was home taking care of their house and dogs I used to take one of their Dobros out and play it for an evening or two. They had a fabulous fire pit and a wonderful patio, both the perfect back drop for an evening of guitar playing. The Dobro is a wonderful, wonderful instrument!

    1. WildBill,

      There’s house-sitting and then there’s house-sitting! What a delightful opportunity – and what pleasant memories. Those are the kind of evenings the Dobro is made for.

      It is a wonderful instrument. I’ve been happy to introduce some people to it here, and revive some memories, too.

      Linda

  25. Crider’s brings up memories! Daughter #2 could hear the goin’s on at Criders from her bunk at Arrowhead — now Honey Creek…a big political broo-ha-ha that was. So glad she had the experience all those years. I think all the camps in the Camp Circle on the north and south fork of the Guadalupe could hear what was going on at Crider’s.

    1. Georgette,

      My, you made me laugh. It’s the same thing as over on the Medina highway, where everyone who wasn’t camped out in the dirt at Quiet Valley could hear (and sometimes grumped about) the racket from the Folk Festival. Of course, that’s only one long weekend a year (two, if you count the wine festival) and Crider’s was every weekend.

      Still, it was part of summer, part of the sound-track, just like the juke-box dances over at Garner State Park. And aren’t we glad for the memories?

      Linda

  26. Texas has such great music. More than its fair share it seems to me. A pity some of that Texas awesomeness can’t be spread more evenly around the country. I have fond memories of the one and only time I was privileged to see Asleep at the Wheel live.

    I love the dobro’s sound. I’m sure there are lots of great artists out there yet to be discovered by me. For now, it is more familiar to me through Jerry Douglas of Union Station. Truly great stuff.

    1. Bill,

      We do have great music. Do we have “more than our fair share”? I don’t think so. After all, anyone can make music. Texans just love to “make” it, and both performers and audiences are willing to put out some effort to support it.

      Beyond that, music’s intimately tied up with life here. People preserve and develop it in the course of their day-to-day routines. There are plenty of concerts and festivals where famous musicians entertain hundreds (or even thousands) of fans. There are venues where you can hear everything from heavy metal bands to symphonies.

      But if you look a little deeper, you’ll find old-fashioned family bands, fiddlers on the porch, country churches gathered for singing-with-dinner-on-the-grounds, wedding dances, Polka Masses, Mariachi parades, Bluegrass camps, and yodeling farmhands. The diversity’s wonderful, and people’s embrace of it all equally so.

      The Dobro’s almost like a chameleon, isn’t it? Haunting, cheerful and plucky, rich as homemade ice cream. Who wouldn’t love it?

      Linda

      1. Well said Linda. I think it used to more like that here. I love hearing the old-timers talk about how people used to get together to “make music.” Nowadays, I just don’t see that happening (although no doubt some are still doing it.)

        As for Texas, I have about 8,500 songs on my ipod and a very high percentage of them seem to be by Texans. :)

  27. “While necessities of the day may require the head to rule, it’s no less true that, as the sun eases down the mountain and the breeze begins to rise, the dobro has its say.” I love this.

    1. Susan,

      As good ol’ Ecclesiastes used to say, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” There’s a time for the “necessities of the day”, but there’s nothing more lovely than those times even even the world seems to put its feet up and relax.

      I hope you’re getting in some good relaxing – I’m a little amazed it’s July 4 already, but I’m looking forward to the celebrations.

      Linda

  28. Ah so lovely. The first time I read the poem I was there, looking at the view, feeling the breeze. The second time with the music it was like I was round a camp fire with a few people! I love those melancholy notes. I always think the sound of animal cries in the night or dawn makes us tune in to loneliness – almost like imagining we are there ourselves, in the cold and the dark…or maybe it’s just the stillness. The sound of a blackbird at dawn in an urban garden can be equally powerful.

    1. thinkingcowgirl,

      That’s exactly why I love the temperate months here. When it’s cool enough, I love to keep the windows open and listen to the cries of the night birds. We have a few who like to make their presence known – nighthawks, and yellow or black crowned night herons, especially. Their calls don’t seem to disturb the stillness, but deepen and enrich it. I suppose that’s why I like the Dobro as I do.

      I know there are people who can’t tolerate the stillness and solitude of the country, even if they don’t fear it. To each their own, as they say. I’m as social as the next person, but I much prefer those campfires under the stars.

      Your comment about the blackbird reminded me of this.

      Linda

  29. Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been to your site and read your recent posts. After sitting and listening to the music you embedded in this one, I became more melancholy than normal because it reminded me of the albums my daddy liked. As a result, I left without leaving any comments to let you know I’d visited.

    1. sherri,

      “Melancholy”. That’s one of the words I was looking for and couldn’t find to describe the Dobro’s sound. It’s not quite “it”, but it will do. If I were to use more than one word, I’d say it’s like one of those marvelous surgical knives that cuts and cauterizes at the same time – wounding and healing at once.

      Music does have that ability to revivify the past, doesn’t it? In the end, it’s a blessing – as is anything that helps memories live.

      Linda

  30. Dobro is new to me as well as a name or brand…but not the haunting yet homey tones!! Your etherees have such power and mood..doesn’t matter if its about a heron in flight or beneath the moon or the images of a coyote’s cry beneath the same evocative satellite!!

    1. Judy,

      It’s amazing how many people said they didn’t know the word “dobro”, yet recognized the sound immediately. It’s been incorporated into so many groups that I suspect nearly everyone has heard it. It’s used in bluegrass and country music, of course, but also shows up in rock bands and other such groups.

      I really do enjoy working with etherees. Haiku are a little too spare, and if I want to really go exploring I’ll write an essay. But the etheree allows for a little movement, a little story, and at least a few multi-syllabled words. Besides all that, they’re a challenge – but so simple you can work on them, for example, in a car. Get the right phrase, pull over at the next driveway, write it down and off you go to work on the next line and cover a few more miles!

      Linda

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