I can’t recall the exact date or time when I first met “Cobbler” John Bolen but I can pretty accurately detail the circumstances. I’m quite sure there was live music being played, music which was the work of John and his fellow Blues, Jazz & Folk Music Society (www.bjfm.org) volunteers. And I’m sure his loving and caring wife, Peggy, was not far from his side. For years he served as the president of the BJFMS and with the help of the organization’s dedicated volunteers helped to present some of the finest and most diverse music the Mid-Ohio Valley has ever had the opportunity to enjoy. I know I was enjoying that music in the early 1990’s when I first met the Cobbler.
Like many folks, I enjoyed the lineups of truly important and legendary blues artists and John’s love of live music. But I also respected his profession, years spent as a craftsman in the lower level of the Dime Bank building in Marietta. He was an artist working an age old trade, breathing life back into a pair of well-worn shoes. He possessed a skilled gift which is sorely missing in much of today’s digital and throwaway world, hence the nickname … The Cobbler.
But it was the John’s personal love of music that will leave an impact on so many folk’s lives. I often reminisce about all the great blues artists that he and the BJFMS brought to our area. Thankfully the organization had a large following of dedicated music lovers who would travel hundreds of miles to attend an event in the Mid-Ohio Valley and that dedication allowed the River Cities Blues Festival and Competitions to grow over the past few decades. Sometimes John and I discussed the challenges of getting local folks engaged with the same level of enthusiasm that the visitors brought to the events. Some shared ideas and some scratching our heads … tempered with a cold beer or two and a “we’ll get ‘em next time” attitude. Always realizing how important all the fans were whether from near or far.
The Cobbler and his team also worked diligently to provide Celtic, Cajun, Americana and other roots based forms of music to area music fans. I can fondly remember sweating it out on the Hotel Lafayette parquet dance floor while the John wore out a spoon on a washboard on a hot August night during the Swamp Stomp several years back! And another time I had the pleasure of helping with an Appalachian flavored night of acoustic roots music, which gave folks a special opportunity to see John’s life long love of folk music and his fine playing skills. John always worked tirelessly to give the fans his very best.
I have been BJFMS member for many years and specifically had the honor helping to judge five of the River Cities Blues Competitions over the years. This year I recently helped to emcee the event and provide some stagehand help for the competing bands. John was too ill to attend, but while I was helping out I could only think of how I could help the fans enjoy the show more, spark their excitement up another level and get them to feel the joy of the music like the Cobbler always did.
We are certainly all saddened by John’s passing and send our condolences to his family. Certainly many deserved thoughts and prayers will be flowing over the next few days but we must also find a way to rejoice in the music he cared so much about. Forgive me if I’m a little off base but somehow I envision a befitting grand farewell … a New Orleans style jazz funeral … somber with respect early and full of spirited music at the end as a celebration of the Cobbler.
Realistically, I think it as my personal duty to step up and help to continue the Cobbler’s legacy of music, and hopefully some other music lovers will come forward to help keep alive the fun, the joy, the importance of the music he loved. It may just be the best tribute of all for our late friend, Cobbler John Bolen. And if I’m smiling, I’ll be listening to that swinging brass section in my head and remembering many good times.
Are you a worker? Have you been a worker? If so, then today is your holiday, Labor Day. Historians generally cite that the Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City. In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea of a holiday for labor spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers across America.
Throughout the years Labor Day celebrations began to grow and several municipal ordinances were passed during 1885 and 1886 to recognize the holiday. Not surprisingly the first state to introduce Labor Day legislation was New York, but the first state to pass a Labor Day law was Oregon on February 21, 1887. As the year progressed, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York all created a Labor Day holiday by legislative means. Soon Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania would enact Labor Day legislation. By 1894, 30 states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and then all the states.
But just exactly what is Labor Day? The Department of Labor describes Labor Day as follows, “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” As one can see, Labor Day is one of our few all inclusive holiday’s which sets no boundaries based upon a person’s religion or country of origin or involvement in any specific organization.
Some are fortunate enough to grow up in a home where their mother and father were part of our countries workforce in the 1940’s. While many of our men and women served around the world as World War II raged, many other men and women labored tirelessly at home to help guarantee us victory in this horrific conflict. Not only did the war force domestic workers into improbable careers for that era, often symbolized by the well-known depiction of “Rosie the Riveter,” but our domestic workforce also met the demands of wartime rationing and all the stresses placed upon the traditional family. Not only did workers help build our country, but they also helped our country to survive. Certainly many brave men and women have died valiantly defending our great nation, but also remember that many hardworking men and women perished while building a nation worth defending.
The great unified workforces of the 1900’s also stood together and addressed a long list of issues important to all the workers in our great country. They negotiated with employers and spoke with local, state and federal elected officials about the importance of weekends for rest and family time, overtime pay, an 8-hour workday, a guarantee of a minimum wage for their work, paid vacation days, sick days, health benefits, retirement benefits and compensation when a worker loses their job through no fault of their own.
But workers also made great strides in a couple other areas, strides that are often forgotten and taken for granted or worse yet, scoffed at today by some ungrateful citizens. Workers demanded safer working conditions. Employers often forced workers to work in overcrowded and outdated structures which faced huge risks from fire. These conditions also forced workers to endure extreme conditions such has heat, cold, improper ventilation, biological hazards and more. As America began to further industrialize, workers were faced with even greater risks from all the things listed earlier plus, dangerous machinery, toxic fumes and gases, chemicals and carcinogens, highly flammable and explosive work environments and other factors created during the boom in manufacturing after World War II. Look around the Mid-Ohio Valley and you can see many of the facilities, or their successors, in operation today. Chemical plants, steel mills, power plants, coal mines and many other workplaces where workers rallied together to not only create a safer work environment but a safer community as well.
One other important area of labor’s influence is in the creation of child labor laws. As America industrialized, many families moved from rural to urban communities. The rapid expansion of American industry, not unlike that seen in many Asian countries today, led to an extreme demand of workers. Children were often employed because they could fit into and access areas which were difficult for adults, but probably the two main reasons were children were easy to control and they could be paid less than an adult worker. At one time nearly 25% of the American workforce was under the age of sixteen, often working in very dangerous conditions. Eventually the Fair Labor Standards Act and other state and federal laws began to address the problem child labor. These conditions are often difficult for Americans to visualize today, but one must imagine that parents today would not want their children to be excluded from an education, the sports team, music lessons, dance class or any family activity because they were working in a factory as an 11 year old.
Many battles have been fought by the men and women of labor since the beginning of our country. There have been wins and losses along the way, but also an ongoing desire to raise everyone’s standard of living, not just a few. Does anyone truly believe that the raises given by an employer 100 years ago or today are given out of the goodness of the employer’s heart? The answer is a resounding no for the majority of employers. As you listen to the many political speeches to be delivered this election season, pay attention to those who lean towards the working class of America and keep both a wary eye and mind focused on those who believe that unions and worker groups have outlived their usefulness and that corporate well-being is the key to our countries future. Every day unions are fighting so that all workers, both organized and unorganized, can raise their standard of living, build a strong, community engaged middle class and provide a little nicer opportunity for our next generation.
It is your Labor Day. Relax, remember and enjoy!
David Olney’s official occupation may read as “singer/songwriter” but maybe better fitting is the byline title at www.davidolney.com. It explains in no uncertain terms that Olney is the “Pioneer of the Americana music scene.” Intrigued yet?
Born in the late 1940’s in Providence, Rhode Island, Olney found his way to Nashville in the early 1970’s following a stint studying at the University of North Carolina. It was there that Olney would blend various musical genres and themes while honing his skills in a city famous for songs and songwriters.
Olney crafted folk influenced songs, which would be covered by some of Nashville’s biggest stars including Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Linda Ronstadt and the legendary Johnny Cash just to name a few. So one can see where the tag “singer/songwriter” could be generically applied to Olney’s career.
But those days reside quite a while ago and in this “what have you done for me lately” era in which we live, quite possibly Olney’s most interesting material is yet to come. And this Saturday the musical world of David Olney will stop in Parkersburg for part of the Coffeehouse Series presented by the Children’s Home Society of WV.
Olney will be appearing with his talented guitarist/collaborator Sergio Webb at 8pm on Saturday May 5that 1739 St. Mary’s Avenue. One must be advised however merely stating that the two Nashville icons are “appearing” easily qualifies as an understatement.
The Nashville Scene recently heaped high praise on Olney’s skills as the following quote illustrates, “If FILM NOIR established Olney’s affinities with, say, Tom Waits, his new EP The STONE ought to put Olney up there with Bob Frank or Dylan: When Olney essays the anti-sedition Jesus-blues-rock of the new record’s ‘Brains,’ he’s talking about the modern world. This is how a literate, blues-loving Nashville songwriter with a philosophical bent interprets the last couple of millennia.”
As if this testament wasn’t enough to Olney’s talents, once one adds to this Olney’s intense and imaginative live performances with Webb by his side, Saturday evening becomes a can’t miss show. Of course the night is also supporting a great cause if one needs any further prompting. Fellow entertainer Tommy Womack recently chronicled his chat with Olney in which he relayed to Womack, ““To me, it’s bogus that art can only be in museums. The real art is what goes on when people don’t expect it. My idea of a good time is getting in front of an audience and giving them more than they expected. That makes it a worthwhile, fulfilling thing to me.”
So here’s a perfect chance for Parkersburg to break out of its musical cocoon and begin truly supporting great causes and musicians. This show is an excellent opportunity for music lovers or all ages to truly experience a one of a kind performance. For more details contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 304-541-7463.
And don’t worry; they’ll be time for your faux Cinco de Mayo celebration after your ears have enjoyed a musical fiesta!
Egos are interesting things. They exist within all humans but are displayed outwardly in varying degrees. Possibly the easiest examples to find are from those who work in the entertainment business, the music business specifically.
But one should not confuse big dreams or taking a risk with an ego. Musicians should dream big, set goals and stay true to their ideals. Following those dreams incurs taking risks, moving to different environments and often times placing trust in strangers. It is a leap of faith.
Sadly in today’s music world, the theme is often one of entitlement. An almost “don’t you know who I am arrogance” that is exuded from the deepest, darkest regions of ego. Sure accomplishments are a wonderful thing, but just imagine how much more entertaining artists would be if every time they released a new song it was done with the same fervor as their first. Frankly, does it really matter how many awards a person may have garnered when you sit down to watch them perform?
Granted, individual journeys take many turns and often include a series of events, or learning experiences, which can systematically change an artist’s approach to their business, music and to their fans. But within the realm of youth lie the energy, naivety and fearlessness that cultivates creativity.
When Marietta’s The Damn Radicals take the stage this Saturday evening at the Worthington Golf Course Ballroom (3414 Roseland Ave., Parkersburg), it will be a shining example of that youthful realm. The duo of drummer Anthony Azzi and guitarist/vocalist Luke Schindler might sum it up best on their Facebook page where they describe interests as simply “taking a shot at what we love and stand behind.” And yes they did forget the worn out music star egos.
The two soon to be Marietta College graduates exhibit a humbleness not often found in the music business, be it nationally or locally. Obviously they don’t have a long list of self-gratifying awards or achievements to tout to the public, but they have something better, their attitudes and their songs.
Employing a less is more, high energy strategy built upon Azzi’s reckless abandon on the drums and Schindler’s edgy yet melodic guitar work, the Damn Radicals simply present their music in a grateful manner for what it is and not as some flag of past glory days. Sure great music lives on, but the key to a song’s longevity is not founded upon the artist reciting their resume every time someone will listen.
And that’s the beauty in the Damn Radical’s music; it stands on its own merit, today, ready for you to disseminate its value, but always received by the listener with a true thank you.
For fans of Jack White or the Black Keys, Saturday evening presents a wonderful chance to catch a band on the way up as the Damn Radicals open for the Jimmy Clinton Band. It’s there for Parkersburg to enjoy as the doors open at 8pm to a truly inviting and unpretentious music venue, the Worthington GC Ballroom.
No ego’s or attitudes, no playoff games, no boorish happy hour crowds, just great music from two fine bands, a dance floor and some fine brew from the North End Tavern & Brewery. And yes, just a little leap of faith is required for a highly entertaining return. See you there!