Van, the Mandolin Man

When I was a little girl I remember daddy buying one of our first pieces of furniture (I say that with a smile, not sure how mom felt about that)…a blonde Fender Guitar and Amp. From that time on he was hooked. He would practice all the time, and over the years he eventually traded his electric guitar in for a mandolin, not that he stopped playing the guitar entirely but the mandolin became ‘his’ instrument of choice. He began playing with some country fella’s in California but it seemed ‘bluegrass’ was what he really loved. I remember some fellas and a couple of gals, gathering around mama and daddy’s small living room when they lived in California; banjo, mandolin, bass fiddle, acoustic guitar and fiddle all joining in the fun. He traveled the circuit and played as often as he could at different events and venues around the surrounding areas.

When my folks decided to return to Arkansas, after living in California for over 50 odd years (mama called it their last ‘big’ adventure), daddy had no trouble finding others to play bluegrass with. His younger brother, Billy, played bluegrass as well, and one thing led to another and soon daddy was off and running. I wish I knew this song they are playing, but suffice it to say we all had a great time that night, and the highlight for me, was of course my mandolin playing ‘pappy.’ My sister once said to me, (both of us having no appreciation for bluegrass or country much when we were growing up), “Listening to daddy play bluegrass is kinda of like having a spiritual experience.” I’m not sure about that, but I got what she meant as only sisters can and do.

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