The Mud Bug Boogie
Author: Robert Force
Date/Studio: 2013 Synergy, Port Townsend, WA
Engineer: Neville Pearsall
Producer: Robert Force
Original Release: Did You (BSR151)
Current Release: Did You (BSR151)
The winter of 1999 I was sicker than a dog. A deep cold was just not letting go. My friend, Joe Breskin, convinced me that a few days spent at the winter Puget Sound Guitar Workshop retreat was just the ticket I needed to perk me up. Off we went to that venerable event, me triple-wrapped. It was just a few hours south. But, hey, any direction south sounded good to me.
Both the PSGW and the Kindred Gathering were founded within a year of each as take-offs of Virgil and Edith Byxbe's Sweet's Mill Festival in the Sierra Nevada foothills above Auberry, CA. Joe's sister, Flip, along with her husband, Dave and their two young sons had transported Al and I down there in their Volkswagen bus in the early summer of 1975. I spent most of that 3500 mile ride teaching John and Nathan to talk like Donald Duck.
The 240 acre former logging camp became a haven for musicians as an anti-festival. People came to play, not to entertain. Mini-camps and villages were spread throughout the grounds and you could drop in and play a tune or two, then wander on. Al and I agreed this is just what we wanted a festival to be. When we returned to Washington later that month we took out an ad in Maddie McNeil's just born, Dulcimer's Player's News inviting “friends of modes and dulcimerie” to a Kindred Gathering.
I have a warm place in my heart for the PSGW. Friends from many years have continue to gather there in the Sweet's Mill tradition, just as they have for the KG. Joe and I pulled up, piled out and were immediately greeted by our long-time friend, Eric Steese. He immediately diagnosed my malady and its cure. I needed cold whisky and hot music, the former which he supplied from his tote-bag apothecary. Properly dosed with a serum level of remedy, I sought out the only sunbeam in the place.
It really was the only sunbeam, the camp being situated among tall fir trees. That single shaft of sun was enough, however. I pulled out my dulcimer and began playing the fastest Caribbean-beat music I could muster. I would burn out that cold! Before long guitar players had gathered around me and we all cooked the tune I was making up as I went along. Out of that session the Mud Bug Boogie was born but it wasn't to get either its name or its final form until I met Paul Andry.
Robin Mohun called me up one day, “Hey, there is a real fun festival that Paul and Dee put on and it looks like it is going to be their last.” Except for KGs and a few local events, I had not been touring for the almost 10 years since Al died. The festival was just across Lake Pontchartrain from Albert's home town, New Orleans. Besides, Princess Cha Cha said a great time was to be had. How could I not go? I called up Paul and offered to come and play. Paul, turns out, was the same age as Albert and had spent his youth growing up just a few blocks from Albert's boyhood home. He graciously accepted.
That festival reaffirmed for me all I had always liked about small music gatherings. We played long into the night. Sideshow Bennie had, well, a sideshow. David Snauffer was there and we hadn't crossed paths in years. I met Karen Mueller and played Cornwall with her at 3am in the morning. Cha Cha was her irreverent and lovable self. Paul and Dee organized a trip into Mardi Gras, doing it local style-- in by 5am to Cafe Du Monde for croissants, early and all day drinking at Lafitte's so you had a place to pee, back out and across the bridge by 6pm before the college kids took over the streets.
And he put on a bodacious crawfish feast-- mudbugs as they are called down there. He showed me how to eat fast, worry the tail loose with my teeth, suck the head, slurp the juices and guard my pile in case faster eaters started eyeing them. All this was done while simultaneously quaffing generous amounts of tasty Abita beer. It was a good way to ring in the Millennium and name a new song.