1999-11-15 Swiss Navy

"Country Abend im Beckenreid"

"Brent & Bob" Swiss Tour
JRobert & Brent Moyer


11.15.99-Swiss Navy

I tacked a nice ENE breeze with "Blue Water" to Bob & Annie's Boat Yard October 13th for her annual "bottom job"…& immediately flew with Nashvillian Brent Moyer to Switzerland for a whirlwind musical tour.

When I returned from Europe 1st week of November, one of the first messages on my answering phone was "Come & get her! She's done & we need the dock space!" So I barely put my landing gear down when I found myself "bright eyed & bushy tailed" Monday November 15th at St. James City on Pine Island paying the tab on the paint job & putting all in order for a day cruise back to Marco Island. But just before I cast off, one of the dock workers at Bob & Annie's asked in his familiar Liverpoolian accent, "Aye mate, did you happen to meet up with the Swiss Navy?" Hmmm...

It was a perfect Southwest Florida Fall day…sunrise over the mangroves breaking into clear blue…winds predicted NW 15-20 knots. I preped my headsail & mainsail for easy hoisting…halyards & sheets in place…double-checked engine necessities…and iced a case of beer with fresh memories of sitting up last night til 03:00 watching Capt Frankie "the Cuban Sail Connection" from Captiva Isle jammin' alongside the incredible delta blues artist from New Orleans, Mr. John Mooney, right across my dockage in St. James City. Incredible.

I cast off at 09:00 cutting straight across Pine Island Flats for the mish-mash of Intercoastal markers leading past Sanibel Harbor Resort and under the Causeway Bridge. I set sail and made headway past Ft. Myers Beach before I shut down the engine for a nice long 180 degree course home…

It was a solo sail…just me, the breeze, and the deep blue sea.

Out on the blue Gulf of Mexico, my recent round-trip flight from Miami-Chicago-Zurich-Chicago-Miami started to come back to me…in little bits and pieces.

Brent scooped me up from the Zurich Flughaph in a little Opel barely large enough to fit my fiddle/mandolin case, his guitar, our luggage, and a bag of peanuts…and zipped on up to our favorite "Swiss Hideout"- Sigristenhaus im Illgau. Oltmar und Monika, the children, and the whole village were just as beautiful as when we left a year ago. We went right to work warming up "old hits" and practicing new ones. That very first day we went down stairs for lunch and warmed up "The Brent and Bob Show" for a troop of 35 Special Olympic people on their fall tour of this mountain chalet. They were a wonderful treat to dance & sing along with us perhaps the most universal song…"You Are My Sunshine".

"Mahogany Hall" in downtown Bern, overlooking the beautiful Aare River was a great kick-off show. It's a nice concert feeling…when the houselights go down & the stage is lit, the magic begins! Renee Yorg did a great job of sound on his European Electro-Voice System…our music rocked the whole building. Peter und Kathi Trachsel, Beart und Lotte of the Aare Valley Country Club were responsible for booking us…many thanks! Sleeping in a beautiful old hotel overlooking the ancient cobblestone streets of Bern filled my heart with fantasy.

Valorie Joy, the young Swiss Country Music singer joined Brent and Bob at "Maya's Big Loop Saloon" im Kagiswil. I knew I was "down home" when I saw an "Appaloosa Club" sign on the side of a barn next to the bar! I immediately had flashbacks to my early fiddling days with Almon & Virginia Manes on the upper & middle forks of the Clearwater River in North Idaho…stories of Nez Perce Indians & the first Appaloosas to run the Sawtooth Mountains. I was sharing my stories with the bartender/owner Renee Barbitta & his brother Marco…but it turns out to be his horses! I got a chance to oogle over them early before the saloon jammed with country fans. I look forward to seeing Marco in Marco Island, Florida this winter…Bon Voyage!

No trip to Switzerland would be complete for Brent Moyer without visiting the "Queen of Country Music Radio" Irene Schmidt. Actually, she attended a couple of our shows including the night at the "Big Loop Saloon"...but our lunch the next day at Irene and Georg's Sheepfarm was spectacular to say the least. Located on a gorgeous Merlischachen hillside overlooking Lake Luzern, they've converted a barn into a private bar complete with stage and dance floor to entertain guests and put on special "Country Music" concerts. Inside their home, Irene has set up a studio to accomodate progamming her nationally syndicated Swiss Country Hit radio show. Once again we toasted "Good music, good food, good drink, and good company" over a fresh farm roast turkey! If you ever need a unique holiday resort, check outSheepfarm Holidays in Switzerlandand be sure to ask Col. Georg for a virtual flight to any destination in the world on his similated computer-jet aircraft.

By the time we returned to Illgau, it seems the whole country had been on alert for the "Brent & Bob Show"! Erica und Reto, Jens Lubben, Ruth, Ushi und Paul, "Birthday Kati", Dusty Boots Band, & a bunch of the famous Illgau yodlers were at Sigristenhaus for "Country Abend." This is the scene where "East meets West" yodeling style…Swiss style vs. Cowboy style…great beer was the universal language. If the walls could talk…the stories they would tell!

Going to Gams, I was told that we would witness "the other side of the Moon"…high mountains shimmering with early fall snow and brisk winds whistling through the streets, valleys, and walls of Werdenberg Castle. Urs und Ursula Winkler of Gams have the most incredible Guitar Shop! Our concert took place in a wooden barn with a thousand guitars resonating our songs as we performed a totally acoustic concert before a "packed barn-house". Great sympathetic vibrations…newly installed lights were also a nice touch. Urs is the master luthier/repairman in all of Switzerland…& every visiting guitar picker must stop by for a tune up & check out his collection of instruments…& say "Greuzi" from Brent and JRobert!

Everywhere we traveled I collected a decal for my fiddle case…my Thurgal sticker reminds me of the Thurgal High School we performed for Hans und Ruth Caspar, Andreas, Lieber Herr and all the student body. The Swiss always take 11/2-2 hour break for lunch which allows everyone to go home and dine together as family…can you imagine America? The youth are great…all the energy & urgency without the flippancy usually associated with their age. Makes me feel 16 just hanging out with them!

"Tom's Beer Box" in downtown Chur has to be the greatest Beer Box in the world! Tiny little corner tucked inside the old city along with international restaurants and fabulous jewelry/art shops. Every beer in the world!!! I dreamed I died & went to "Beer Heaven"…start at one end and drink your way to the other! & the urinals were a six-pack of Titanic beer cans down in the basement! Thank you Tom und Tom, Fluri und Paola, Uri, Kathrine & kids, Funny Hill dudes, & Brent says "Howdy!" to Irene & Pat.

Our "Best Attendance Award" goes out to Erica, Laurence, & Reto. They followed us everywhere x0x0x0x0.

"Ahoy!" to Sven, Anja, und Astrid...I hope the sunshines on all your beautiful snows this Christmas.

My own personal thanks to Margaret Roos, horse trainer and excellent visual artist, for saving my address book from an autobahn stop near her home.

35 years after my high school German class I got my first taste of Germany…and I must say they make the best Texas Chili I've tasted! These people collect every intricacy of our music history, so we won't have to worry about our Hillbilly Heritage ever disappearing. Peter Wroblewski and "The Country Friends of Kotz" are so hip to American Country Music…and Friedrich Hog collects photos and helps publish stories.

As I strolled the plazas and booths of Gunzberg, filled with Duetsch history & culture, it felt so rich breathing sights and sounds of people touching people and exchanging tastes in this marketplace…as they have for hundreds of years.

Gasthaus Schlussel im Beckenried is the perfect acoustic setting for a mini-concert. All wood interior, spacious dance area, and gracious hosts Daniel und Gabi…complete with a little "fly" painted on the men's urinal for target practice! Thank you everyone for attending "Family Country Day"…it's so nice to play music to the whole family drinking, dancing, & telling stories. Marcel und Marianna Zuber were so instrumental in organizing this show…as well as the "Swiss Pow Wow" of 1998. Marcel has privately divulged to me the secret as to why Europeans refuse ice in Coca Cola…ask him!

…And now I must take a moment to nominate our hostess at Beckenreid, Ruth as the perfect picture of "Most Merry Swiss Miss" of the entire tour! She has a robust personality as well as wit and smile to match.

Everywhere we performed our trek took us past Lake Luzerne…I got all the sailor's reports and caught a lust for the water, but rarely observed any wind this time of year. If I had only known there was a Swiss Navy about, it could have changed the whole course of "Bob & Brent Sail to Switzerland."

A favorite perch overlooking Lake Luzerne is from my room at Hotel Albana and the Jazz Bar in Weggis. Daniel Trachsel along with Peter & Mrs. Wolfe always roll out the red carpet for us…the finest accommodations and cuisine in the world. Last time we visited the hotel Brent kept smiling real big because he thought I was taking photos of him dining while overlooking the lake, but I was actually taking pictures of the food on our plates…it seemed so scrumptously exotic words would do no justice…so enough said!

My last European night "Brent and Bob" were honored to play for the Country Music Club of Switzerland at the Borse Restaurant in Zurich. Maya Hagenbucher had made arrangements for us at the Atlantis Sheraton Hotel and personally drove us downtown to the concert hall. The first display I saw entering the Borse was a photo-collage of musicial artists including Bill Monroe and recent acquaintance John McEuen and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band from 20 years ago. I knew this room had a history of good times!

The 24 hour trip from my hotel room in Zurich to my bedroom on Marco was a blurr…and here I am on an 8 hour sail with a cargo full of beautiful memories.

I never got to visit the Swiss Navy.

Still, my heart sings with wonderful visions I share with friends and spirits from all over this marvelous Planet Ocean!

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JRobert@JRobert.net JRobert Houghtaling 2016