"Country Abend im Beckenreid"
"Brent & Bob" Swiss Tour
JRobert & Brent Moyer
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 out Sheepfarm Holidays in Switzerland and 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!
Brent & Bob...Sailing off into the Alps!
10.30.99 Swiss Tour
This will be my 3rd trip to Switzerland...Brent Moyer and JRobert have gotten to be regular "Country Stars" to the people of this beautiful country.
Jens Lubben of Pelican Tours in Brunnen, Sz is responsible for most of the travel arrangements. I call him our "roadie", but he's probably one of the most sophisticated international tour planners in the world!
One of my favorite places to visit is the tiny village of Illgau, located overlooking the world famous Moutotaul Valley. Every visiting American should have the opportunity to stay a week with Otmar and Monica at Sigristenhaus House of Hospitality, in Illgau. You drive up a narrow little road north of Swiez, through a mountain tunnel and Presto! ...you feel like you're in the land of "Munchkins"! Romantic foot-trails with markers to direct you from valleys to glaciers...I've worn a lot of leather off my shoes and shot tons of film on this place. I dare you to ask me to show you my photo album!
You can find Brent Moyer on his Brambus Records page. Every night we'll be playing at different locations in Switzerlnd...so check out my Current Calendar for details.
Flyin' Round with the Chief
11.06.99 Native American Music Awards...Santa Fe, NM
Ever since John McEuen had a hand in James's record production of "Alligator Tales", the Chief's music has been played on dozens of radio stations around the country. He was also invited by Doc Watson to sing at "Merl Fest," and he continues to attend various Native American Music Festivals around the country.
James Billie is a wonderfully dynamic force on the planet today, and I'm so honored whenever he calls me to make music with him. Check out the cool Indian Web Ring at Official Homepage of Chief Jim Billie. Che hun ta mo, James!
"...We split the wind with the mind of the People!"
JRobert, James, Raiford Starke, & Chainsaw aboard Gulfstream IV
The new Gulfstream IV was King Hussain's old flying ship. However the "Arabian Night" jet-black paint job had been replaced by "Silver Feather White" and a sparkling Seminole Stripe down the side…and the students at Florida State University were about to be in for a treat from songwriter and storyteller Chief James Billie.
We landed at Tallahassee airport 30 minutes after an easy Big Cypress takeoff… the eastern skies looked tumultuous as the onset of Hurricane Floyd was announced. In spite of periodical weather updates, we still didn't know whether we would be safe to fly back that evening.
A crowd began to shuffle into Border's Bookstore about the same time we were tuning up.
James always has a way of giving a dramatic twist to a story to suit the situation…
"We Seminoles are people of the Earth, but in our oral traditions we don't have flutes in our music. We believe that the flute produces a 'little wind' which when let loose in the universe will cry out for its Mother…well, nobody wants to invite a hurricane home!"
"Traditionally each of the seven Clans had certain powers that dealt with the different elements of the Earth. When it came to problems with the wind, it was our Bird Clan's responsibility to send their Medicine Man to council the one's in need. When Hurricane Andrew was threatening our Miccosukee neighbors, we sent Bobby down to handle it."
"Bobby practices the Ancient Arts and at the prescribed moment he's supposed to take a sharp object such as a stick or stone, or in these modern times, a machete, and stab it into the ground. In this way, we must split the wind with the mind of our people!"
After I heard that and the pilot set course for home, nothing could stop me! When we landed back at "Big Cypress International", Hurricane Floyd was ominously beating the hell out of the Bahamas and threatening Miami-Ft Lauderdale with potentially the biggest blow of the century. Tracking positions predicted a possible sweep to Marco Island.
So I raced to back to Smokehouse Bay, hurriedly set four anchors out off "Blue Water", took down the Bimini and secured all lines, stocked up on batteries, water, candles, fuel, and beverages. …Meanwhile, the whole time I was sharpening my machete, my mind kept contemplating what the Chief had said as I wondered aloud… "Hmm…out here on this boat, exactly where am I going to stick this thing?"
Now, Boys & Girls...It's time for the yodeling "Black & Decker" Choir!
08.28.99-Annual Hardware "Gong Show"!
Anyone who owns a boat gets to be pretty familiar with hardware, hardware stores, and hardware folk. Well, the Florida Hardware Convention is where everything comes together...
It's a unique show I always enjoy, especially the final night's "Gong Show"...this is the scene in which all the regular folks who sell Black & Deckers and roofing nails as their day job get to entertain with songs, jokes, and rascality. That's where I fit in...I call it "human karoke!" Eventually they auction off tons of hardware, tools, & displays brought to the convention by dealers. All proceeds benefit the St Pete All Childrens Hospital. Ten years ago we gathered only a couple thousand dollars. We've grown to raise over $50,000 a year the last few shows! I happen to know personally how much these funds are appreciated by the Childrens Hospital...& it's certainly one of the craziest final nights I've ever seen to wrap up a trade show!
"Is this anything like Sailing?"
JRobert, James Billie, John McEuen, & the Shackdaddys
This thing has wings!
06.12.99-Sailing to Arizona
"Is flying anything like sailing?" I asked the captain & co-pilot as I peeked into the cockpit of the Gulfstream III bulging with "Gyro Gearloose" looking electronic instruments… I consider anything fancier than a basic Raython depth gauge or an autopilot for my one-armed tiller, pretty damned extravagant.
"Yeh, if you don't mind pointing into a 21 knot wind at 43,000 ft. That really bites into our fuel when we're trying to maintain 800 knots."
I love it! …because this craft has no less than 3 GPS systems…one just to reference the two 27" tv monitors in the passenger lounge that scroll among four screens beginning with "Seminole Tribe of Florida" corporate emblem, switching to "Elevation- 43, 690 Waypoint Destination-431 miles ETA-30 minutes"…Then, "You are here!" …and a huge N. American Continental map folds out with a fat arrow just about to 'pop' the Florida peninsula right at the mouth of Tampa Bay.
Finally, my favorite screen appears. Topographical details balloon up, clear as a crystal ball…mainly green colored Florida flat lands with blue squiggles & puddles representing water bodies. I swear I could point out the exact location of Grandaddy Dooley's ferryboat landing at the mouth of Wild Cat Creek on the Little Manatee River!
By the time I scrambled back to my passenger window to check the accuracy of the ship's navigational indicators, we were sailing over the Skyway Bridge looking down on freightors & tankers lumbering under wing. The white wakes of powerboats zipping around the coast appeared as microscopic photos from an electron accelerator…or maybe sperm zipping around the evidence of the Florida peninsula.
"I wanta ride Jim Billie's airplane!
I wanta play in Jim Billie's band…
Sail the World up in the 'Jet stream'
I don't care if we ever land!"
I'm fiddling away at exactly 2 1/2 hours from Window Rock, Arizona where we'll be landing at 5, 679 ft Elevation.
"How many songs does it take to sing our way across Texas?" I wonder aloud…but there were so few, nobody kept count.
The chart on the bulkhead was starting to light up with shades of yellow, orange, red, and jigsaw shapes of terrain that definitely indicated we were a world away from Sanibel Flats!
When we landed, we were greeted by the Navajo Chief Speaker Kelsey Begaye and shuttled another hour drive from Window Rock high up into Juniper and Ponderosa country. Our escort, a young Navajo computer student from Dine' College, was giving us the scoop on Navaholand people, politics and gossip…
"Legend says that the huge redrock formation with a picturesque 'window' was created when a huge snake crawled through the rock."
"Our Chief sings and plays guitar too!" He said proudly, "But his gospel and country songs are only heard around his home fires."
Soon the sign "Welcome to Tsaile, NM Population 1,043" appeared. It's pronounced "Sail-ee", by the way, just like the Christopher Cross song…and my mind began to sing…
"Tsaile, takes me away to where I've always dreamed it could be…
Just the wind & a sail to carry me…soon I will be free!"
An audience of Navaho, Pueblo, Hopi, and perhaps a few Arapaho, Commanches, and Zuni were gathered outside the Arts Administration Kiva. Silversmiths, blanket weavers, and kachina doll makers were displaying their crafts. Buffy Saint Marie was the headliner…John McEuen was accompanying Chief Jim Billie… other acts included Red Earth, John Trudell, and Shouting Mountain along with singers, dancers, and storytellers from many Native Nations around the N American continent.
While I was warming my fiddle in the silence of the main Kiva…reverberating my strings with the ancient feelings inside this earth church, I was joined in chorus by a young guitarist echoing in the doorway. Soon he was singing a beautiful lyric of his wife and family. Our music was immediately sympathetic, and he invited me to perform a couple tunes on the mainstage. I accepted, and soon Derek Miller, the "Lou Reed of Native Music" was electrifying the people with his modal guitar, compelling verse, and a few complimentary brush strokes from my fiddle. Look out for this young voice to move mountains!
James Billie touched the crowd with stories of his people, land, and critters. Tribute was made to all the Native Americans who served for the United States Armed Forces in Viet Nam…including a Navajo rancher who pinned James with his own Navaho Nation Veteran's Medal.
The timing was perfect when James pointed to an ominous looking black Mesa in the distance & announced we were being invaded by a new "Encounters"…as the "Seminole Air Patrol" Gulfstream III jet circled the horseshoe valley and swooped over the crowd like a screaming eagle! We whipped into "Old Ways Will Survive" and bowed off stage to a tremendous climax of Indian enthusiasm.
We flew to Phoenix to drop John McEuen off with his sundry banjos, fiddles, & sequined River Boat suit…and landed back in the wet jungles of Big Cypress in a matter of hours.
The next morning I was back on "Blue Water" and cruising off Big Marco Pass thinking, "Man, to cruise from 8 knots to 800 knots in one simple leap of imagination…is flying anything like sailing, or is sailing like flying?"
Click to Stop Changes in Latitudes.
• James Billie & the Shackdaddys
• John McEuen
• Buffy Saint Marie
• John Trudell
JRobert, Brent Moyer, & Jackson Davis
03.28.99-Key West Anchoring
Brent came down for a few weeks, & announced he had a little time before heading back to Nashville..."so lets go for a sail!"
We packed up Captain Jackson, Captain Morgan, & caught an easy north-western down to Cayo Heuso...with musical instruments in hand jammed with everyone I knew from "Hog's Breath" to "Green Parrott" and back again!
While we partied, "Bluewater" was anchored out off East Fleming Key and I returned to get a fiddle string just in time for the wind to shift from the east dramatically. As we pulled up underneath Fleming Key bridge, my eye could just catch "Bluewater" running adrift directly toward the Naval Reservation Grounds. I could just imagine the M.P.s arresting me for invading government soil...but I managed to re-anchor before the bars closed!
What an adventure! Here's a perfect Key West sunset from anchorage.
Sunset past Christmas Island
• Jammin in the Streets!
• Oysters & Beer!
• Living on the Boat
"Der's gonna be all de colors ob de rainbow!"
JRobert & Sir George Richards-Trinidadian Steel Drummer
Brothers in Arms!
01.02.99 Sailing With Sir George
"Watch close Mr. J, and see de Spirit ob our Ancestors…" George whispered over the bite of a Captain Morgan's on ice…while his shadow sat in the cockpit, pointing toward the column of bulbous cumulous fattys on the western Gulf of Mexico horizon. The clouds were being illuminated by a mid-winter Florida sun under an otherwise breathless 4 knot blue sky. As we anchored off Coconut Key, his familiar voice of 12 years acquaintance came drifting back to me, with continuing stories of early life on his home island of Trinidad…
"My grandfater was a master boat builder in de islands…and when he died his tools went to me fater. But times had changed and no one bought de wooden boats no more, so my fater, he went to work on de docks…"
"My fater had friends in de panyard, and dat's where I got me first set of steel drums…I built dem myself, all de time watching de hammers…dey been doin it for sometime now."
"It was quiet back den…none of dis rock'n'roll stuff! Just preddy liddle island tunes t' play and preddy liddle island girls t' lub…"
"…And when we'd set sail, it's eider nort or sout to de next islands. And all de time we feel de breeze, and watch de sun by day and stars by night to show us de way…"
"Mr. J, I know you just picken up sailin'…but don't you be scared a nuttin but de big blow! Den make for de harbor or de Mangroves & stay put! Stay put good!"
"Udderwise, it's easy! When you run aground, den you wait for the tide and kedge off… you feel de breeze & set de sail til you get it right. We make all de mistakes in de world til we get it right…den when we've learned all our lessons and passed all de tests, we graduate! We graduate as Captains ober into God's hands…'cause He's always de Captain!"
"Ya know Mr. J… when we all line up outside de Pearly Gates, Mr. St Peter will be waitin for us all to be gaddered… Den, he's gonna inbite all de singers, dancers, pan players ob all de Ages to step forward and sweep on through de gates, 'cause de Good Lord wants plenty of music jammin to pass tru eternity wid. Der's gonna be all de colors ob de rainbow! …yellow, red, black, & white…and all de sounds under Heaben! …drums and horns, harps and pans… and den,
"…And den Ol Mr. Saint Peter's gonna tunder real loud ober all de crowd what's left standin der waitin, 'Now, the rest ob you folks… prepare to be Judged!"