Tuesday, January 7, 2014

YeeHaw Junction Bluegrass Festival - January 23 - 25, 2014 - Preview

There's a bumper sticker the bartender sells at the Historic Desert Inn that reads "Where the Hell is YeeHaw Junction?" And it's a good question.  With a name suggesting the far West, or even Las Vegas, and located right in the middle of Florida's cattle and orange grove country, YeeHaw Junction is, indeed, isolated, making it a near perfect location to hold a mid-winter bluegrass festival in South-Central Florida. Just west of the junction of the Florida Turnpike, Florida route 60 between Vero Beach and Lake Wales, and U.S. 441, heading south to the massive Lake Okeechobee, lies a large cattle pasture with a spacious blue-striped circus tent in its midst. As the weekend approaches, first a few dozen volunteers appear, then hundreds of RV's, a bunch of food, gear, and souvenir venders haul their gaudy trailers in, and a bluegrass festival arises in the desert as old friends greet each other, the instruments are hauled out, and the festivity begins. It's time for YeeHaw Junction Bluegrass Festival!

Ready to Go
The Lineup

Sideline began as a pickup band of bluegrass veterans playing for fun in the Raleigh, NC area and has developed into a serious project with a new CD released and plenty of dates for the coming year. With Skip Cherryholmes, Steve Dilling, Jason Moore, Justen Haynes, and Darrell Webb performing together, you can count on first rate picking. I'll be interested to see what original music they bring to the stage. 
American Drive

American Drive was formed of what remained when J.D. Crowe retired along with retiring the name of his band. They debuted at IBMA's World of Bluegrass to a strong response and soon released a fine CD, featuring a song by Clint Wilson, which has had good air play. Then singer Rickey Wasson decided to retire, too. The band continues to tour as it finds itself, but be assured that Dwight McCall is ready for leadership and supporting pickers Matt DeSpain and Kyle Perkins. Adam McIntosh, formerly with Joe Mullins and the Radio Ramblers will join them on guitar and vocals with Shayne Bartley on banjo.

Alan Bibey

Alan Bibey is one of the great mandolin pickers of his generation. He's worth the price of admission by himself, having pioneered a style that has influenced  many younger mandolinists and is named after him. Grasstowne has been through several recent changes, but Justin Jenkins and Kameron Keller have remained, both young guns who ably complement Bibey. Meanwhile, they search for a reliable lead singer/guitarist to replace Blake Johnson, who has moved on.  Appearing on both Friday and Saturday, they'll provide plenty of first rate bluegrass. 
Monroe Crossing

 Monroe Crossing is a Minnesota-based bluegrass band very well known throughout the mid-west, and, sadly, not as well known nationally as it deserves to be. They feature first rate classic and contemporary bluegrass music always anchored in their namesake, but as their band name suggests, often crossing over into other genre's with interesting and joyful interpretations. Don't miss this band, which appears on Thursday.
Mark Johnson

Jerry Butler & Blu-J's

Jerry Butler has demonstrated a stand-out voice and pleasing emcee personality since his early days with Pine Mountain Railroad and lead role with Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road. He has now fronted his own band for about five years, continuing to deliver fan friendly hard work with solid bluegrass and country covers. He's long been a friend of this festival.
 Jerry Butler

The Florida Bands
Florida has long been both a destination for bluegrass lovers and the birthplace of fine pickers who move on to the more productive regions of Nashville. Players like Aubrey Haynie, Scott Anderson, and the wonderfully talented Walker Brothers (Cory, Jared, and now Tyler) were all nurtured under Tom Henderson, now sadly ailing, in the Bluegrass Parlor program near Tampa. Mark Johnson (2011 IBMA banjo player of the year) comes from the Crystal River area, where Tony Rice lived for many years. The Stanley Brothers were based in Live Oak for a time. Now, the price of gasoline and the huge distances from the hotbeds of bluegrass activity have made it more difficult to bring a large number of national bands to Florida. Thankfully, for the adherents to traditional bluegrass music, a number of local bands have arisen to help fill this vacuum.

Highway 41 South

Highway 41 South has become one of Florida's most frequently heard and seen bands. It presents solid traditional bluegrass without excessive fanfare. Robert Feather's singing has made a substantial addition to the band's repertoire. Seriously, though, Donnie Harvey makes a terrficic contribution as an under recognized banjo player.  It's a good band.

Mark Horn

Ernie Evans & Florida State Bluegrass Band

Ernie Evans & the Florida State Bluegrass Festival, assembled largely from northeastern Florida tend to do a little more genre bending than the other Florida bands at YeeHaw this year. They include both swing and jazz in their repertoire, enlivening their show. Meanwhile, Ernie and Deb have been promoting bluegrass and country music at an expanded Dixieland RV Park in Waldo as well as assuming major responsibility at Sertoma Youth Ranch. Ernie's enthusiasm is infectious. Ernie Evans toured for several years with Valerie Smith and Liberty Pike.

Deb Evans

Generations Bluegrass
LeRon & April Rogers

LeRon Rogers is the third, or is it the fourth (?), generation of his family to sing and play bluegrass together. Coming from central Florida, they bring good humor and musicality. Their daughter Katie, now a student at the University of Florida, has been instrumental, along with Amanda Anderson, in building an active bluegrass club there. 
Katie Rogers

Keith Bass & the Florida Bluegrass Express

Promoter Keith Bass has assembled a reliable and hard working band that delivers fine 1st and 2nd generation tunes. I'm particularly struck by their work with Country Gentlemen covers.  Shane Stewart is a hard working singer/rhythm guitarist, while Clint Dockery is a versatile multi-instrumentalist. Jason Baker on fiddle is both capable and amusing. He has extensive experience out of Florida.
 Shane Stewart

 Workshops are a long-time tradition at YeeHaw Junction. An interesting series of instrumental workshop will be held on Friday and Saturday mornings. This is just a guess, but Alan Bibey is a huge attraction with his mandolin workshops. There will certainly be plenty for both beginners and advanced pickers. Quality jamming is also a major feature.
Mike & Mary Robinson

Mike Robinson will be the emcee. He and Mary Robinson will offer their Sunday morning Gospel Sing and Jam under the big tent.

The Details
YeeHaw Junction is really located in a pasture. There's no water on the site, sewer, or dump, although there is a pumper who services campers. RV'er are well advised to arrive with their water tanks full and all other tanks empty. Darlene Bass tells me that they've sold out all the electric hookups, but you can call her to get on the waiting list. There's virtually unlimited rough camping for everyone. I like to watch the cattle, which watches us back. The festival runs from January 23 - 25, but festivities begin with an always pleasant pot-luck supper on Wednesday evening with the Bass's providing the barbecue and the rest of us a grand variety of delectables.  For the full schedule and additional information, click here. Information about purchasing tickets is here.  Attendees not wishing to camp should consider the host hotel The Hampton Inn-Okeechobee. There are also a number of places to stay in Vero Beach, about thirty-five miles to the east.

Here are contact number for both Keith & Darlene Bass if you need more information:

KD Bass Productions, LLC
P.O. Box 1777
Okeechobee, FL 34973
Keith Bass @ 863-781-2376
Darlene Bass @ 863-634-5815

Email: kdmbass@gmail.com
You'll find this delightful couple seeking to find ways to accommodate you needs. This year there will be a vendor renting golf carts for those who don't bring their own. 
Darlene & Keith Bass

How to Get to YeeHaw Junction
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When you leave YeeHaw Junction, consider just driving over to the Seminole Indian Reservation just west of Lake Okeechobee for the Seminole Wind Bluegrass Festival. Preview coming. We're looking forward to seeing you at both festivals.