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Remembering the "Thursday Night Songwriting, Poetry and Rhythm Club" - Livin' the Good Life

Aug. 16th, 2012

07:05 pm - Remembering the "Thursday Night Songwriting, Poetry and Rhythm Club"

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Steve and I were just discussing the rise and fall of the "Thursday Night Songwriting, Poetry, and Rhythm Club". This was Steve's brainchild over 10 years ago, and we were remembering it because there was a reunion, of sorts, last week for those who miss the club and wanted to get together one last time. Steve and I were not able to attend, but we heard they had a great time.

The club meetings were held at a local coffee house called The Water Canyon. People would come and sign up to perform either original songs or poetry for an appreciative audience. Attendance eventually fell off after about 7 years of going strong, so Steve threw in the towel. We had other things going on by then, and we were moving on. But, there are many happy memories associated with Water Canyon that he and I enjoyed reminiscing about at lunch today. We admitted that some wonderful beginnings came out of those weekly get-togethers. Here they are, in no particular order of importance:

Since Steve was hosting the meetings, he became very motivated to sharpen up his guitar playing and singing. He finished songs that may have never gotten finished and played them for the group. A lot of new and especially good material came out of that period for Steve.

Steve and I started singing together again. This was my first time "back on stage" in a long time.

Damian started playing bass with us occasionally and often tried out new songs on the group. It was clearly a time of growth and blossoming for him as a singer.

We met Johnny Ray there. He started coming in and singing solos with his autoharp. Steve was so impressed with him that he invited him to sit in on our songs whenever possible. Soon Johnny was a regular.

Sometimes Bobby, our current fiddle player, would show up and jam. He introduced us to Billy Ray, another fiddle player. Billy came up from the low desert to jam with us whenever he could. We loved his old-timey sound. Nice guy, too.
jon, our former mando player, damian, billy ray, our original fiddle player, steve and me
at water canyon on the stage

By that time, we were startin' to sound like a band. We had a mandolin player who came regularly by then, so we had the makings of a real bluegrass band. This was the true beginning of Shadow Mountain Band. When the Thursday night meetings began to wane, we started showing up at Pappy and Harriet's on Sunday afternoons to jam out in the garden. It wasn't long before we were invited inside. And the rest is history. Shadow Mountain Band has been playing most every weekend at Pappy's for many years now. We had to let our mandolin player go, due to personality clashes, and one day, Steve and I were discussing who we were going to replace him with. We listed all the qualities we would want in a mandolin player. THAT VERY NIGHT we went to WATER CANYON to listen to a band, and we met Gar. He sat down with us, and we got to talking. We discovered he was a mandolin player! Steve and I looked at each other like: is this an answer to prayer? I'm convinced it was, because Gar has turned out to be exactly what we had "ordered", and more. He soon joined us up at Pappy's and has been a solid member of the band ever since.

Back to Water Canyon. Some of my best memories were the New Year's Eve parties we held at Water Canyon. We invited all our friends and family. Our sons and their wives/girlfriends were usually there due to the holidays, and we usually had a fairly large group show up for these events. Our family usually performed, and sometimes just the boys performed. It was so FUN! Best New Year's parties I ever attended. If a guest played music, they were invited to entertain at these parties. They were reasonably sober parties, and children were always welcome. None of this going home drunk from a New Year's Eve bash.

One New Year's in particular stands out in my mind. We'd had a wonderful time, the party was over and the entire Lester clan headed out to the motorhome, which we brought so that everyone could come in one vehicle. It was freezing cold outside. The temperature had dropped dramatically since we had arrived many hours earlier. As we sat shivering in the motorhome, Steve tried to start her up, but to no avail. Well, it coughed and sputtered and got halfway turned around in the road when it died completely. It was now sideways in the road blocking the oncoming traffic. We all got out and pushed her to the curb, where she sat until the next day when we came back to try again. In the bitter cold. We finally got her home, but it was an ordeal. It was such a strange ending to an especially enjoyable evening.

We attended Water Canyon so often over the course of the "club's" existence that it felt like home to me. I DO miss it. However, what we traded it in for was so much better... a real, polished band playing in a very popular venue without the hassles of putting everything on and making everything work ourselves. We just show up with instruments and the club does the rest. Yes, much better.

But, here's to the "Thursday Night Songwriting Poetry and Rhythm Club" at Water Canyon, the birthplace of a band that has become an important part of our lives and a pretty reliable source of fun for this family. (Have I mentioned that Gabe is learning banjo? Well, he is. He may soon be joining the band!)