August 27th, 2010

August news and Missouri Shoot

Posted by site admin in Blog

We have lots and lots to update you with about our work on the film! First and foremost, the news that we applied for and were granted a most-appreciated, extremely well-timed grant from the Foundation for Bluegrass Music, , in the sum of $3,000. Three grand may not sound like a lot, but to us it has made all the difference in the world! It is enabling us to complete the last of our shooting, and we made immediate use of this new resource to complete our Missouri/St. Louis piece of the puzzle with a whirlwind shoot the entire second week of August. And, it will also enable us to at last snag an interview with Glen Campbell. We have a few small snippets of filming to complete, but by and large we have all the video we’ve planned out for the project, and are happily on to the task of piecing it all together now.
On our great Missouri expedition we were able to interview Billy Lee, a fiddler who played with John in his first professional band, and in the time since became a luthier and master woodcarver. We were surrounded by his fiddles and sculptures… a great setting for his interview. We also caught up with Mr. Howard Marshall, who gave us a beautiful interview and really helped fill in some of the Missouri fiddling history related to John. He, too, had photos and music to share.
We had arranged to have a talk with Ron Lutz, the well-known KFAL radio deejay who gave John his first job in radio, but his health was not permitting that day. We may not have him on tape, but we hope to at least have some more correspondence with him so we can have his input on this film.
The next day we spent a marvelous day with Mr. David Keiffer, who went to high school with John and played in the early iterations of his Missouri Ridge Runners band with him. We met up with him at John’s old high school, Burroughs, in St. Louis, and interviewed him in the principal’s office! We scanned the heck out of John’s old yearbooks while were were there, and took some pictures of the school.
Then we moved on to John’s old primary school, the Community School (just down the street form Burroughs). The principal there was a great guy, and took a long time showing us around and telling us about the school and what it was like when John was there. He, too, had photos and materials to share with us, and we again employed the scanner liberally. Impressive places, those schools. Clear evidence that John’s creativity was nurtured from early on.
From there, we swung by John’s old neighborhood, University City, and shot his family’s former house. We talked with a friendly young man living there, the son of the owner, who was aware of the house’s former resident. He actually lives in John’s old room, and tried taking up the banjo once to see if could actually channel some of John’s essence out of the old place.
John’s college, Washington University, it turned out, was only about 3 blocks from that house. So it was easier than we’d anticipated to just walk over and shoot some pictures there. We had not made any contacts at the office, which I kind-of regret, but we still stuffed an awful lot into our visit.
From there we swung down to Delmar Street and the St. Louis Walk of Fame, where we enjoyed looking at all the stars on the way to John’s, which we shot photos of, natch. It had been a Loooong day of shooting at that point (in 108 degree heat), so we put away the cameras and had ourselves a drinkie at Blueberry Hill to round out the day.
The next day was much more laid back. We had a fun interview with Mr. Bob Skaggs at his home outside St. Louis. He is a guitar player who used to play with Gene Goforth and his band, and we picked his brain a bit about his and John’s associations with Gene and some of the other Missouri musicians we know John to have played with. Howard Marshall joined us for there for the afternoon, and when the taping was done we broke out our instruments and jammed for a few hours. What a huge treat!
  Our trip to St. Louis would not have been complete without a visit with John Hotze the next morning. He was able to tell us a lot about the John he knew as a teen, and he is a well-known archivist of John’s music as well as a videographer and documentarian of many other folk and bluegrass musicians. We found out-to our surprise-John played with Hartford and guitarist Paul Briedenbach as a teen in the 50s as yet another one of the Missouri Ridge Runners (there were various combinations of the band that went by that name, so there are a lot more Ridge Runners running around than we realized… all coming out of the woodwork now).
John is the creator and caretaker of the John Hartford memorial website, and is organizing a a great event coming up you all should know about: a John Hartford Memorial Festival in Bean Blossom, Indiana during the first week of June, 2011. See We had a great visit with him, and again made good use of the scanner. Then we said our farewells both to him and to St. Louis, and had to head back down the road back to reality. All in all, we feel it was one of our best shoots of the whole project.
In other news, we are also very excited to see that the John Hartford Stringband’s “Memories of John” album has come to fruition, and they are really getting it out there! It’s a lovely recording, with some meaningful guest artists, and you are really going to want one of these if you don’t have it already. Go to to find it.
As the summer winds down and the fall unfolds we will be hitting it heavily writing and editing, but I will try to do more updates on this site as we go. Thanks to all of you who continue to encourage and support our effort… it is nice to be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel!

One Response to ' August news and Missouri Shoot '

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  1. Kyle Brown said,

    on November 10th, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Ron Lutz’s family should be in possession of a grainy home movie of a 1950’s/1960’s vintage car driving up to the home place - out of the car comes Ron’s father, some of Ron’s daughters and a very young John Hartford. I am a Rooster Creek Boy and have seen the home movie at Ron’s during a visit towards the end of his life. Let me know if you have any interest and I can hopefully track down the survivor who put the film to DVD for Ron.

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