terry winch, jesse winch, alan oresky, joe stork, pete adland, doug pell ca.1973.
Once upon a time (actually, late 1971), the strangest old-time string-band in American musical history was formed, and I was there at the beginning. The Fast Flying Vestibule (named after a train celebrated in a song) did a little bit of everything, from Charlie Poole to Carl Perkins to doo-wop to Kerry polkas. We lived to have a good time. We were not purists like The New Lost City Ramblers, preserving the sacred traditions of the past, or the Red Clay Ramblers, the brilliant North Carolina group that stayed pretty close to the approved text. We did whatever felt good.
jesse, terry, doug, alan, and joe in the 1970s
The other night, at McGinty’s pub in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, near where I live, I told a friend that my old string-band was having its first reunion in decades on Sunday, 12 July. “Oh, I love old-timey music,” she said. “What did you play in the group?” “Tenor banjo and button accordion,” I replied. “There is no button accordion in old-timey music," she informed me. “Well, there was in our version of it,” I told her. There were no tenor banjos in old-timey either, if the truth be told. But, the FFV was sui generis.
Flags and shamrocks galore at The Tara House in DC, where "Crazy Guggenheim" of the Jackie Gleason Show once sat in with us, and where I make a rare appearance on the drums
Pete Adland, 5-string banjo player, left the band after about a year and a half, to become a psychiatrist. Pete has never even met Ric Sweeney (pictured below), our talented guitarist, who is also a terrific songwriter and a singer, with a voice to rival Jimmie Rodgers or Hank Williams, IMO. Ric---whose show-stopper was a song of his called
--- was in the FFV for about the last two years, before we disbanded sometime in 1977 (the year Jesse and I started the traditional Irish band Celtic Thunder). He replaced Doug Pell, our original guitar player and one of the best flat-pickers you’ll ever hear, when Doug moved to New York. My brother Jesse (guitar, 5-string banjo, and our genial host), Joe Stork (acoustic bass and ace vocalist), Alan Oresky (fiddle and mandolin wunderkind), and I were the unchanging members of the cast. Tomorrow will be the first time all seven alumni of the band have ever been together in the same place at the same time.
We played the Red Fox Inn, a mostly bluegrass venue, in Bethesda, on Tuesday nights for years. We played Ireland's Four Provinces in DC for the first year it was open (we could crank out 4 sets of Irish music if the gig called for it). We went to folk and fiddle festivals, played for antiwar rallies and leftwing fundraisers, and in the backyards and front porches of our friends. At one event we won a contest, with the prize being three hours of recording time in a state-of-the-art studio, and wound up recording a song of mine called "I'm Glad I'm Prepared for the Recession," whose objectionable last word kept it off the airwaves (until we recorded an expurgated version for an anthology on the Paredon label, now part of Smithsonian/Folkways). We self-produced an album entitled Union Station, after a song of mine (sung by Joe Stork--Download Union Station). The actress Karen Allen, still a dear friend, can be heard on the chorus of "Goodbye Miss Lisa," another song on the album. Vinyl copies are still available (for real).
Everyone still plays music—Alan is a great demand for weddings and other events; Doug put out a wonderful recording of teddybear songs he wrote for children; my brother Jesse is in about four bands and is Cathaoirleach (chairman) of the local branch of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann, the global Irish music society. Ric plays and sings in Virginia, where he has a devoted following. Joe and Pete squeeze the music into very busy professional lives.
It’s been a pleasure writing these posts this week, but I am very rusty on the tenor banjo and have to spend the rest of the day re-learning the words to "FDR's Back Again."
You might also like: Charlie Poole & the North Carolina Ramblers