Professor takes turn as bluegrass organizer

June 14, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

In his real life, Dave Greene is a Towson State University physics professor.

But yesterday -- as he does on at least two Sundays every year -- the 59-year-old Baltimorean was every bit the bluegrass impresario.

Surveying an outdoor stage where dozens of fiddlers, dancers, banjo players and singers belted out tune after tune for 11 hours during the Deer Creek Fiddlers Convention, Mr. Greene smiled broadly when asked why he has been presiding over these bluegrass gatherings since 1972.

"I like the music," he said. "I really like the music."

The convention, held for at least the past six years on the grounds of the Carroll County Farm Museum, is a gathering of all things country, a sort of Appalachian nirvana where the sounds of banjos and fiddles mix with the wafting fragrance of pit beef, fried chicken and homemade biscuits.

More than 2,500 people had passed through the gates by late yesterday afternoon, Farm Museum officials said.

While some of those people came for the country cooking or to browse at the wares of more than a dozen crafts vendors, most came to listen to or perform bluegrass music.

Or, as two of the performers put it, hoping for prizes to fatten the wallet.

"We don't have a whole lot of fun, but we sure make a whole lot of money," said John T. O'Loughlin, a fiddle in his hand and a smile on his face that said his words were all in jest.

He and a partner in the Washington, D.C., country band Capital Quicksteps were sitting under a tree demonstrating their trade.

The partner, Steve Hickman, doesn't use an instrument in the traditional sense -- his way of making music entails the use of his hands, arms, legs, mouth and face.

"It's called hambone," Mr. Hickman said, demonstrating the technique.

The two weren't the only ones jamming under the trees yesterday afternoon. Almost everywhere you looked, someone was playing a fiddle, singing a tune or plucking away at an acoustic bass.

"The music here is always real good," said Mr. Greene, trying to be heard over the amplified music of a band on stage.

Born in Boston, Mr. Greene acquired his taste for bluegrass while growing up in Corning, N.Y. Hardly a bastion of bluegrass music, Corning was within range of a Canadian radio station that carried the "Prairie Schooner" program, a 1940s country show.

"My mom would ask my brother and me if we were asleep, and after we said we were, we'd turn the show on," Mr. Greene said.

The first fiddlers convention was in northern Baltimore County along Deer Creek. It has had a nomadic existence, with gigs several years long in Bel Air and even in Mr. Greene's back yard in Baltimore before settling in at the Carroll County Farm Museum.

Mr. Greene, dressed in his customary deep red shirt and straw cowboy hat, concedes that his own fiddle playing isn't his favorite. "I'm not really that good," Mr. Greene said. "I played at the Baltimore City Fair one year, and I certainly hope that everybody has forgotten that."

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