Thursday, April 16, 2009
Homeless musicians find their way back home
Musicians who favor the songs and instruments of country music have been meeting regularly in a room provided by Food World in Bessemer for the past 10 years. As of last week, they began their morning jam sessions in a new location because of the supermarket's closing.Thanks to the generosity ofAnthony Underwood, the ownerof West Lake Mall, they have found a new home and didn't have to travel very far to move in.Mac Mitchell, site manager of the 90,000 square foot indoor flea market, welcomed the musicians with the hope that shoppers and vendors alike will enjoy the familiar sounds of guitars, fiddles, banjos, and harmonicas when West Lake Mall opens on April 17. SteveBaggett,now retired from theBirmingham News ,remembers the origins of this gathering of musicians. It was in John Knipher's Barber Shop in the early 60's. John would sometimes stop in the middle of middle of a haircut and pick up his guitar if certain friends happened by. All those old friends wish him well as able to attend. Baggett credits Tater Wallace, 92 and still active, with teaching him his "licks".Tater performed professionally with his own country band for 20 years. His wife Marjorie keeps a sharp eye on him and comes with him to the sessions.Newcomers like CharlesByars (88), Junior Franklin (80),Howard Ryan (78), Bill Greg(77), Thermon Jones (62) andJoe Kizziah (31) have only been showing up for about 10 years.Walt Johnson, 84, has memories of the group going back 40 years. He entered the Navy at 17 and served four years in North Africa, Sicily, and the South Pacific during WW II. Not manyof those vets are still kickin'.Walt definitely is.When this new space became available, Baggett expressed his relief. "Comin' together like this to play their instruments with old friends or just sit and listen is keepin' some of these guys alive." To find out just how alive,you'll have to hear the mall musicians for yourself. And if you have a favorite song or a guitar, come and join in.The mall musicians gather every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday morning from 8-10:30 am. Who knows?You might even find another"bargain" when the West Lake Mall Flea Market opens but you'll be hard pressed to beat this one.
Posted by THE WESTERN STAR Ashley Smith at 12:53 PM
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