Nashville songwriters Larry Cordle, Carl Jackson and Jerry Salley, who have occasionally performed together as The Trio, have been announced as a featured act at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, FL next week. They will sing at a lunch for the Mississippi delegation on August 28.
Though not exclusively bluegrass writers, all three have a solid pedigree. Before becoming a hitmaker, Jackson played banjo with Jim & Jesse as a teen, and later with Glen Campbell for more than a decade. Cord has long led Lonesome Standard Time, a bluegrass band he formed with Glen Duncan in 1990, and Salley has a pair of buegrass recordings to his credit in addition to having many of his songs cut by bluegrass artists.
Jackson is a Mississipi native, and the invitation to appear came through Congressman Gregg Harper, who represents the state’s 3rd District.
Salley was particularly enthusiastic about the opportunity.
“Carl called us back in June to see if it was something we’d be interested in doing. I’m just excited and honored to get a chance to perform as part of the official activities surrounding the convention! It’s a chance for us to get to witness a little bit of political history.”
No word yet about bluegrass at the Democratic convention in September.
Interestingly, in my home state of Virginia, it has become received wisdom among Democrats that you can’t win the western part of the state without bluegrass. If you will indulge a brief diversion…
It all started when Mark Warner ran for Governor in 2001. Like many southern states, Democrats historically have done well in the larger cities, while Republicans did better in more rural areas. Warner’s campaign followed a suggestion from political consultant Dave ‘Mudcat’ Saunders to tour western Virginia with a bluegrass band. The campaign agreed, chose The Bluegrass Brothers to travel with the candidate, and created new lyrics to the Dillards hit, Dooley, as a campaign song.
Mark Warner is a good ol’ boy
From up in NoVa-ville
He understands our people
The folks up in the hills.
After Warner’s win, Saunders became legendary in Virginia politics, and other office seekers both here and on the national stage took notice. In the 2004 presidential primaries, North Carolina Senator John Edwards hired Lonesome River Band to try and replicate Warner’s success. For a month or so, the band opened Edwards’ rallies with some hard-hitting SW Virginia-style bluegrass, with Sammy Shelor often being called upon to introduce the candidate. It seemed to work well in the south, but the campaign discontinued the practice when it fell flat in northeastern urban centers.
Saunders went on to attempt a bluegrass project in support of John Edwards that morphed eventually into Del McCoury’s Moneyland CD.
People in Virginia, Kentucky, North Carolina and West Virginia may recall the campaign ad that ran in 2008 with Ralph Stanley endorsing Barak Obama. There is even a passage in Ralph’s autobiography where he describes receiving a call from Obama requesting his help.
And when the President appeared at a rally in Roanoke just recently (yes… the ‘You didn’t build that’ speech), he had a bluegrass band, The Church Sisters, perform before he addressed the crowd.
Yes Virginia… there is bluegrass. If this could catch on nationwide with both parties, it would be full employment for bluegrass bands!