Day Four (our last) at IBMA

This post is a contribution from Jim Gabehart, one of our 2010 IBMA correspondents. He will report all week about his experiences at IBMA as he tries to promote his new group, Jim & Valerie Gabehart. You can see his profile here.

The sun will come up, tomorrow . . .  If you saw yesterday’s blog, I was more than a little disappointed in our after hours showcase experience, but a new day dawned, with more work (and fun) ahead. The awards brunch was actually interesting and entertaining, and included distinguished achievement awards to, among others, Tex Logan (I knew he was a great fiddler but did not know he was a doctor), the founder of Bear Family Records (I own many of their box sets and greatly appreciate the information and quality of their work), Lynn Morris (I was moved to tears by her remarks and her courage and spirit), and Pete Wernick (he was very witty, and I learned many facts about his background, including that his mother is the least educated member of his family, with only a master’s degree).

After the awards brunch, I ran into J. D. Crowe (my favorite banjo player — I’m such a fan, I have saved on my answering machine a message from J. D. from last year when I was trying to get him to write some liner notes for an instrumental project I released titled If Banjos Grew On Trees . . . I’d Pick A Few). It’s always a thrill to get to interact with your hero.

We spent the last day at our booth in the Exhibition Hall. Actually, I didn’t spend all that much time in the booth, but Valerie did. I spent more time visiting the other booths, which I did very little of on the first two days. The traffic at the booths seemed to drop each day, so I spent some time playing the banjos at the Deering, Huber, and Sullivan banjo displays. I’ve played a Stelling Masterpiece (the only one of this limited edition model that was made unstained blonde maple) for 24 years, but I’ve been considering trying to get a “classic” sounding instrument (code for pre-war Gibson sound). After playing all the instruments on display, I’m not sure I want to go through the “break-in” process with a new banjo, and think I may be happier looking for a used instrument.

I visited with Alan Bibey, probably my favorite mandolin player, for the first time in years (maybe 20 years). I first met him when he was an 18 year old playing with Kent Dowell in the Bluegrass Blend, about a year before joining the New Quicksilver. He bought our first vinyl album at that time because one of his early influences, Rick Allred, played mandolin on our album. I told him at that first meeting in 1985 that I decided to go to law school and advised him not to try and make a career out of music. I think it’s worked out pretty well for him and mandolin fans have benefited from his development into one of the best to play the instrument.

Feeling a little guilty about the decision not to go to the awards (because our former bass player Corey Hensley is up for an award for best gospel song and performance for writing and performing Light On My Feet And Ready To Fly with his current employer, Doyle Lawson, but not guilty enough to shell out another $100.00 +), we opted for a great dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory with our current band members, Brandon Shuping (mandolin), Joe Vance (bass), and Joe’s wife Tammy.

Back to the hotel, we did a little jamming (really more like a performance, although we did pull out some songs we haven’t tried in more than 10 years), where we could be seen, of course, to get a little more exposure. Then, it was time for a little sleep for the road back to West Virginia tomorrow — 9 hours driving, for four weekend shows (one Friday, one Saturday, and two on Sunday).

My overall impressions, in a stream of consciousness — fun, exhausting, expensive, memorable, informative, inspiring, but also discouraging and frustrating. Will all of our efforts lead to any work? Will we come back again? What would I do differently? What should IBMA do to improve on the event?

There are so many questions which I can’t answer right now (your mind gets a little overloaded, and slows down in a state of sleep deprivation), but I intend to consider these questions and others after we get home and recharge our batteries. If any of you are considering attending the convention in the future and would like to discuss our experience, I would be happy to share in detail the positives and negatives, and what we learned.

Just contact me through our website, Thanks to Bluegrass Today for this opportunity, and the assistance in our re-connecting to the professional bluegrass community.