The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys are bringing their hard driving brand of old school bluegrass to western Europe, and have promised to send us updates along the way. Here’s their third installment, from mandolinist C.J. Lewandowski, covering their trip from Burkenreid, Germany to Hoogstaaten in Belgium.
The 7 hour drive was pleasant with little traffic. We stopped at a truck stop for snacks and fuel and kept on rolling. The landscapes were beautiful throughout Northwest Germany, Southern Netherlands and Belgium.
We arrived quite early to the humble home of Jan Michielsen, where we were to have a house concert that evening. Pulling in the driveway, a nice picture of us on a handmade sign hung on the fence as Jan greeted us with open arms.
Jan is a very well known musician throughout Europe where he plays in two bands, 4 Wheel Drive and Blue Maxx. He is a great traditional mandolin player with roots deep in Monroe. Monroe records were in his kitchen, and his Wi-Fi password was billmonroe (hope no one steals your internet, Jan), so we knew this was the place to be.
Jan and his lovely wife, Leen Vissers had the backyard decorated with lights and chairs from every part of the house. They are real troopers. Jan had the cushioned chairs from the living room out in the yard even. His daughter and son-in-law, Meintje Michielson and Thijs Ansoms, showed up early to help set up the bar and run it for the evenings festivities.
The porch was turned into a stage with lights and sound, but before the stage was set, we brought out the table and sat around it for Jan and Leen’s brilliant dinner of chicken, salad, potatoes and good Belgian beer and wine. After dinner, Jan and I swapped mandolins back and forth. He has a great Charlie Derrington era Master Model Gibson and a early Georgia-made Griffin mandolin that’s as deep as the ocean.
People started showing up early. Of the 50 expected, 74 or so showed up riding mostly bicycles to the show. All were ready to have a good time. We changed into our Pointer Brand bibs, smoked a cigar or tobacco pipe, and hit the stage!
Doing two sets, we had plenty of time to play requests. We could not believe that folks in Belgium knew the same songs we did. Luke did a great rendition of Rough Edges that is on YouTube, along with several videos from the night with Sofia singing with us, and Josh with his original Leavin’ This Town. Josh whoops it on Jan’s 1979 D-28.
Also on YouTube, is a video of Jan, PRB, banjo player Dieter van Peteghem and a young American mandolinist named Corben Welter playing triple mandolins on Monroe’s Tennessee Blues. We definitely had fun with it. Corben is a 19 year old son of a U.S. Naval officer stationed in Europe. He is a great Monroe stylist with a passion for gypsy jazz. We were proud to share the stage with all these fine men and even broke into jam session after the show.
The night ended on a good note with moonshine shots, a toast to good health, good music from the stage, and a few more numbers. The Rooster Song followed us all the way over, so we ended the show with it and Jasper got down on the bass. Many people thought it was caused by the moonshine, ha ha. A lot of folks hung around after the show, which gave us the opportunity to meet and visit with our new friends. It was, by far, a lovely night filled with love for music and fellowship. The night concluded with a trip to the local bar for sampling of the fine Belgian brews.
Thanks you so much to The Jan Michielsen Family for hosting us and turning their nice little home and garden into a full blown venue and party! We had a blast and look forward to spending another night with them as we pass through from Rotterdam to Switzerland. What a Night!
Next stop, Holland!