Dobro master Rob Ickes has run the annual ResoSummit in Nashville this past 13 years, with assistance from Betty Wheeler, which featured instruction and demonstration for students of the instrument. With Betty having retired from her association, Rob has entered into a partnership with Danny Heaps of Dreamcatcher Events, and they have renamed the gathering ResoSummit Slide Fest. It is scheduled for November 3-6 in Nashville.
Heaps has experience hosting instructional camps, managing several for guitarists like Andy McKee, Paul Gilbert, and Robert Fripp, as well as a popular songwriting camp for Rodney Crowell. Rob and Danny met at a camp he was holding for Tommy Emmanuel last year.
Ickes says the partnership happened easily.
“This year they called about having me and Trey back at Tommy’s camp, which was pretty close to ResoSummit, and Betty really sorted needed a break, so now we’ve teamed up with Danny. He is my new co-producer. Dreamcatcher brings a lot of promotional resources, and they have worked the Scarritt Bennet Center in Nashville before, where we have held ResoSummitt.”
Rob says that he loves this venue, partly because it is just down the street from Compass Records, so the entire class can walk down to the studio for a recording workshop one day during the camp. Plus it has an auditorium that can seat about 200 people.
He is very excited about the faculty for 2022, which includes fellow reso maestro Jerry Douglas.
“Jerry will be involved on Sunday, and then doing a concert Sunday night. We also have Greg Booth, Billy Cardine, Abbie Gardner, Jimmy Heffernan, Jay Starling, and Josh Swift. Three of the top luthiers in the world of reso-guitar will also be on hand – Tim Scheerhorn, Paul Beard, and Byrl Murdock – doing set ups and showing our students how to do their own. They will also talk about woods, bone, pickups, etc.
We also just confirmed this guy, Bobby Ingano, who I met through Taj Mahal. The main dude in Hawaiian lap steel masters – he’s just been blowing my mind. I’ve been playing forever and he’s showing me new stuff. I never really went down the Hawaiian road, but he’s been showing me so much cool music. I guess I never had heard the right guys.
Bobby is like the Tony Rice of Hawaiian music.”
Douglas shared a bit about his participation, and how Hawaiian music helped introduce the dobro to the rest of the world.
“The Hawaiian music became popular in the US in the mid-’50s because they were about to become a state, and there was a Hawaiian exhibition at the worlds fair one year. It became a worldwide sensation.
The Dopera brothers liked louder music and they had come in with the resonator in the 1920s, and that’s where we came from.
I’m just going to try to be me, get with Rob, and find out what they’ve been doing. I want to make it enjoyable, entertaining, and make them want to play like we do. The whole thing is about inspiration. Me and Rob both thought the guitars looked cool, but it’s the sound. Once you hear it, you don’t want to play anything else, or hear anything else.
The fingerboard is all math, and the reso is a very intuitive instrument.”
If you’ve ever discussed music with Douglas, you’ll know it can get quite esoteric, but all in good fun.
“I hear that some instruments have frets. They put a finger down and they get a note. We have one big metal finger.
It gets deep fast, but I always try and think like I’m a singer. You have to sing with the instrument. It’s hard to do, and it’s not become any easier the older that I’ve got.”
Rob then piped in with a laugh, “I always tell people it takes a genius!”
Jerry reminisced a bit about learning to play as a teen.
“It’s nice to go in to ResoSummit and see so many dobro players. I went many years when I could only find one or two other players. I could listen to Josh Graves, and maybe one other guy.
And it was just as hard to find a guitar to play back then. I thought as a kid that I would have to buy a new one, because it was like a needle in a haystack to find a used one. People barely even knew what they were. My first was a fauxbro. It had a cover plate, but no cone. I remember sitting in my parents car playing it, and I thought I sounded just like Josh sitting in the back seat.
There was no sense in throwing a dobro party, because no one’s coming. Don’t go to Costco and buy the deli platter!”
Thinking about what he can share with the students this year, Douglas ruminated a bit on how his earliest lessons have stuck with him.
“I get to do some pretty incredible things, and it all helps. We take what we can from every instrument. When I ran out of dobro players to listen to, I started listening to sax players. There was this old fiddle my dad played with, and he kept making me learn the melody to all those fiddle tunes before I could improvise. ‘You’re not finished yet!’ he would say. These guys had so much patience with me… I was like 10.
You have to start somewhere, and the melody is the perfect place.”
In addition to the instructors, guitarists Trey Hensley and Chris Eldridge will also be on hand supporting the slidesters.
Full details, including registration info, can be found at the ResoSummit Slide Fest web site.