The Good Ol’ Persons re-unite

The Good Ol’ Persons – photo by Mike Melnyk

The Good Ol’ Persons, originally an all-female band formed after an open mic session at Berkeley, California’s Freight & Salvage, is to play together one more time – well, four more times, actually.

The most-recognized line-up, Kathy Kallick (guitar), Sally Van Meter (resophonic guitar), and Bethany Raine (upright bass), along with the masculine duo of John Reischman (mandolin) and Paul Shelasky (fiddle), will be entertaining the good folks of California later this month, playing such band classics as I Can’t Stand To Ramble, Part Of A Story and Anywhere the Wind Blows.

The Good Ol’ Persons were among the first bluegrass bands to feature women’s songwriting, lead playing, and vocal harmonies, and went on to be trendsetters in the incorporation of Latin, swing, folk, Cajun and other musical genres into their bluegrass sound.

The band released five albums, toured widely, and had a profound influence on every generation of bluegrass artists since.

Kathy Kallick remembers those first few years and then tells us what she hopes will come out of these reunion shows ……..

“The Good Ol’ Persons was the first band I was in, and, if not the first, then an early band for all of us. While in the Good Ol’ Persons, we learned everything about being in a band: arranging, soloing, singing harmony, stage craft, performance, professionalism, touring, booking, etc. This was the format in which we started presenting our own compositions, as well as our interpretations of classics. We were learning about a classic style of music while learning how to invent our own sounds.

This band was, and is, incredibly important to all of us.

We have had occasional reunions over the last couple of decades, and they have played out in different ways. These days we focus on the band that made the Kaleidoscope records in the 1980s and the live recording called Good N’ Live.

When Sally Van Meter and John Reischman joined me and Paul Shelasky in the Good Ol’ Persons, we developed the sound that is associated with the band. We started composing our own material, and coming up with our distinctive arrangements of covers. When Bethany Raine joined the band in 1980, we had the solid personnel that lasted for the next 10 years, made the records, toured (Europe as well as the US), and grew in popularity. And, dare I say it, had some influence.

We also had fiddler Kevin Wimmer play with us for the last five years of the band (1990-95); he came to Europe with us twice, and played on the last Kaleidoscope record, Anywhere The Wind Blows. Kevin is a wonderful musician and he brought such cool elements to the band, including his wide vocabulary of old time, swing and Cajun styles.

The first few Good Ol’ Persons’ reunions, we tried to have everybody who’d ever been in the band join in and be part of it. By now, we’ve just settled on who can best represent the sound of those four ‘classic’ recordings.

While we’re not considering getting the Good Ol’ Persons back together — and we’re all committed to our current projects that we’ve built around our compositions or current interests — there is a joy in revisiting these good ol’ songs. And we still love and appreciate each others’ company, sense of humor and musicianship.

The biggest thrill for all of us is to see who comes to the show, including the old fans, the folks who heard the records but never saw the band, and the people who don’t know what’s in store. That’s fun!”

The full schedule for Good Ol’ Persons Reunion northern California tour is as follows …

  • Thursday, March 9, Magnolia House Concert, Larkspur
  • Friday, March 10, Freight & Salvage, Berkeley
  • Saturday, March 11, Sonoma County Bluegrass & Folk Festival, Sebastopol
Sunday, March 12, The Center for the Arts, Grass Valley

Discographical note …

  • Good N’ Live: A 20th Anniversary Collection (Sugar Hill Records, 1995)
  • Anywhere the Wind Blows (Kaleidoscope Records, 1989; Flat Rock Records, 1995) *
  • Part of A Story (Kaleidoscope Records, 1986; Flat Rock Records, 1995) *
  • I Can’t Stand to Ramble (Kaleidoscope Records, 1983; Flat Rock Records, 1995) *
  • The Good Ol’ Persons (Bay Records, 1977; reissued in 2005)

* Available from CD Baby

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.