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Its About the Music  

      By the age of fifteen, that would be the year 1974, I  had been playing guitar for a couple of years or so. Campfires, a friend’s wedding (I still have the charm necklace that was a gift from the newlyweds, and just this winter, a friend replaced the setting that was lost who knows how long ago), the stairwell outside the Library at Beavercreek High School during lunch with friends who played everything from the flute to the Kalimba and would always sing along. But, to this day, I can’t  recall how I found my self at a microphone, in front of a crowd  which seemed hundreds deep, at Riverfest in Dayton, Ohio.
     Perhaps my parents and or friends encouraged me to go sing at the festival - that would have been just like them to do that. Maybe, I just happened to be at the festival and happened upon an open mic taking place and happened to be able to borrow and guitar and took the leap. But, I can tell you for certain that, once I stepped to the mic, I was terrified. I had never sung into a microphone, nor to a crowd the size of what was in front of me, all watching me...and waiting... for start singing. And, I can tell you that I will never forget the friendly faced, rosy cheeked, soft spoken man who came forward and said, “My name is Mick Montgomery, and I’m going to stand right in front of you just an arm’s length away. You close your eyes, and sing the song you know the very best. Don’t open your eyes until you’re ready, and when you do, I will be right there,” he pointed over his shoulder, “in front of you.” 
    I did, and when I opened my eyes, Mick was exactly where he said he would be, and he smiled at me and, he asked me to sing a couple more songs. While I was doing that, I remember seeing him move over and talk with my parents. Over the years, they developed a warm friendship and stayed in touch. 
    It wasn’t much later that Mick had me singing at pig roasts and other events he booked music for that I was legally able to sing for. Later, after coming of age, he booked me at Sam’s On Fifth multiple times. In my Kate Wolf songbook, there is a great black and white photo of Kate with Nina Gerber in front of Sam’s, and I was always inspired to realize I had been on the same stage as those two very powerful woman in music. Sam’s architecture is from the era of shotgun homes and businesses, so it’s long and narrow, and fairly dark inside with the old bar, wood floors, tin plate ceilings, and a stage that was shoulder height to me. The stage curtains were heavy red velvet draperies, the stage lights were bright and hot, hot. One sweated as they played without fail, even in winter.  
    I recall the first time playing Sam’s, I covered Janis Ian’s “Watercolors” and on the final chord a woman rose from her seat and started a standing ovation. I was stunned, sweaty to the core and amazed. Debby Smith was her name, all perfectly curly chestnut hair, red flannel shirt and overalls. We became friends and shared gigs the rest of the time I was in Ohio. If any of you know Debby Smith from Dayton, tell her I lost the words to her song, “High Fly Ball,” and would love to get them from her so I can sing it again. 
    In 1979, I believe it was, Mick bought a place in the Historic District and turned it into a beer, lunch and darts place by day, and concert hall by night. I was honored to be among the other local musicians, including Debby,  who played opening night at Canal Street Tavern. Years later, 1986, I went to work for Mick in the bar and as greeter and liaison to the many great touring acts who played there, Leon Redbone, Doc Watson, Pierre Bensusan, Garnet Rogers, The Original Osborne Brothers (Rocky Top), The Chieftains, Shawn Phillips, Tom Paxton, Rory Block, The Desert Rose Band, Pake McIntyre and more. Mick hosted music most every night of the week with local bands taking the stage and genre focused events. 
    Before every show, Mick got on the house mic and thanked everyone for coming, gave a great intro for the act, and afterwards, without fail, he thanked the audience again for coming. And he encouraged them to continue to come out and support live music and independent music. “Whether you attend concerts once a week, once a month or once a year, make the decision to, on a regular basis, to go support someone you have never heard or heard of. More likely than not, you will be pleasantly pleased and surprised. Buy a ticket, buy their album, register for their newsletter and ask where they are playing next. By simply showing up, you  will have encouraged a solo artist or band to continue in their art, and you will have made a new friend in music. Most of the time all an aspiring artist needs is an audience that has come to listen, to hear, to interact with the music, story and songs. It’s a simple thing to do, to show up.” 
    So, I am asking you now, to choose to go listen to live music. Choose the artists you know and love, but once in a while, choose a new artist you have never heard or heard of. Even if you don’t buy the album, or sign up for the newsletter, the singer-songwriter or band is inspired because you came and you listened. You showed up. 
    Mick is gone almost ten years, and the music of Canal Street Tavern followed him just not long ago. But, I have always remembered what Mick did for music and aspiring artists, and for me, and I have tried over the years to help others along as he did.

Water and Walking 

Blog Post Janet and Huffman Prairie
    When my sister, Janet, was hospitalized I flew back to Ohio to be with her. My childhood friends, Carla and Victoria, picked me up at the airport and got me to my sister and later to my hotel room. They took care of me, as friends do. In between hospital visits, we visited a couple of places of our growing up years, and I was reminded of the huge difference in Ohio and the Sonoran Desert - the water everywhere, and the water hard to find. 
    Living in a dry and thirsty land, these places of water are never far from my mind. The creeks where I floated leaf boats and chased them until they escaped me, or capsized. I caught worms and water spiders and gathered tiny drops to put on a microscope slide and watch a secret world unfold. Walking along a creek to find where it started or ended would take me pretty far from home. I never found the source, or the end, except once. Mom would make me peel off the wet and muddy clothes in the garage so she could check for ticks. She never told me not to do it again. She knew I would.
    I walked alone frequently as a child. I needed to walk outside, I craved it. If even for a few minutes before getting in the car for church, I would be in the yard, checking under the forsythia bush for I don’t know what; venturing way to the back of our half acre to a pine tree my father planted after Christmas one year; bent over searching the lawn for signs of clover and other spring blooms. 
    Later, pre-teen years, I would stroll out in the early gloaming, usually to a wooded lane, paralleled by a creek, that lead to an old barn and shed. It seemed a long enough walk, maybe a mile to get to the old buildings that had likely been upright and weather tight during the French and Indian War. Trees lining both sides of the two track created a tunnel of cool air in the summer. In the fall, it was a spectacular walk through bright autumn leaves of Oak and Walnut trees. Winter made the tunnel a wonderland - branches and the last of the barely hanging on leaves were iced over, frozen in time and my memory. 
    The neighborhood where we lived is not huge, but the homes all sit on larger property than most places today, so it seems to sprawl some, and yards were, and still are, tree covered and well-kept. There were three places where farm fields were built around, and two of those fields had horses in them. To jump the fence and ride was worth the not knowing what temperament those horses might have had. Often enough I went over the fences to just be in the company of horses, one hand on a back, the other pulling grass offerings; running my fingers through mane and forelock to remove tangles; resting in that quiet place of horses which slows the heart, clears the mind and lets one believe hopes and dreams will be fulfilled. 
    As a teen I would go alone or with friends to the banks of the Little Miami River, where I, and they, were compelled to walk with reverence; where I could hear the moccasined footfalls of Native runners as they carried news; where, floating in the air above me, were the voices of women and children singing and laughing at the river side. To stand on the bank watching the river tumble to sparkle, and know who stood in the spot before me, hunting, fishing, gathering. 
    This creek in this photo is beside Huffman Prairie, where the Wright Brothers flew their bi-planes and taught aviation school. Orville and Wilbur and their bicycle shop are new History. Yet, there is old History still present in these places. Tecumseh, Blue Jacket, Daniel Boone, Simon Kenton, Cornstalk; they walked here, hunted here, lived here. Look there, through the trees. They are beckoning you, they want to tell you a story.
Go, and listen.