The ArtsCenter jams to bluegrass

Banjos, guitars, mandolins, jeans and beards – these are a few things you can expect to see on Monday evenings at 5:45 p.m. at the local Bluegrass Jam in the gallery of The ArtsCenter at 300-G East Main St. in Carrboro.

Musicians show off their instruments after the Bluegrass Jam on Monday. John Eichhorn (top right) made a string bass out of a washtub, single string and a lever. (Staff photo by Jessica Milbern)
Musicians show off their instruments after the Bluegrass Jam on Monday. Back, left to right: Tom Young, Charles Gabriel, Rich Olson and John Eichhorn. Front, left to right: Edd “Old Uncle Edd” Pryor and Tony Morris.  (Staff photo by Jessica Milbern)

Whether you’re a beginner getting familiar with the fiddle or a full-on, mandolin-loving musician, all are welcome to share their skills and love for music with other locals through good-hearted jamming.

Eleven musicians arranged their chairs in a circle on Monday, taking turns leading their favorite songs while the others accompanied the lead singer with instruments.

The sessions are not led by one person. Instead, the Bluegrass Jam is about sharing and enjoying music. Together the musicians played songs like “Truck Drivin’ Man,” “There is a Time,” “Bringing in the Georgia Mail” and “Send Me the Pillow.” Others can join in by playing the chords, even if they are unfamiliar with the song.

Many of the attendees met while jamming together at other venues, with the Bynum General Store being a popular location. One of the banjo players, Tony Morris, is a 57-year-old computer engineer from Cary. He has played at Raleigh’s PineCone, but this was his first time at the ArtsCenter. He has also played at the Bynum General Store for two years.

Morris has played bluegrass instruments for 40 years. On top of the banjo, Morris knows how to play the mandolin and guitar. But picking at the strings of a banjo is his favorite.

“The banjo is the hub of a bluegrass band,” he said.

Musicians bring their own instruments – sometimes even homemade ones. John Eichhorn created a washtub bass from a washtub, a single string and a lever. He plays different notes by adjusting the lever as he goes along. “My ear is very sensitive to the beat they are playing,” he said.

Jean Pryor, who comes to watch her husband play, is from the mountains of Virginia. Her husband, Edd Pryor, who is called “Old Uncle Edd,” is from Hendersonville. When asked his age, Old Uncle Edd replied, “over 21.” The retired couple has lived in Chatham County for 47 years. Both have traveled from Pittsboro to the Bluegrass Jam sessions for a little over a year now.

“It’s a good way to meet people,” said Jean Pryor, who sat on a nearby couch happily watching her husband play his guitar and sing along with everyone. “Those lyrics must have been funny. Edd’s over there laughing,” she added at the end of one song.

“I’m just having fun,” Old Uncle Edd said as he packed up his guitar at the end of the jam.

The ArtsCenter’s Bluegrass Jams were originally scheduled on the first and third Mondays of each month, but the schedule has become more varied. Next month it will be held at 5:45 p.m. on March 3, 17 and 31. In April, it will be held on April 14 and 28. Admission is free.

Edited by Katie Marriner

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Author of the article

Jessica is Arts Editor for the Carrboro Commons and a journalism student at UNC-Chapel Hill.