Bye-bye “Sveta,” Hello ‘Runners
Jason Odd asks if I know of any live Ridgerunners tapes orbiting about out there that he could get ahold of (btw, Jason, let me know something about you so I can share you with the rest of us arcane esotericists).
The Ridgerunners, you may recall, was a Bluegrass band out of Berkeley, Ca, formed in 1962 by singer-mandolin wiz Scott Hambly, banjo player Greg Lasser and YT, Guitarist Country Al Ross (sometimes spelled “Rosenberg”. ) It’s us three that you see in the two cuts here hyping an appearance we made at the Bear’s Lair, Cal’s Student Union which morphed into a cabaret on weekends.
As far as live Ridgerunners tapes go, Jason, the only one I have is of a show that Folk Music/Sociologist Rolf Kahn did on us on KPFK in Berkeley, also in ’62. The fidelity sux, but the passion and spirit are there, as evidenced-and I hope most of you agree-by this treatment of the Bill Monroe chestnut, Molly and Tenbrooks. It takes a short time to load, but it’s worth the wait.
For you serious collectors I prob. could make the whole half-hour show available to you, tho’ not for free. Ditto a show with Scott playing mandolin and singing with the Kentucky Colonels, same era. But for now, take a listen to Scott’s vocal here, on Molly. The banjo pickin’ ain’t too shabby, either. Remember, this is 1962, and the personnel are three college dweebs who prob. thought the Mason-Dixon Line was a fraternity pick-up spiel.
Thanks for your interest, Jason.
And now, the final installment of my own personal account of Yugoslavian Sturm und Drang…
The Sveta Mariĉ Award
by Allan P. Ross
Installment 3 of 3.
[In the last installment I was appealing to a translator who was supposed t0 be helping me with a Serbian accordion player who’d suddenly became paranoid about political assassins and was refusing to show up for a film recording date I’d hired him to do.]
“Can’t you help me? I mean, can’t you get him to realize there’s no danger rehearsing folk music in the Hollywood hills?”
“But that seems to be just the problem, my friend,” the owner said. “He thinks there are Partisans wherever there are hills. He is not worried about the recording session, in a big, glamorous, well-lit studio on Sunset Blvd. It is rehearsing in the hills that he fears.”
The little hatch snapped open again, as if whoever was behind it had been listening to the conversation. There was a loud hissing and spitting sound behind it, and the owner excused himself from his conversation with me to confer again with Sveta. Again, the sibilant exchange. Again, the owner walking down the three steps to confide in me.
“Sveta says if he can see the music now, he won’t need to rehearse.”
I looked at the owner. “But I need him to help me write it. And I thought he couldn’t read music.”
“Oh, he can read, all right,” the owner said. “He just doesn’t want anyone to know it. He feels it detracts from the, how do you say–”
Now there came an even louder hissing from the little hatch in the door. The owner listened, then continued.
“–primal authenticity of the music,” he explained, “its earthy spontaneity, its–”
“Okay, okay,” I said, “I get it.”
I had the music with me, the conductor’s score, and I went back to my car to get it. I figured I’d call Sveta’s bluff. But when I came back, Sveta refused to open the door. “How can I show him the music?” I said to my two companions.
There was another exchange of hisses. Then, from the owner, “Hold the musical score up to the door.”
I looked at him in disbelief. “What’s he going to do, mental it through an inch and a half of oak?”
“No, no,” the owner said. “Hold it up to the peephole. He can see it that way.”
I began to understand why history teachers always tell you “You can’t study Yugoslavia, it’s too complicated. All you have to know is, when Marshall Tito dies the Balkans will fall apart.” For the first time in my life I began to feel bad for Marshall Tito.
My patience was growing short, and I knew a house of mirrors when I was caught in one. But I’d come this far and I figured I might as well see the thing through.
I went to the door and held the score up to the peephole.
Sveta said something, and the owner told me to hold the music even closer, and to stand to the side of it, as I was blocking the porch light, which the accordionist needed in order to see the music. I felt like an idiot, but I did what he said.
Sveta spoke again, and so did the owner.
“Closer,” he said. Now the score was right up against the peephole. I started to pull a face to make it clear that I really wasn’t falling for any of this crap and that we’d all be getting back in the car and leaving in–
“KAH-WWWHHHUUMMPPP!!” went an explosion so close to my head I thought it was inside it. So close, in fact, I didn’t know which way to dive, because it so completely filled the space in the universe that, up until then, I thought I alone filled, that anywhere I jumped would just be another place where the explosion was, so why bother?
So I just stood there, ears ringing, holding up this musical score with a big, shredded hole in the middle of it and the barrel of a 38 revolver poking through it. I have a feeling I looked like someone in a newspaper photo with a caption reading, “Found Wandering in Subway After Bender,” or something like that.
Both my companions had hit the dirt and stayed there for some time. Finally, the restaurant owner looked up and said something like, “Perhaps this isn’t a good time for Sveta.”
My dancing friend agreed, and the three of us walked, double-time, close-order drill, across a little alleyway that led to a side entrance of the complex not visible to the bungalows in the rear.
I was petrified and still could not hear a thing. Stuart had to drive my car, a broken down stick shift Plymouth which he mastered in seconds.
For the recording session I got another accordionist, not a button player, but a traditional keyboard accordionist, and told him to play “Lady of Spain” using just the black keys. It sounded fine.
I don’t know what happened to Sveta Marič, if the Partisans got him or what. I never went back to the restaurant. I guess I’d had enough of Yugoslavian politics.
“Anyway,” I told George, returning to his question and the reason for his phone call, “that’s the story of Sveta Marič and the Sveta Mariĉ Award. But, like I say, nobody really knows what it means or what it’s for, and I think your winning it would make a wonderful ‘bullet’ on your résumé.”
“You’re an asshole, you know that?” George said.
“I’m not kidding,” I said. “The award comes with a certificate, you know.”
“Fuck you,” he said. “Besides, I’m seeing the newspaper guy tomorrow. I just wanted to know if I could put down your name as a reference.” Then, after a slight pause, “What kind of a certificate?”
“Very handsome,” I said. “Stiff, pale parchment, Gothic lettering, your name embossed in gold type, the whole enchilada.”
“But I would need it by tomorrow,” he repeated. “How could I–”
“No problem,” I said, interrupting him. “Go to the stationery store, get a piece of pale parchment, have your wife hold it high in the air. You own a .38 revolver, don’t you?” But he’d hung up the phone by then.
I don’t know whether or not he got the job, but I imagine he won’t be bothering me to co-write any screenplays with him for a while.
Actually, I’m a little surprised George still buys my cover. Most of my friends don’t any more. It’s hard to be considered a serious screen writer when you live in Ames, Iowa. Harder yet to recruit Partisans. No hills.
Now, where’d I put that black ski mask? I got a meeting tonight.
© ALLAN P. ROSS, WACCABUC, NY.