North Jefferson News, Gardendale, AL

February 12, 2009

Kimberly ‘guitar pulling’ highlights rich music talent

By Dick Nail

Special to The North Jefferson News

The Kimberly Senior Center is the location of a musical gathering that has been going on every Saturday night for almost 20 years.

It was originally held at the Crackling Cornbread Jamboree building in East Kimberly and continued there until Thanksgiving 2008.

Following the highly successful fifth-annual Thanksgiving Friday Guitar Pulling, which was held at the Kimberly Senior Center, director Jody Newman offered the use of the senior building on a continuing basis.

The term “guitar pulling” harkens back to the old days when a crowd would gather but there would be few instruments. Before one song was completed, another singer would be trying to pull the guitar away to use it on his song.

In 1990, Cotton Myrick, Dick Nail, Ben Allen and Bob Blalock were having floating jam sessions at the various members’ homes. When Myrock’s building came empty, he offered the use of his building for those jam sessions. Over the years, hundreds of pickers and singers from Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia have “dropped in” for the Saturday night jams.

In the beginning years when the originators were younger, the sessions would last until 1 or 2 a.m., but for some strange reason, as time went by, the sessions have ended earlier and earlier and now they generally close at around 10 p.m.

Myrick, the famous “tub” man, was known far and wide by the sign which was on the wall over his washtub, “Please do not feed the tub man.”

In 2005, Myrick passed away, but his wish was that the group continue to use the building as long as they wanted to. But when the new Senior Center became available with its greater space and newer facilities, the group gratefully accepted the offer to move.

Blalock has, from the beginning, been the mainstay of the sessions. Blalock and his sister, Lottie, and her husband Jimmy Mitchell were long-time singers on the radio. Lottie and Jimmy have since passed away but Bob continues and his immense knowledge of “every song in the book” keeps the sessions moving along, although everyone is free to take the lead on any song they wish to offer.

Bob Rich, another key early bluegrass figure, returned to Jefferson County from California four or five years ago with his venerable dobro, “Hoss.” Rich has in his career with AT&T; traveled the world and barely escaped from Teheran, Iran, in the 1970s and had to leave his beloved dobro behind in order to make it out in time.

Friends who remained in Iran smuggled the old dobro out to Rich several years later. Although Rich now plays a newer Auldridge instrument, “Hoss” still holds a dear spot in his inventory.

Ben Allen, the original banjo picker, had to drop out in the early years of the jam due to recurrences of his combat injuries that he sustained in Vietnam. He now gets to play occasionally with friends as his wounds allow him.

Dick Nail, one of the originators, remains in the group and plays regularly at the Kimberly Senior Center when not playing elsewhere with his traveling band.

Regular players who one may see from time to time now are banjoist Chris “Pappy” Cosby, banjoist Jeff Stovall, banjoist Rex Kirkland, guitarist Irvin Higginbotham, guitarist Don Mosley, doghouse bassist Alan Ogg, harmonica player Johnny Reno, dobroist Roman Locklear, vocalists Dude Salyer, Leah Commer and Pam Rosser, and any one of dozens of others who may show up.

The Kimberly Guitar Pull, formerly held on Saturdays, is now every Friday at 6:30 p.m.