It was a week of sensory delights. I had the opportunity to enjoy the music of the Kruger Brothers and The Trailblazers at a benefit for the Blue Ridge Music Hall of Fame and then, later, the legendary group Chairmen of the Board.
The Kruger Brothers are a trio who play what I can best describe as a stylistic American folk music with a world influence. The sounds open even more when you close your eyes and take in the masterfully arranged, emotionally charged sounds. It’s quite extraordinary and best enjoyed when you are not rushed.
Jens plays the banjo, Uwe plays the guitar and Joel Landsberg, the bass. Jens and Uwe Kruger were born and raised in Europe, and Joel, in New York City. They all now live in the foothills of North Carolina. They tour the world, sharing their unique and captivating style of music and delight in calling the Carolinas home.
The Trailblazers is a young group, just finding its voice in the world of bluegrass music. The group seems to get better every time I hear it. From Wilkesboro, North Carolina, Jonah Horton plays mandolin, Daniel Thrailkill strums guitar, Will Thrailkill plays bass and Alex Edwards picks the banjo. At the benefit, they performed several covers and a few of Daniel’s original songs. Ivy Phillips -- from Nashville -- another up-and-coming star, sat in with the show playing the fiddle. It was a refreshing performance, one I would gladly see again.
While working on a story about Ken Knox and Chairmen of the Board, we attended one of their scheduled performances at Charley’s Restaurant and Entertainment Club in Gastonia. It would be at this stop that I would get a bonus story. I had been working on the Ken Knox story for some time; however, I did not know anything about the venue or about Charley Gunn, its owner. Ken was the one who told me about Charley and how important he had been to the Carolina bands through the years. As it turns out, Charley, now in his mid-80s, has been in the entertainment business for more than 40 years and he has the following to prove it.
We arrived about 5 p.m. to set up and capture video of the Chairmen of the Board, as well as a collection of interviews to layer the segment on Ken and the group. I spoke with Charley for a few moments; he said he had to take a quick shower and would be back in 45 minutes. We went about our business of setting up and getting ready. We were documenting the behind-the-scenes work that goes into putting on a road show and getting comments from fans and band members. We had a full night ahead of us. Before long, I noticed Charley was back and on the move.
There seemed to be plenty of help to run things, but as I would observe, Charley likes to be involved. The show started at 9 p.m., and at 10 p.m., the legendary Chairmen of the Board took the stage. The audience knew who it had come to hear and were prepared for a great show; from everything we could see and hear, the people were not disappointed. When Ken Knox introduced “Carolina Girl,” which has been a favorite song in the Carolinas since its release in 1980, the level of excitement exploded. The entire show was full of energy. The band was tight, and the entertainment and showmanship were excellent.
I asked Charley what he thought, when the show was over. He said, “Well, the people love Chairmen of the Board and Ken is one heck of a saxophone player.” I also asked Charley if he planned to retire. He replied with a smile, “No.”
I agree with Charley.
Carl White is the executive producer and host of the award winning syndicated TV show “Carl White’s Life In the Carolinas” on WLOS ABC 5 a.m. Saturdays and 1:30 p.m. Sundays at WMYA My 40. Visit lifeinthecarolinas.com, email White at Carl@lifeinthecarolinas.com.