Blue Yonder homeward bound!


We drove for 2 1/2 hours following our gig on Saturday night, arriving at our lodging near Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, around 2 a.m. We stayed with a wonderful couple named  Dick and Sarah Henry. A little sleep and back in the van in time to catch our outbound ferry across to Portland, Maine.


There was live music on the boat, which helped to make the 5 1/2-hour trip go faster. We had a looooong wait at U.S. Customs, but eventually got back on the road toward home. We drove about four hours and stayed once again at the Hawthorn Suites in Meriden, CT. Will and I sneaked out and found a pool hall for a few games, after which we got a good night’s rest.


Ah – the glamorous life of a traveling musician! We got back in the van and returned to Charleston on Sunday evening with smiles on our faces, a few dollars in our pockets, and a bunch of fond memories. This was a good trip!


Blue Yonder at the Bay of Fundy


Friday was a beautiful day in Nova Scotia – sunny and pleasant. My brother Frank and his wife Sylvia flew in from Iowa, so I piled in with them to do some sight seeing before our evening show. We started off by visiting the Hank Snow Home Town Museum. The story goes that Hank, an abused child, often slept in the safety and warmth of this train station when he had nowhere else to go. The museum is very informative!


Across Nova Scotia from Liverpool lies the famous Bay of Fundy – home of the world’s largest tide. The cliffs and beaches were memorable, but I will have to take their word on the tide thing. Not the sort of thing you can see at a glance…


Yard art? Maybe they were just hanging these floats up to dry, but I thought it was worth a photo. We saw several similar displays.


Our final show on this tour was at the Evergreen Theatre in East Margaretsville, Nova Scotia, located not far from the Bay of Fundy. This 100-seat venue is housed in a former church. The acoustics were fantastic! We had a respectable crowd, and they gave us a very warm reception. I especially enjoyed this performance because we were doing mostly original music. That is where my heart is, after all!

Blue Yonder at Hank Snow Tribute

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Last Thursday, we arrived in Liverpool, Nova Scotia, for the main event – the 28th annual Hank Snow Tribute! This is a big deal around here – Hank Snow’s home town – and we were honored to be the headline performers this year.


From the left, Will Carter, Rob McNurlin, me, Tom Kirk, Robert Shafer and Russ Hicks. We did a two-hour show (with an intermission) featuring Rob and me singing some Hank Williams, some Hank Snow, and a few originals. We performed for about 1,000 listeners seated comfortably in a hockey rink. The sound man was set up in the penalty box – you can’t make this stuff up!

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A highlight of the evening was an instrumental called “Honey Fingers,” showcasing the talents of our dynamic duo of Robert and Russ. Overall it was a great night! Standing ovation, encore, smiles and hugs. I think I like Nova Scotia!

Blue Yonder at sea

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Blue Yonder took to the high seas yesterday. We caught a CAT ferry from Portland, Maine, to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia.

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The trip took about 5 1/2 hours. We landed in Nova Scotia about 9:00 pm Atlantic Time (my first experience with this rare and exotic time zone!).

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Will Carter taking care of business on board the CAT.

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Standing, from the left, Tom Kirk, Diana Burton and Rob McNurlin. Seated are Robert Shafer and Russ Hicks. I ended up sitting next to a couple from Charleston, Illinois, who knew all of my friends in the old Indian Creek Delta Boys band. Small world!

Blue Yonder in Maine

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We spent a memorable day at Boothbay Harbor, Maine – located a rugged hour or so northeast of Portland.

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We were at the home of Tudy Russell, Will Carter’s aunt. Will has deep family ties here, and we were treated to a festive lobster dinner along with about 70 enthusiastic guests.

Maine lobster

Blue Yonder took this opportunity to run through our set list for the upcoming Hank Snow tribute in Liverpool, Nova Scotia.

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From the left, Russ Hicks (barely visible), Robert Shafer, me, Tom Kirk, and Rob McNurlin. Not pictured Will Carter. Singing for our lobster!

Blue Yonder on the Road

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Blue Yonder is eating up the highway! We are en route to Nova Scotia, Canada, and are very excited about it. We left Charleston, West Virginia, Saturday around noon, and made the short drive to Elkins, West Virginia, where we performed on the Mountain Stage radio show at Davis & Elkins College. We left Elkins on Sunday morning and made a day-long drive that brought us as far as Meriden, Connecticut.

Today we plan to get to Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Then on Wednesday we will take a 5 1/2-hour ferry from Portland to Nova Scotia. Google maps puts the trip at 1,129 miles each way, but I couldn’t figure out how to incorporate the sea-faring miles. Oh well. You get the idea!

Blue Yonder – Mt Stage

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We had the high honor of performing yesterday on Mountain Stage – the premier live performance radio show. This took place at Davis & Elkins College in Elkins, West Virginia, as part of the college’s gala Augusta Heritage Festival. The show is taped in front of a live audience for later broadcast. I understand that our show will carried on about 200 stations around the world the week of October 5.

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Headlining the show was West Virginia treasure and sweetheart Kathy Mattea, appearing with guitarist Bill Cooley, performing songs from her soon-to-be-released CD Pretty Bird. Kathy and Bill are amazing!

Also on the show were Darin and Brooke Aldridge, bluegrass stars from North Carolina. Joe Newberry, also from North Carolina, opened the show with a solo set, while West Virginia’s champion liar, Bil Lepp, served as guest emcee and told a tall tale.

Bil surprised us with this introduction: “We can all list the great power trios of the rock world, but Blue Yonder spans so many genres of American music that this trio can best be described as the Nirvana of honky-tonk, the Cream of country, the Rush of rockabilly, the Beastie Boys of bluegrass… Ladies and gentlemen please welcome Blue Yonder.”

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Blue Yonder in Nova Scotia!

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We are getting ready for a big adventure! My band, Blue Yonder – the extra cool five-piece line-up with special guest Rob McNurlin – will headline the 28th annual Hank Snow Tribute in Liverpool, Nova Scotia. Do you think we are excited? I can’t begin to tell you!

To make things even more memorable, we are starting our adventure with an appearance on Mountain Stage!

Details and photos to come. This is a preliminary blog to make sure I still remember how to do this. Stay tuned!

Days 19 to 24 – May 28 to June 2

The home stretch! George and I rose early-ish on Memorial Day and drove all the way from Austin to Memphis. Google clocked it as 647 miles, and it sure felt like it.

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The next morning we drove to Murfreesboro, Tennessee. George has been attending Middle Tennessee State University at Murfreesboro and recently transferred to Glenville State College here in West Virginia. He was anxious to see some friends on our way through, so we did what we could to make that happen. I went into Nashville and eventually found myself at Douglas Corner where I signed up for the open mic. That’s what a songwriter is supposed to do in Nashville, right? I was glad to meet up with my old buddy Ray Sisk, whom I knew from Asheville back in the 1980’s and haven’t seen in 35 years or more. Hi Ray!

George and I met up the next day and drove to Beanblossom, Indiana, where we attended the John Hartford Memorial Festival.


John Hartford was a remarkably talented musician and songwriter and one of the most creative and prolific entertainers ever to pick up a banjo. Or a fiddle. Or whatever he darned well felt like. He wrote the song “Gentle on My Mind” when he was in his late 20’s. It was a huge hit for Glen Campbell and remains one of the most beloved and performed songs in the world. The success of “Gentle on My Mind” afforded John a rare and precious opportunity to follow his creative impulses wherever they would lead him. And they led him down several interesting paths over the next three decades. He wrote many more wonderful songs, became a  accomplished instrumentalist and was a champion of old-time music in Nashville. He also became an avid riverboat enthusiast and wrote and performed many songs on this theme.

During the last decade of his life, John spent a lot of time in West Virginia researching the music and life of Ed Haley, considered by many (John included) to be the best fiddler of all time. John was working on a book on this subject at the time of his death in 2001.

I recently wrote a song called “When John Hartford Met Ed Haley” and submitted it to the John Hartford Memorial Festival Songwriting Challenge, and won third place. Part of my prize was a pass to the festival and an opportunity to perform the song on the main stage of the festival.

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George and I enjoyed the festival. It as a little hot, then a little rainy, then a little hot, and on and on like that, but we still had a good time. I think George had other things on his mind than taking photographs, so I have borrowed some additional images from the Web site

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Tired and muddy, George and I decided to head home on Saturday – one day earlier than we had originally planned.

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It was a most excellent adventure and a time I will never forget. I loved the scenery, the generosity and kind hospitality we received, the opportunity to play a lot of music, and the chance to see friends and family. But without a doubt, the highlight of the trip for me was getting to experience it with my son George. Few fathers and sons have this opportunity to spend 24 days together, travel more than 5,000 miles, and share the music and experiences that George and I have had during the past month. I love you, George!


Photograph courtesy of Gary Mortensen.

Dy 18 – May 27

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I love community radio! Many of you already know that I host a weekly show called Honky Tonk Holiday over WTSQ-LP 88.1 in Charleston, WV, every Sunday afternoon from 2-4 pm EDT – streaming online at Many of my friends share this interest and host radio shows as well. Our hostess in Austin, Sharon Sandomirsky, hosts Strictly Bluegrass over KOOP 91.7, and she invited George and me to be her guests last Sunday morning. It was fun! You can listen online to the show until June 10 at

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From KOOP we went to Threadgill’s “Armadillo World  Headquarters” for their Gospel Brunch with John Emery’s Hillbilly Revival, featuring my buddy Floyd Domino on piano. Threadgill’s features a nice menu, and George was pleased with the veggie offerings (not true of many other places we have been on this trip). Thank you, Threadgill’s! We enjoyed the food and music, and I’m glad I was able to get in a nice visit with Floyd later in the day.

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Next stop was Lambert’s restaurant in downtown (located on Willie Nelson Boulevard, no less!) to hear the great Beth Chrisman and her band the Morning Afters. They were kind enough to invite me up for a couple of numbers. Beth was a member of the Carper Family, who played a few of my songs, including “Come When Mama Calls,” quite possibly the song we are doing here.

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House concert that evening – what a day! The concert was hosted by a nice woman named Elise and was sponsored by the Austin Friends of Traditional Music, and I am grateful to them. The concert went very well. I was especially pleased with, and proud of, my son George, who joined me for several numbers. Way to go, George!

Thank you, Austin!