Rural Missouri - March 2018 - 11
and all other manner of down-home cooking begins Above: The McClurg Jam carries on a tradition that stretches
to disappear. In short order dishes begin to pile beyond the warm walls and worn ﬂoors of the country store
up - all will be washed by hand later - but for to styles of music brought to the Ozarks by early settlers.
now folks settle into conversation or games of pitch. From left around the circle are Alvie Dooms, Tom Berthold,
Steaming cups of coffee in hand, guests comfortably JR Johnston, Steve Assenmacher, Noel Scott, Dylan Barber and
seat themselves on couches and chairs. The volume David Scrivner.
drops to a hushed level that still simmers with a
laughter, dancing and lots of good music.
sense of excitement.
"All the other kids had been asleep for hours but
"I think that's our cue," Tom says with a smile,
and begins a lively run on his ﬁddle. Over the next I'd still be up listening to the music," he says.
It's late in the evening during a particularly powfew hours the musicians will run through more than
two dozen songs with names like "Purcell's Reel," erful rendition of "Echoes of the Ozarks" that a visi"Goodbye Liza Lane" and "Soapsuds." Tom, David tor might easily ﬁnd themselves forgetting who or
- a former student of Bob's - and Steve take on where they are, transported by music that could
the assumed role of band leaders, calling out songs justiﬁably be called both "old-time" and "timeless."
and discussing the different names by which they Enduring as the music seems, Alvie recalls a time
know some of the same tunes. Most are instrumen- in the 1960s when he and Bob thought the unique
tals, but Steve sings a few standards including "You sound might disappear from these hills forever. The
resulting time they spent playing at square dances,
Are My Sunshine" and "Keep on the Sunny Side."
As a just-ﬁnished number's notes linger in the festivals and workshops proved otherwise. In the
end, dedication to their craft and a lot of effort
cozy room members of the septet
expended on passing their heritage down to
tune a string here or adjust a capo
future generations won out.
there, then someone calls out anoth"Right here in Southwest Missouri and
er song and the little circle jumps to
northwest Arkansas is the only place
life again. Around the room toes tap,
you hear this kind of music," Alvie says.
hands thump tables and if the feeling
"Lester called it 'old-time music,' and
strikes, a listener leaps from the sideMcClurg
100 miles away they call it 'old-time
lines to their feet and dances a jig.
music,' but it's a little different -
"Even though they come together
not much, but not the same.
for fun, this is also a practice session
"I feel like we're getting an interof sorts," says Jeremy Myers, another
est," he adds of the jam at McClurg. "If
ﬁddler who often takes part in the jam.
"Especially before square dances. That's really what we don't keep going, it will die out and we'll lose a
denotes the difference between bluegrass and old- lot of art if it does."
Happily, the McClurg magic is as contagious as it
time music. Bluegrass is played to listeners, oldis pervasive. Judging by the range of players, whose
time music is played for dancers.
Despite the dozens of melodies the impromptu ages run from barely scraping double-digits to past
band runs through, it's rare that a musician doesn't 90, and the visitors who have come from as far as
know a song or can't ﬁnd a way to ﬁt their instru- Germany and England, there is no expiration date
on the simple pleasure of rollicking reels, warm
ment's voice to its sound.
"Every once in a while, they'll pull out one they're meals and friendly faces. The musicians at McClurg
practicing nobody else knows, but even if they've continue to pick, stomp and clap, keeping time to
heard it or not they can play it," Alvie says. Self- the pulse of life that is alive, well and springing from
taught since the age of 10, he was captivated by this not-so quiet corner of the Ozark hills.
music much earlier in life while listening to his
For more information on the Monday night
father play with other musicians in Ava. They would
ride in a wagon to gatherings that don't sound too jams in McClurg, follow them on Facebook at
far removed from McClurg: friends, family, food, http://s.coop/260pi.
MARCH 2018 | RURALMISSOURI.COOP
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