On January 20, 2016, Cassie Patterson, Asst Director for the Center for Folklore Studies, received an email from the Cincinnati-based bluegrass musician Katie Laur with whom the CFS has collaborated on a number of projects. Katie’s email explained that her 72nd birthday was imminent and would be marked – as it apparently is each year – by a “huge hootenanny style event” with a host of musicians, friends, and otherwise “colorful people” in attendance. In addition, the original Katie Laur Band would be performing along with a line-up of guest artists. Might Cassie might interested in coming along and perhaps even recording the event in some way?
Cassie was most definitely interested, so on Wednesday 20th January, she and her dog – Willa Jean - set off in their car, collecting Rachel Hopkin (this year’s CFS Graduate Archivist) and Rachel’s bag of audio recording equipment en route.
The location of Katie’s party was the Front Street Café, a historic restaurant and café overlooking the river in New Richmond, OH. By the time Cassie and Rachel arrived, the place was already full, the band was about to play, and so they go to work. Over the course of several hours, they recorded some fabulous music, took photos of Katie’s many friends and colleagues, and also managed to interview figures who, like Katie, have played an important role in the Ohio music scene. They included musicians David Edmundson, once of the renowned Spring Valley-based Hot Mud Family; Randall Birckhead, who plays with the Them There Mountain Boys; and Ma Crow – who will be performing with her band, the Lady Slippers, in Columbus on February 19 (see http://macrowmusic.com/calendar/ for details). Retired architect Harry Sparks also made time to talk with them. He has a sideline in repairing string instruments for the stars - Sam Bush and Bela Fleck number amongst his clients, as does Katie herself.
All in all, it was a splendid evening and a great opportunity to mark our appreciation for a woman who has been a pivotal figure in Ohio bluegrass for decades, often providing unique spaces for women in traditional women to come together to support one another and hone their craft. And although Katie may be in her early 70s, she remains committed to music and is full of ideas of how to help build the scene. The CFS is hoping to collaborate with Katie further in the future and we’ll keep you posted of our plans here.