The Boyfriend of the Week
July 21 , 2004
Last week, we had youth and angst (see the ever-scowling Stephen Dorff). This week, age and exuberance. Yes, it's true, I like to keep things in balance here at the site, and that's why this week's Boyfriend -- the second and final installment in my "Boyfriends in Music Videos" series -- is the great bluegrass group "The Del McCoury Band." Headed by an old fogey with more energy than my three year-old nephew, these guys are just, oh, how best to put this. . . just. . . well, just friggin' awesome!!
(Okay, that may not have been the best way to put that, but it was definitely the least obscene, and that doesn't count for nuthin', after all.)
First, let's start with introductions. On lead vocals and guitar is Del McCoury himself, a bluegrass giant who's been playing bluegrass music since he was eleven (54 years!). Del's joined in the band by his two sons, Ronnie (mandolin) and Rob (banjo), and by fiddle player Jason Carter and bass man Mike Bub (how great is the name Mike Bub, by the way? It's Mike, Bub!).
My affection for these good ol' boys started about two years ago, when my husband first brought home one of their CDs. At the time, I was a little surprised. My husband used to play guitar in a punk band -- what's this country music CD doing in my car? I knew I should never have married a man five years older than I am -- what's next, easy listenin'?? But after a little cajoling (and a great deal of eye rolling while I voiced the aforementioned easy listenin' objections), he talked me into giving it a try. On our next road trip, I grudgingly agreed to let him pop it in, if and only if I got to pick the next CD we listened to (my plan was to torture him with some Indigo Girls as payback, FYI. Revenge is so sweet). Thirty seconds into the first song, my jaw had dropped open. I could not BELIEVE the complex, intricate sounds I was hearing. Thirty-two seconds into the first song, my feet were tapping uncontrollably and I was grooving to the greatest music I'd heard in a very long time.
Ah, crap, I thought. This is twice I've refused to listen to a CD my husband has packed into the car, and twice he's said I'd love it, and twice I've replied, "The hell you say," and twice he's ended up being right. This is intolerable!
But, lucky for him, my husband is very cute, and after listening to the entire CD twice in a row, he'd made a fan out of me. And there was peace in the house of Meg Wood and all was good.
So, after two years of being a Del McCoury groupie, what made me pick now as the time to introduce them on the site? Two things, actually. The first was that, like with Stephen Dorff last week, I happened to stumble across a music video several weeks ago on the County Music channel starring Del and the fellas. I'd never seen them perform before -- I had no idea, really, what they even looked like. Whew, little did I know what they looked like was this: durn cute! (Gol durn cute, even, being Southern boys.)
This opinion was only further validated when (and here comes thing two, so pay attention), about three weeks ago, I saw them play live in my little neighborhood here in Seattle. Not only are they talented and good looking, but they are just AMAZING to watch live. I can't remember the last time I had so much fun at a show! First there's the affectionate way they are on stage -- lots of gentle jokes from the boys about their dad, and lots of dad watching the boys play their solos with this big grin of pride on his face. And while I'm mentioning the solos, holy CRAP can these men play! At one point, the mandolin player, mid-solo, was moving his fingers so fast his hand was all ablur -- the audience was so shocked and amazed and impressed that we broke out in astonished laughter, shaking our heads and giving each other "can you BELIEVE this?" looks. Honestly, I have never musicians play like that before -- these boys are superhuman!
And, of course, the music itself is just a blast. The lyrics are thoughtful and often funny ("She talks in her sleep, but she always gets my name right") and the songs have great rhythm. Catchy, fun, invigorating. These guys are having such a good time when they play that their energy and joy just wash right over you. It's infectious. It's wonderful.
Don't believe me when I say these guys are incredible? Does it help to know that Del himself was just inducted into the Grand Ole Opry? Yeah, okay, that probably doesn't mean much to most of you. It sure didn't mean much to me. What's the Grand Ole Opry? Doesn't it have something to do with opera? Or burlesque? Or burlesque opera?
Answer: no. I have no idea why I had this picture of burlesque opera in my head in regards to this. Clearly, I'm certifiable. And also, stupid.
But, I'll spare you the lengthy history on Grand Ole Opry-dom -- if you're curious, check out the web site about it in the links below. Because, really, if you want independent validation of my theory that these guys are the kings of bluegrass cool, you don't need to hear about their awards, you need to see them in action. And, lucky for you, now that they finally have a music video (their first ever!), you can do just that. Check it out at the CMT web site! And just TELL me Del's grin doesn't make you feel all giddy. I can't think of anything that could be more thoroughly fun than going out to dinner with all five of these guys. Their good humor and joy are as infectious as SARS -- I want to catch it. I want to catch it NOW. And I don't even care that I have to tune into the Country Music Television station to check them out. A few years ago, when asked what my favorite kind of music was, I might have answered "punk" and rolled my eyes at the suggestion that I tune into CMT. But nowadays, my answer has grown more specific (or maybe less specific -- I'll have to think about that). Because I've come to discover that my favorite kind of music is GOOD music. And I don't give a monkey's hiney what format it comes in. I think this means I may have officially grown up, now that I think about it. Annnd, it's probably about time.
Anyway, here's a little biography on the band: Delano Floyd McCoury was born in North Carolina on February 1, 1939. Though he plays bluegrass -- a type of music I think of as being Southern -- he grew up in Pennsylvania, a state decidedly north of the Mason-Dixon line. Poser! (Just kidding.) Del's older brother is the one who first turned him on to bluegrass, though the music of Flatt and Scruggs -- two other Grand Ole Burlesque Opry fellows. Del was so impressed with their sound that he immediately picked up a banjo and started teaching himself how to play. Listening to record after record, he started out by mimicking the sounds and styles he heard. But after he became proficient, Del started putting together his own rhythms and tunes, writing lyrics and combining old fashioned pickin' with newfangled ideas about music.
In 1958, Del formed his first band with Keith Daniels, another North Cakolakian who grew up in the Union states. From this band on, Del has been a professional musician full-time, playing with several different groups throughout his lengthy career.
In 1981, at the age of 13, Del's son Robbie (born March 16, 1967 in Pennsylvania) began playing alongside his dad. When Ronnie met bluegrass giant Bill Monroe, he was so amazed by Monroe's mandolin playing that he decided to give that instrument a try himself, and he's now the most incredible mandolin player I've ever seen (not that I've seen that many, but you know what I mean). 1987 saw the debut of younger brother Robbie (born April 30, 1971), who started out on bass and moved to banjo a year later. As the sound of the group evolved, Del was persuaded by the boys to change its name from "The Dixie Boys" to "The Del McCoury Band," now a household name in all bluegrass homes. Buy a bluegrass compilation CD? You'll find a Del McCoury song on it somewhere.
The band's amazing music -- a combination of old- and new-style bluegrass -- quickly propelled them to the forefront of that scene, and their relocation to Nashville in 1992 helped bolster their exposure and popularity. With the addition of Mike Bub (b. November 13, 1964) and Jason Carter (b. February 1, 1973), the group has developed into one of the most famous bluegrass bands ever to grace the stage.
If you're curious and you want to check out a few of their albums, I'd recommend "Cold Hard Facts" and their newest CD, "It's Just the Night" (which includes the song in the video, "My Love Will Not Change"). I have to say, though, after having seen them live, my whole perception of them has radically changed. They went from being great musicians to great GUYS in only one show! I just love these boys, their music, their energy, and their enthusiasm. They rule! So, check out the video and buy an album, but most importantly, track them down and see them live. It'll be the best $30 you ever spent -- or your money back. (Well, not from me. But I'm sure if you asked nicely, they'd give you a refund.)
MacGyver Factor Score: 96.298%. Points off because juggling five Boyfriends can really result in a lot of stress in your life. But, frankly, I don't actually have any interest in dating the Del McCoury band. I don't want smooches, I don't want cuddles, I don't want sweet nothings, all I want is to be their best pal. To get to hang out with these guys. To get to sit around chatting about music while they have an impromptu jam session. To get to laugh at their jokes and be swept away by their sheer affection for each other and their craft. These guys look like a lot of fun. And who wouldn't want in on that action, I ask you? So, Del, et al, next time you're in town, give me a ring, wouldja? I'm in the book. And I'm cute. In fact, I dare say I'm even cuter than the undies girl in your video. (Though her undies are nicer than mine, I'll admit.)