Savage Glascock: Who Pays The Sisters?

Monday, October 9, 2017 - by Savage Glascock
- photo by Lawson Whitaker

Last Saturday I was tinkering around in the garage when I got a text form a great old friend, Ben Allison. Ben is one of those giant personalities that attract attention from all directions. When you’re at a party and you detect action in another room or out on the deck that pulls you like the center of planet Earth to where all of the molten lava is, that’s where you’ll find Benny. Seriously, the boy has never met a stranger and people he meets for the first time become friends with him for life.


The text said “You goin’ to Three Sisters tonight?” I’d planned on a solitary plate of buffalo chicken wings and a sip or two of a cold chilly whilst splayed on the couch watching Nick Saban flip out on the sideline. I replied “Dang man! You in town? I hadn’t thought about that. Is Three Sisters a bar? Do I have to dress up?” I don’t get out much. “No! It’s a blue grass festival that Fletcher Bright puts on every year. Blue jeans, stupid.”


Oh yeah. I actually had heard of that but in all 11 years of its existence, I’d never been to one. My mind drifted to 1980 or so when Ben and I worked on a ranch in Wyoming and it was July 4th. They were having a fiddlers’ convention and rodeo in Steamboat Springs, Colorado and we jumped at the chance for some wild fun like that. The action that followed was legendary and Sesame Street would never have approved. I still laugh dang near 40 or so years later!


So yes. Bama would have to roll without me because Ben’s in town and he wants to go jump up and down at a bluegrass concert. I am in.


I drove right up to the place and got a parking spot in the garage right away. Piece of cake. Ben was a fuzz later and we hooked up and did pushing 60-year-old equivalents of high fives and grabbed a beer. Never happy to be normal, Ben said “Follow me! There’s gotta be a VIP section and maybe we’ll know somebody.” Oh God. I’m back at the Fairyland Club swimming pool all over again having just snuck in and pudgy Ms. Snooddles walks up and says “Oh hi Savage! When did you guys become MEMBERS?” I squirmed then and I’m squirming now but sure enough, when we approached the VIP’s I saw Frank Bright. I hadn’t seen the man in at least 30 years.


That’s all Ben needed. He hollered “Hey Frank!” and Frank looked up from his semi-tunnel visioned duties as host and he grinned. He and Ben took up where they left off about 25 years ago like it had been mere minutes. We chit chatted for a while and Frank said “Yall are going in there, right?” and he pointed to a big beer/wine/supper tent for all the legit vips. Ben started to say, “Well, uh, we don’t have….” “You need pins?” Frank cut him off and then rammed his hand into his pocket and produced a fist full of fiddle pins. What a guy! We put ‘em on and walked right past that big dude at the front gate.


And that’s Ben. You just hang on for the ride and hope you don’t get thrown off and you might just wind up with a shiny new fiddle pin!


We went in and grabbed a chilly and I realized I actually knew a lot of the folks in there. They were the same dudes I snuck into the Club with all those years ago. I became totally relaxed and was riding on greased skids. Then I went back outside and everything changed. I’ll try and explain.


I know enough about motors to be pretty dangerous in a garage and I’ve had to pay two or three times the cost of a fix so that the real mechanic could fix what I fixed. However, the concept of internal combustion fits here.


You know that tut tut tut sound you hear when your single cylinder yard tool, go-cart or motorcycle is at idle? For every tut, if it’s a four stroke, the piston within the cylinder slides four times. First there is the intake stroke (down). A valve opens and gas and air get sucked into the combustion chamber. Then the valve shuts and the piston goes back up for the compression stroke. At the peak, when the gas and air are squeezed into a teeny tiny space between the top of the piston and the cylinder head, the spark plug goes pop and you get a tut as the cylinder is pushed back down from the controlled explosion. The last slide in the cycle is the exhaust stroke as another valve is opened and the piston pushes the spent gas and air into the atmosphere for all of us to breathe.


So at idle (generally in the range of 800 rpm), the piston makes 3200 movements a minute. It takes a full up and down for one crankshaft revolution so you hear 400 tuts a minute at idle. Ok now let’s throw in the Ducati Desmo. Its valve actuation is all mechanical and extremely tightly controlled - no springs or hydraulics to allow valve float at ridiculous engine revs. They red line at 14,000 so you get 56,000 piston movements and 7,000 tuts in one single minute, right? But wait, Desmos are twin cylinder motors. Two pistons. What about a V8? And then there are two strokes and diesels and boxers and wankels and turbo chargers and super chargers and fuel injection and then that jackass Ralph Nader came along and made us all control our emotions.   


Regardless, my ability to go visual got off this bus way back at idle and that’s exactly where my head was last Saturday night. I stood 12 or 15 feet away from The Kruger Brothers from Switzerland and watched their human brains tell their 12 left hand fingers and their 15 right hand fingers to press different strings on a fret board and to individually pick the pressed string with exact precision and to hold it/them for an entire 100ths of a second before the digits were instructed to press other strings on other parts of the fret board where they were plucked again and held for a nanosecond and on and on it went. And we aren’t talking Twinkle Twinkle Little Star here. It was an incredibly technical cover of some kind of Bach Piano Concerto number 885.


They were smokin’ hot and they smiled at each other and had fun while creating breath taking sound with crisp clarity. I don’t know anything about music but if your legs don’t go a jiggity jag when you see and hear something like that you died five years ago and didn’t get the memo. I was dumbfounded so I had to go get another of the Brights’ beers. In 11 years, I only just now saw the last two acts of the Three Sisters and I should be spanked.


The final act was Sam Bush. He had several band members and they were all incredibly talented. I asked Ben how many decades he thought these guys spent collectively on the back porch or in dark rooms practicing over and over and over to get this good? He had no answer. They played and played and went what looked to me way beyond their time allotment. Somewhere in the mix was a cover of a Led Zeppelin song played with an everything unplugged supersonic banjo, acoustic guitar, bass and, lordy lordy, Sam Bush on his mandolin with his entirely legit rock and roll voice. I was jumping again and I turned around and caught the eye of an also jumping twenty something who was all tatted up and equally into it. I hollered “Hey buddy?” He said “Yeah?” “That music?” “Yeah?” “MY GENERATION!” and I pounded my chest with a fist. Simultaneously, we threw our arms to the sky and hollered uncontrollably as did his girlfriend and everybody else. It was flat out fun that I haven’t allowed myself to have in many years and I have no idea why.


On the way out, we said words like “Incredible!” “Exact and fast!” “Great fun!” and “Oh my God!”


Then I realized I’d walked into the place with $100 and was walking out with $95. Dang! It was all free. Literally, world class talent in Chattanooga for two nights provided for us at no charge. Why does Fletcher do this? Ben said, “I think it’s pretty simple. Fletcher and all of the Brights love the music and they want to share it with us. I think George has taken more of the reins so it’ll probably be around for a while.”


I mean, what can you say? I’m past idle again and have lost visuals and all I can think of is a loud and sincere thank you, awesome Bright family, for letting me crash your party and then giving me a wonderful, unforgettable night on the river! Really, what a gift! I’ll never miss a Three Sisters again.


Savage Glascock

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