Thou Shalt Love Thy Bandmates

Anyway, riding in a van for a week turned us from “Friends

and Brothers” to angry inmates who couldn’t wait to bust out.

Fifteen Years.  That’s how long Shades Mountain Air has been together, at least the core of Greg and Nancy Womble, Gary Furr, and Don Wendorf.  We have spent a couple hours a week most of that fifteen years weekly at Greg and Nancy’s house, practicing, horsing around, composing, arranging, learning and growing from one another.  We’ve only had one personnel change in all that time–Don’s son, Paul, our outstanding fiddle player, left us to move on with wife, kids, career, to Texas, and so, we were four again for a while, then found Melanie Rodgers.  Mel has added dynamic new joy to our sound, and is now a part of our 15th Anniversary Live Album that is now available.     (Go to the website store for our new CD click here!)

Shades Mountain Air at Moonlight, 2013

The album sounds great!  We hired Fred Miller of Knodding Off Music to record and engineer our live concert.  Fred did a fantastic job and we are so happy with the result.  He captured our live sound and energy.  It sounds like us!  There is NOTHING like live music, and though it’s fun to be in a studio and monkey around with something until you get it “perfect”, there is a corresponding loss of that spark that performers-audience and a venue provide.  We did it at our favorite gig–Moonlight On the Mountain in Bluff Park in Hoover, Alabama, with Keith Harrelson, as always, handling lights and sound.

I say all this because Shades Mountain Air is more than a band.  We have become family together.  We love playing together, singing, creating, whether anyone is listening or not.  Greg and Nancy’s kids grew up having to hear us every week in their house. We have been through life crises, griefs, and changes together.  The music is a consistent bond for us.

I had a pretty good band in college called “Friends and Brothers.”  Good musicians, great synergy, great vocal three-part sound, original compositions.  We sang, worked up music, then did a weeklong tour in Tennessee, Georgia and South Carolina during spring break.  We broke up when we got back because, well, to be honest, we fell out with one another.  We had three band leaders and no bandmates.  We WERE Johnny Cash’s old song, “The One on the RIght Was On the Left” about a band that sounded good but broke up over political disagreements.  Anyway, riding in a van for a week turned us from “Friends and Brothers” to angry inmates who couldn’t wait to bust out.  We went our ways.  Just as well.

Anyway, pleasantly, (and probably due to our maturer ages!), the opposite has happened with SMA.  The music has been our bondImage, but a good band is family at its best.  These are my friends.  Over time, we just relaxed, began to have a great time, and love our audiences.  Keeping our day jobs was important.  Beating a living out of music kills a lot of good things.

My bandmates are the most wonderful friends in the world.  We love playing and singing together.  We genuinely like each other. I think arthritus will be our main nemesis, but not chemistry.  I am grateful for the immense talents of Greg, Nancy, Don, and Mel. Truthfully, every song is a collaboration of five.  As I listened to the new CD, I heard everyone’s gifts, talents, and contributions.

Music was meant to bring people together, even before it was about making money, getting famous, or going into rehab.  It is still the best part!

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Gary Furr

Gary is a musician, writer and Christian minister living in Alabama.

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