Blurred Time
Paradise Inn
Blurred Time Continues
The War Pipes
A Trip with Ralph
Sweet Corn
In a Birmingham Diner
The Sleeper
Spring, 1976.   The Blurs tour and practice, weave and spin, weave and spin.  Tommy and Mike continue writing---the band is managing to write music that is fifty years old--as their flyer has pronounced: "The best old-time band this side of the Great Depression.  Fate Norris, June 19, 1929."  As summer begins, the band is trucking around the states, from Alabama to Michigan.  They even manage Canada.  Every month, tho, they come home and play the Cradle. 

Winter, 1977.  Winter was interesting.  Right off the bat we got stuck in a raging blizzard in New Philadelphia, Ohio.  We were trying to drive to the Chicago Folk Festival.  Stopped overnight at a folksinger's house, bringing down the blizzard on our heads.  Bravely setting out in the beefalo the next morning, we find ourselves on I-79 alone, nothing but jack-knifed semis all around, a slick drifting power, 20 below, 20 miles an hour, Jack at the wheel.  We get off at the first possible exit, put on the chains (lol), go back to New Philadelphia to watch TV.  Eventually we find an airplane heading for Chi-town and get to the fester with about 1/2 hr to spare before our set.  It's breathless and somewhat jittery, but I can remember nothing untoward at this late date.  We decide to ride Amtrak back to New Philly and our wheels, get our tickets, and then discover that Amtrak is a bus today as the rails are snowed under.  Oh wow.  The trip back is an endless backroad ride as the bus goes to each snowed-in rail station.  We are deposited in Canton or somewhere thereabouts at 4 AM.  It's maybe come up to zero now.  The "station" is a little box with a rattling heater and broken windows.  Guess Canton had torn the real one down back in the '50s, when that was the popular muncipal thing to do.  We get a $25 cab back to New Philly in the dawn.  (And by cracky, just remember, back then $25 was about what a new car costs today, kids!) 

Spring, 1977.    Uncle Wide informs us that we're going to Europe for six weeks.  Hot damn.  We know a singer over there, Patrick Couton, from Nantes.  He gets us a used VW bus (poisson volent) which we will tour in.  He'll keep up with it otherwise and use it some.  Later other bands tour in it, including High Woods --Walt has a nice story to tell about a border crossing.  Maybe he'll write in here sometime and post it.  We fly over on Icelandic, stopping in Reykjavik at some moment in the eternal day they suffer and refuel on schnapps, then head on to Luxembourg.  Crossing into Germany over the Mosel, the vopos detain us. 
     "Vas ish dis."  Pointing at boxes of records. 
     "Uh, records." 
     "You sell des, yes?" 
     "Uh, not in Germany.  We're going to Switzerland, to the festival at Nyon (lie, lie)." 
     "These are promotional; not for sale," Jack says in his most charming manner.  The rest of us have pulled out our instruments and are playing a hoedown and just getting down to beat the band--we look, I'm sure, entirely demented. 
     "We'll just throw 'em in the river," Jack gestures at the trippling Mosel. 
     "Nein, nein.  Mach schnel."  Negotiations ensue.  The offending boxes are tied and sealed.  We can get our money back if the seal is unbroken at the Swiss border.  The vopos somehow have removed us from all of our German currency.  Putting these boxes back in the van, amid prolific thank yous to the guards for taking all our dough, other boxes are in obvious view.  The commandant averts his eyes.  Traffic is backing up.  On to Eslingen-a-Main, and Heidelberg, and the Swiss border.   At the border we discover that the sealed record boxes qualify us to sit in line with a mile of semis and await official office hours--9 AM I think it was, just like the banks.  After this, the Blurs become smugglers full-time, and have no more problems. 
     Well, maybe one problem.  Passing into Sweden a few weeks later, the guards there take the van apart.  The record boxes are still there, but they are uninterested in them.  They want DRUGS.  Jack finally digs out some vitamins and turns them in.  They are analyzed, okayed, and we proceed. 
1977 Red Clay Ramblers poster from Bucharest     Other highlights of our first European campaign.  On the way to Sweden, Mike drops a boot out of the van onto the autobahn, and we back up for a mile trying to find it. We go to Romania and play three concerts in 2 days.  Our State Department sets this up as we are already in Europe.  This correspondent commends Tarom Air to all.  It is staffed by ex-Mig fighter pilots who like to go straight up.  Landing at Bucharest, I note that all passengers in the know fill their pockets with little shot bottles of scotch and bourbon.  At the airport are anti-aircraft guns and soldiers with funny helmets and crossed bandoliers of bullets over their chests.  Everyone is very well behaved.  The Blurs are escorted past customs altogether, as guests of the State.  We play.  We see a homemade wooden Ferris wheel at a museum, and the devastation of the earthquake that has hit Bucharest six weeks previous.  We leave for Scotland, and a delightful bed-and-breakfast with feather beds, and eat some Chinese food that might be made of cats.  Not long after we return home, we record Merchants Lunch

And the Fiddler leads on...

Blurred Time is ©1999 William N. (Bill) Hicks.  All rights reserved.
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March 1, 2008