The bottle came down on the table with a thump: Saint Pauli Girl. It was a very special night and the energy was high. The Gem Sisters, Pearl and Ruby, were playing and everyone it seemed needed to be there. Word was out all over Erosion Canyon and beyond in the hidden whereabouts that grace the wrinkles of Appalachian topography: the happening scene would be at Woodlands (pig-pickin’ and barbeque) in Blowing Rock, this Friday night. And what a fine scene the Gem Sisters put on with their homespun duet of sincere Americana from Steven Foster to Hank Williams sprinkled liberally with their own original compositions. Before the night was through, many a cross would be peeled from the bottle. (During deep tavern confessionals, the paper cross always gets peeled off the bottle; Miller and ‘the Girl’ respectively.) Pearl and Ruby always evoked a Mood.
Pantaris and Velocity would surely be there. They had been studying the Sisters for months, now; analyzing everything about their performance because they were singer/song-writers, too. Well, Velocity had written the most, while Pantaris fancied himself a lead player. And all this didn’t happen by accident; surely there was some Invisible Hand, guiding their destiny towards a big Future.
Pantaris met Velocity while working in the kitchen of The Tack Room (number 3 restaurant in the US, at the time; whose various incarnations include Fabian’s, and the Ruddy Duck. Fabian was quite a good guitarist, himself.). Fabian Botta’s father (Oscar) had given Velocity his nick-name (‘Velocito’, in Spanish). Velocity was going through a rough divorce from his former wife and was out of a home and Pantaris was recovering from a similar tragedy and looking for a room to rent, so the two pooled their struggling-artist resources and rented a trailer on the edge of Boone, NC. Pantaris had recently acquired his Harmony electric in a trade for his electric bass (with Bright Forward; see Mountain Rain) and also a Gibson amp (with tremolo) from Dean, a locally famous Dead Head who actually knew Uncle Tom (Dr. Thomas Hosicke), but that is a whole other, completely weird story that we won’t go into.
The Three of us (Pantaris and Velocity and Dean) were having toast and coffee at a local restaurant (the Mountain House Restaurant, near Southend: see this review, and here) one morning when Dean said, “See that elderly gentleman over at the next table?”. We all looked around, but nothing unusual registered; there were many elderly mountain folk in Appalachia. Dean continued, “That’s Doc Watson (here and here) and his family. (Wife and son, Merle). They drive up here about once a week from Deep Gap”. Man, Dean really got around. Dean taught Pantaris how to play Franklin’s Tower. And Velocity had a book of scales that he gave to Pantaris, who studied them religiously during that era of music-making. It had a picture of this lead guitar-player on the front with the coolest-looking ‘fro: who could resist learning from that book!
Now the trailer park was outstanding in the field of strangeness. For example, during a typically heavy Boone snow, Pataris built a snow-hive beside their trailer. How peaceful and quiet it would be to sit inside in muffled solitude and contemplate the wonders of Nature. Within an hour of its completion, millions of indigent Appalachian children swarmed the area (like ants at a picnic) staying at all hours day and night, hollerin’ and generally raising cane to the point that, sleep-deprived and irascible, Pantaris had to charge the youth and stomp down the snow-hive into mushy powder before they all would leave (as Pantaris yelled at them, shaking his angry fist). Another thing that made that particular trailer-park special was that, for some inexplicable reason, Velocity turned out to be a Chick-Magnet. He was on special terms with literally scores of the lovliest, most fascinating women from all over the Watauga Valley. In puzzling over this feature, we decided it must be his irresistible charm, his knowledge of Dr. Who episodes, and his affection for Chocolate cake (which we lived off of with a steady diet: breakfast, lunch and supper; starving musicians that we were).
Velocity’s songs were deep and locally famous: Barlow (which was later developed into a sport), Yellow Flowers, Cotton Jenny, Mullah of Qintar, and Baseball Player. I ran into Velocity, arbitrarily, one day in Charlotte NC while standing in line at a movie theatre. Later on, he sent me a compilation of his latest work: a masterpiece featuring something akin to British Punk. Velocity told me one night on Hobo Hill (in Boone) that he had a disdain for playing the same old styles from bygone years and liked to continue his Intellectual growth, His new compositions reflect this Ideal.
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