Bluegrass and bagels

On listening to bluegrass on the air and in-person at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market.

St. Paul Farmers Market

Listening to Jazz 88’s program “Bluegrass Saturday Morning” is a weekly tradition for Katie and me. It’s often the soundtrack for coffee, breakfast, reading. The easy start to the first day of the weekend. Host Phil Nusbaum‘s pleasant voice and steady delivery is matched by his enthusiasm and deep knowledge of decades of bluegrass and Americana music.

I turned it on in the kitchen this morning when I got up and then I started the coffee. We didn’t listen long, though, because once the coffee had brewed we left the house to head down to the St. Paul Farmer’s Market; our first visit of the season.

The first stop for us at the Market is always the bagel stand, where we get bagels with egg for breakfast while we strategize our shopping. This morning, a bluegrass duo playing in a tent nearby grabbed our attention. With bagels and coffee in hand, we wove through a stand of beautiful flowers and took our positions to eat, drink and enjoy the music.

When the first song ended and the banjo player said “thanks” and introduced the next tune, we realized that he was none other than Phil Nusbaum himself! Even though Bluegrass Saturday Morning was still on the radio (it goes from 7 a.m. to noon every Saturday), I had known that it was generally pre-recorded. Nusbaum was both on the air and in-person, a critic and a creator.

He and his guitarist then played a whimsical version of the Beatles’ “Yesterday,” Merle Haggard’s “Wine and Roses,” and another tune or two while we stood watching. They weren’t playing anything very fast, but rather just easy-paced tunes where both instruments and the vocals could have the time they needed to really be appreciated. The combination of a seasoned banjo player (playing what appeared to be a very seasoned banjo) and a guitarist with a relaxed singing voice was perfect for the mellow, cloudy, cool morning.

When our bagels were gone, I threw a couple bucks in the open guitar case in front of them, and we wandered off to shop the market. They were taking a break when we left an hour or so later, our arms laden with flowers, flats of herbs for the garden, and other goodies. When we got in the car to drive home, Bluegrass Saturday Morning was still on the air and Nusbaum was narrating a review of bass and baritone singing in bluegrass music.

4 replies on “Bluegrass and bagels”

I met Phil over 15 years ago, at a party/jam at a friend’s house in Mac/Groveland neighborhood. Interesting fellow; I had made the critical mistake of bringing my flute to a bluegrass jam (I don’t remember if I played mandolin yet), and he just gave me this look like “You’re not going to play that thing, are you?” 🙂 But he has done the radio show for a long time now, and we can thank him for that!

Ouch! Such prejudice in the bluegrass community, who knew? Anyway, yes, we can certainly thank him for the 5 hours of bluegrass every Saturday morning!

Thanks for the great reminder. I spent many Saturday mornings listening to Phil and I couldn’t agree more about his knowledge and the sound of his voice. Now that we’re busy with teenagers I’ve gotten out of the Bluegrass Saturday Morning habit but I’ll make a new effort to tune in thanks to you.

I live in Stillwater and have followed your writing about the St. Croix valley and enjoy your perspective.

I hope you do get to tune in again sometime soon! It’s a great accompaniment to most Saturday morning activities, whether it’s running errands in the car, making breakfast and coffee, or cleaning the house.

Thanks so much for taking the time to post your comment and I’m glad you enjoy my words!

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