I was up early yesterday morning to teach all day, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying some good bluegrass at night.
I was talking to a woman at work about country music and when I mentioned I liked bluegrass, she said that friends of hers were big fans of the Howling Brothers. They have a standing gig every Saturday night in Franklin and have a bit of a following.
So a group of us decided to check them out. I can’t decide what I liked more — the actual band, the location, or the side show.
They play at the Battleground Brewery, which is at home in an old jailhouse that pre-dates the Civil War. It’s an awesome building — big wood staircases, brick walls, curved doorways. We made it clear that we were there to hear the Howling Brothers, so they seated us in an upstairs room where the band would be setting up. The room seemed on the small side for a live music venue, but I think that sort of added to the charm.
After we filled ourselves with soft pretzels and beer cheese (amazing), burgers, and beer, the Howling Brothers began.
And then the sideshow began. Three men had come in to eat dinner and were sitting sort of close to the band — I had seen them but didn’t think anything of them. I definitely hadn’t thought, “Oh, those men must be world champion cloggers.” (I’m not sure what I expected world champion cloggers to look like.) But then they began dancing to the Howling Brothers. Wowzers.
One of them dances at the Grand Old Opry — he had long curly dark hair and an earring. The other was a three-time World Champion — he had overalls and a baseball cap on. And the third was their instructor, a five-time world champion. The instructor (we called him “purple shirt man,” because he was wearing– a purple shirt) soon began getting everyone involved in the show. He took a liking to my friend Manda, who was sitting on the end of the table, and much to her embarrassment, kept trying to get her to dance. She eventually gave in, and both clogged and two-stepped with Grand Old Opry man.
It was a hilariously fun night. Purple shirt man managed to get about half the room up and dancing. And the owner of the Brewery — General Fred– came and joined the fun… in full Confederate uniform. He played the washboard, which he wore around his neck. Pretty sweet.
I think one of the best parts was that it wasn’t overrun by tourists. It was just a bunch of us enjoying amazing live music and clogging. And a Confederate general.