Fiddling around with the Fiddlesticks
It's one thing to listen to music on a radio or a CD, but it's entirely better to watch them in person, tapping your feet to the beat. That's what it's like listening to the Fiddlesticks, a group of mostly Molalla musicians and singers that take you back to childhood listening to your parents and even grandparents' music along with the emotions and excitement that music brings.
The Fiddlesticks is a group of four men and a woman whose history takes you back a "few" years to Molalla in the 1950s. At that time Frank Williams and Walt Hardy used to have jamming sessions in the William's basement near Mulino. The two friends and Archie Erickson continued playing through the years connecting and playing with other greater Molalla musicians. "Walt Williams played until three months before he died at 92 in 2006," said his widow Isabele Williams, who is now 94. She smiled a lot remembering the years and the jam sessions in their home.
Throughout the years area musicians would join the group including Frank Smith, who is unrelated to today's guitarist Jerry Smith remains a mainstay in the group. Others include Chris Delzer, Dorothy Wehus and Joy Smith, (who also is not related to Jerry) along with Ace Wehus who played the ukulele with a violin bow. Chapman called Dorothy "a great singer who had a solid old time singing voice."
Five people now comprise the group. These include Dave Chapman, Jerry Smith, Marilyn Bloch, Dean Boring and Steve Boss. They play once a month at the Molalla Adult Center as well as at the Manor and at various festivals including this year's Apple Fest by the library from 10 a.m. to noon. Some of the songs they played and sang include "Home Grown Tomatoes," "I still miss someone" from Johnny Cash, "Your Cheatin' Heart," "I Want to Be a Cowboy's Sweetheart," "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White," "The Long Black Veil" and "The Tennessee Waltz." All the songs they played had their audience tapping feet and sometimes singing along.
Jerry Smith is a retired farmer and a truck driver and used to tune pianos. He also has been with the band the longest, playing with the original members of the Fiddlesticks. He plays a mean guitar, sings and yodels.
"I started playing at age 7 and although I'm retired now I've played for 81 years," he told the Pioneer.
"He retired, but he continues to play," said Bloch.
His fellow musicians stated that he played in Nashville for several years in jam sessions.
"I was a truck driver, I drove in all 49 states, Mexico and Panama. I played in all of them," Smith said.
Steve Boss sings, plays guitar and mandolin. He didn't start playing until college.
"I come from a family of natural musicians. When my mother suggested I play, I looked at band and I looked at baseball and Sports won. I was a Boy Scout and played high school sports, Boss said.
One night he met a friend in the college lounge at the art department. That friend played in the woodwind section or percussion. He taught Boss to play and the friendship has survived 66 or 67 years, Boss says. He's played ever since. Boss lives near Molalla.
Dave Chapman learned about the group through Bloch. "My wife and kids knew Marilyn through the library. I've also playing with a group called Zzymosis and has played with various bands since college."
He plays guitar and mandolin and sings. His version of the Long Black Veil actually brought tears to some of the audience. "I've always been musical," he said. Jerry Smith sold his piano tuning business to Chapman.
Bloch also appears to be a very natural musician. She plays the fiddle, which is actually different than a violin, she said. She grew up taking violin and piano lessons, played in an orchestra as well as the junior symphony, but quit for 25 years, she said.
In the 80s she began taking four fiddle lessons and began jamming with people and p laying in two blue grass bands in the 90s, Beyond the Blue and the Old Time Fiddlers Association. Bruce Fahlander invited her to play at the Manor in the minimum care unit and she connected with Frank Williams. That's how she came into the Fiddlesticks.
"Dave, John Meyer (from Grand Ronde), Bruce and I love to do a rendition of 'Love Potion Number 9,' " she laughingly said. "I also enjoy doing some of the songs my dad taught me, folk songs like 'Oh Suzanna' and the Everly Brothers 'Walk Right Back' and 'All I Have To Do is Dream.' "
Bloch recently placed fourth in the senior/senior in the 2018 Fiddler's Festival in Weiser Idaho. However she believes that her music with The Fiddlesticks is more important than singling out a person for how well they play. She also is teaches piano to some students.