News from the Stairwell

The weblog of The Stairwell Sisters – All-Gal Old-Time String Band

Our Midwest Tour With Bill Foss

First, a heartfelt thanks to all those that were so kind to us on our little tour through the midwest! We all converged in Chicago (Evie, Martha, Bill & son Danny all drove up from Indiana after their visits there). It began for some of us with a Vienna beef hot dog (tofu for Marth). It was a joy for Lisa to hang in Wicker Park where here Grandpa’s hot dog stand used to be located. Next, a little picking to get up to speed with Bill Foss who learned all our songs and tunes for one tour in a very short period of time – and absolutely wow’d us all. He even had a cold and could hardly talk – but made us all belly laugh everytime he yelled out "Fiddler A Dram" in the most inadvertantly drunken sounding shout from the back of the stage. How can we possibly thank him enough?!

Next was a peek through Fitzgerald’s history – from their beautiful commemorative book to their signed accordion-adorned walls. We were honored to have so many of our friends, comrades, and family in the audience! Big ups to Sue’s friends Elizabeth, Donny, and Alan for putting us up. And there were so many more of you! It was a pleasure to meet Jeffrey Mankin of the Steampowered Preservation Society who recorded our show (man, those SPPS folks are everywhere!). Lisa checked out to the Old-town School of Folk Music and was pretty floored – what an inspiring place. We’re honored that they’ve expressed interest in us playing there next time we make it out to Chicago. Thanks also to Old Town School dobro teacher Rob Anderlik for his support and suggestions.

The Creole Gallery in Lansing was pure joy. A wonderful audience and Robert and Meegan were such gracious hosts (plus Robert is an amazing artist). Hanno did an amazing job on the sound. Lisa noticed a big plant intentionally placed in front of Meegan’s front entryway window – an hommage to Tom Lucas who almost joined the ranks of headless Pearl Bryan as he walked through the glass last time The Crooked Jades played there. Dan Lynn (Jades’ first bass player), John Hatton (of Cleff’d Ear Music), and Jeremy Baldwin (WEMU DJ) all made it out, plus some of Martha’s relatives (who she met there for the 1st time). An old friend of Evie’s, phenomenal young dancer/musician Nick from Mt. Pleasant, MI got up on stage with us and thoroughly wow’d the crowd (and us)! A host of wonderful djs and local old-time musicans came out for the show, including Monica Ionescu from Dreamboat Radio (WRUW in Cleveland) who brought us her zine which has an article on women in bluegrass & old-time including us gals.

And the next morning we went to heaven…Elderly Instruments is truly the candy store for musicians (hello sugar daddies?). Lisa about traded in her Scheerhorn for a beautiful Martin slide from the 30s, a gourd banjo, a charango for Sue, (durn, Sue missed the Martin tiple sale by 1 day!), a dobro for Danny (Martha and Bill’s son) – go Danny!, and much more. Libby had been so sweet to us when we played the Elderly showcase at Folk Alliance and made us glow inside with all she had to say. We were so honored that such a highly respected place such as Elderly was so welcoming and supportive (see Libby’s comments on our quote page). At one point we felt like we were in Switzerland when more of Martha’s relatives showed up and surrounded her – nothing much cuter than this sight. Martha appreciated the fact that all the women were the same height as her. It was really cool to meet "Nobody’s Darlin‘" another all-gal old-time band in person as we’d only met them on myspace previously.

Our final night brought us out to the Acorn Folk-Lore Center in Warrenville, IL – where Donna and Dan help keep the folk tradition alive and well – the crowd was lovely! Jeffrery Mankin came out again to grace us. We also met "Boy Evie"! Wow! Evie had been telling us about her cousin, Brian. He really is "Boy Evie!" We couldn’t stop looking at him! Thanks so very much to Donna and Dan for hosting us. We were honored to have Juel Ulven there who asked us to play his almost 30-year running "Fox Valley Folk Music Festival. Evie’s Poppa Jay drove up from Indiana with "baby" Clay (we had missed our little travelling buddy) and is always such a wonderful addition to our tours and such a great support. 3 cheers for Poppa Jay and Clay.

Overall, we had a swell time! We just didn’t get to eat enough hot dogs! There’s always next time. (We did try our first "Butter Burger" and frozen custard. Delish!). And again, thank you Bill Foss!!

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