Bluegrass, country musicians play Rhythm on the River in West Columbia

ccope@thestate.comJune 15, 2013 

— Musicians plucked banjos, basses, guitars and mandolins Saturday evening, transforming the West Columbia amphitheater into a pickin’ parlor.

Bluegrass and country musicians from Bill’s Music Shop & Pickin’ Parlor took the stage for the last Rhythm on the River concert of the spring season. Several hundred people joined them, while kayakers and tubers drifted past on the Congaree River.

Martha Butler teaches banjo and guitar, and a group of her students performed “Boil Them Cabbage Down” and “Cripple Creek.”

One student, Hudson Wade, is 11, and even though he is younger than the others, he has been playing longer than some of the other older students. The only one of his friends who plays the banjo, Wade has been playing for three years.

He also plays sports such as football and baseball. Baseball comes to him more naturally than the banjo, he said.

“Baseball is fun to practice, and practicing instruments is not the greatest thing in the world,” Wade said.

Gene Davis, 51, was one of Wade’s fellow students. He’s marking off items on his bucket list this year. He takes guitar lessons and said he is progressing so quickly, soon he might be able to scratch off learning how to play the guitar.

Staci and Chris Jones have been married 13 years, and they are also learning to play musical instruments at the music shop. Staci Jones plays the banjo and Chris, the guitar and the mandolin. They practice together at home.

It gives them something to do instead of just watching TV, she said.

“We can focus on each other and play music,” he added.

Vendors set up in the West Columbia Riverwalk parking lot, including The Coop, a food truck from the University of South Carolina.

Two regulars of the Pickin’ Parlor – which is just a half-dozen blocks away – bought a cold soda from The Coop before setting up a tent to sell CDs.

One of the two, Ray Wise, said he started going to the music shop with his dad when he was a kid and goes there now as an adult to play the guitar.

“It’s a good place to have a good time if you want to go out on a Friday night,” Wise said.

Willie Wells, son of the music shop founder, said the Riverwalk event draws a diversity of people and exposes the audience to the family-friendly atmosphere that the West Columbia music shop offers.

“I want them to come across the bridge and let them experience what we have over here,” Wells said.

Reach Cope at (803) 771-8657.

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