Jim Drake’s Entertainment Blog: The best definition of normal you’ll ever need

Social media sites indicate that today’s Baby Gramps house concert at White Salmon Guitar is sold out, but that’s shouldn’t stop you from reading this short interview I gleaned from him, via his media correspondent — whom I’ve been in contact with.

Really, I tried to get this in the paper earlier, but between the delays on their end and my vacation days last week, it’s been tough. I kept getting emails from his office telling me that, at least in one instance, that Gramps cannot answer this right now, because, and I quote, “I’m at work, and he’s asleep.”

Hmm, well, I know that the folk-blues icon Gramps is getting up there in years, so that’s understandable — and if he starts to doze off during the house concert, there will be plenty of folks there to make some noise so he stays awake.

When I logged on to www.babygramps.com the other week, the first thing I noticed was the photo of an extremely detailed model train layout, that seemed to echo the hobo-blues genre one would expect to hear from Gramps’ guitar.

Since I’m a fan of the world of Lionel and all guages in-between, I thought we’d start the conversation with a train topic, and see where the tracks take us. As usual, the line twists and turns into unexpected places — but by now, you should know — that’s normal.

It’s been a few years since you’ve been in the Columbia River Gorge, (I seem to remember you played a place called the Trillium Café), so thanks for coming back. We get a lot of trains through here, as you probably know, is that your favorite mode of transportation?

It's my favorite mode of transportation in miniature. I'll be displaying my miniature world at the Tacoma Freight House for the annual Tacoma train show. Gypsy condo big top vans are my favorite mode of transportation since I've gone through four on the road.

Part of your day (May 17) will be devoted to a guitar workshop for those brave enough to attend. What do you hope attendees will learn from you, and more importantly, what do you hope to learn from the students? Is it possible to fit 50 years of guitar picking into one workshop?

How to criss-cross genres (ragtime, jazz, blues, hokum, and hillbilly). The mystery is yet to be unveiled. If you are tired of the ordinary, no cookie cutter formulas here. Don't expect the normal. Normal is on my dryer and that doesn't even work.

You gained some national recognition for your appearance on the “Rogue’s Gallery” CD project, produced by Johnny Depp. What was that period like for you and did you like being on TV with Mr. Letterman?

It gave me the opportunity to travel to Europe, Ireland, the UK, and Australia and meet some incredible performers that I wouldn't have crossed paths with otherwise.

It was sad this year when Pete Seeger passed away. Did you ever get to meet or play with him?

I'm on the children's album “Many Hands” with him which was made to benefit the people of Haiti after the earthquake.

About 10 years ago you did a version of a song called “Sunny Afternoon,” for a Kinks tribute CD. If there’s an award for “putting your own style on a song,” that would, in my opinion, win it. Who was the first music person that made you say “I want to do something like that?”

Goebel Reeves was an obscure trick yodeler in the ‘30s and the source of “Hobo's Lullaby” which I will be playing at the evening concert. In the 60s I read an article about him. In my opinion he was the uncredited source of Woody Guthrie and Ramblin' Jack. He was the first guy to combine hobo/train and cowboy genres.

The article inspired my imagination before I heard him sing. This far flung leap of my imaginings of how he would sound, was a source of inspiration for Baby Gramps.

Ever since, I have been developing my imagination. It's not that I don't love the Kink's version (of Sunny Afternoon), but how could I have done it any better? So I just did it my way. I made it up on the spot at the recording session. It was an honor to be asked to be on the Kink's tribute album.

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